Home Tour: The things we collect remind us of who we are and the importance of family

Here are some of my own collections

CINCINNATI -- Please allow me to get a little personal with this week's Home Tour at a time when many of us have just entertained family and friends in our homes and reflected on where we've been in life and where we are heading.

The antiques and vintage items my wife and I have collected and displayed over our 20 years together are a constant reminder of our lives in the same way the holidays are for most of us.

On 52 occasions in 2017, photographer Gary Landers and I were welcomed into people's homes to hear their stories, tour their homes and see their stuff.

So as a thank you to those people -- and as a way to encourage us all to hold on and cherish what we have -- I'm going to take you on a tour of some of the collections you'd see and probably learn about if you visited our 82-year-old Tudor revival in West Price Hill. I'lll tell you where some of our stuff came from and how much it cost in case you catch my incurable collecting bug.

Hint: The photo gallery is set up to move along with the story. So, if you have two screens, you can read and see at the same time.

Step on in

Our entry hall is only 6-by-8 feet, but a collection of seven vintage and antique mirrors mounted as a group makes it feel bigger and is a harbinger of the old stuff to come as you tour our home. They range in style and cost less than $60 with one or two exceptions. We bought most of them from outdoor spring and summer shows in the region, such as the Tri-State Antique Market at the fairgrounds in Lawrenceburg.

On the one-of-a-kind "project" table made in the Arts & Crafts style that we purchased at Burlington Antiques Show at Boone County Fairgrounds are four pieces of Burntwood and Claywood pots that date to about 1910 and were made by Weller Pottery of Zanesville, Ohio. Behind them are a leather purse and playing card holder hand-tooled around the same time period.

The letterpress printer's drawer in our entry hall features hot-type blocks that represent the interests of me, my wife and our two adult children about 15 years ago: horses, baseball, art, Boy Scouts, Rookwood Pottery, etc. The initials of our first names -- A, B, L and W -- are in there, too. The old porcelain tiles on top of the shadow-box display spell out our address. This display came together over several years and probably cost around $100-$125.

To the living room

We purchased a Cincinnati-made Globe-Wernicke barrister's cabinet at a shop near Richmond, Indiana, back when we first met in 1997 and I drove a 1991 Nissan Pathfinder. It squeezed into the back of that SUV with less than an inch to spare on both sides. The pink, turquoise and gray china in the cabinet were the mid-1950s brainchild of iconic industrial designer Eva Ziesel (1906-2011). We paid less than $250 for a dozen of our 15 Hall China Co. Tri-Tone pieces. The 12 came out of an Everything But the House estate sale in Mount Healthy and are part of the 150-year-old East Liverpool, Ohio, company's most valuable lines. On top of the cabinet are more Weller pots, and two blue ones from Pasadena, California, and Muncie, Indiana. The hand-hammered copper charger plate on the wall is of unknown origin and was a gift from my buddy, Todd Westermeyer, who took me to my first antiques show in 1990.

Pieces in our art pottery collection come from as far away as California and Maine. Grouped on our 1935 grain-painted mantel are four Arts & Crafts pieces in shades of green. We were drawn to the two on the left by Fulper Pottery of Flemington, New Jersey, because of their unusual shapes and cucumber crystalline glazes. They cost a combined $500 and were won at Humler & Nolan live auctions in downtown Cincinnati. The two classic A&C bowls on the right were made at Rookwood Pottery on Mount Adams in 1917. We found the smallest bowl at Miller's Antique Market in Lebanon for about $160. The rare wall sconce above it was made around 1930 by Markel Corp. of Buffalo, New York. It is one of a number of art deco light features in our home that is not original to the house but blends with its architecture. We found it on a Ventura, California, antiques dealer's website and paid way too much to match the one we bought at Burlington for $80.

Dining room cabinet

Early 20th-century Big Ben bedside clocks from Westclox were among my first collectibles (that's a 1912 ad behind them in the photo). We call the Arts & Crafts cabinet where they're displayed in our dining room "Jewel" for the beveled, leaded-glass accent circles in the top row of the doors and side panels. Inside, we keep Waterford Crystal glassware my aunt picked up for me in Ireland, as well as mid-century Hall and Russel Wright china and a full set of azurite teardrop mixing bowls made by Fire-King in the 1940s. The copper candle holders on the wall in the photo are hand-hammered but cost less than $20 a piece. Nice buy!

On a mission

There's a small, angled wall in our small (see a pattern developing here?) central hall between two bedrooms that hold an old-fashioned telephone shelf and Moorish-arched cove. Here is one display that is all me. I grew up in Northern California where, virtually, there was no Civil War, so our fourth-grade teacher taught us about the founding of California's Franciscan missions instead of the Battle of Gettysburg. At the heart of my display is a souvenir felt flag and cheap, plaster clapper bell I bought at Mission San Juan Bautista north of Monterey in 1967 during a field trip. The smaller bells on shepherd's crooks were sold as mission souvenirs in the early 1900s. They are copies of bells that marked the path of the padres as they moved their mission work from San Diego to Sonoma along El Camino Real (King's Highway), roughly along the path of today's U.S. Highway 101. The vase with the same bell image was made by a short-lived Los Angeles pottery known as Poxon. It dates to 1912 and cost $125 on eBay, where you can snag one of the little souvenir bells for $75-$100 (my five cost under $30 each).

Entertainment central

Our TV room originally was the master bedroom, so it's kind of small but open to the kitchen and breakfast table at the back of the house. These are three of six movie posters in the room. The "Pajama Game" poster that features Cincinnati native Doris Day is vintage and was a gift from the Westermeyers. "Breakfast at Tiffany" is new, but the "To Kill a Mockingbird" poster is vintage -- and Australian. It's a small day bill that features images of Atticus Finch and his children that are different than those on posters made in America. I think I paid $75 for it on eBay and gave it to my wife at Christmas. The movie, and Harper Lee's book, are in our top five.

Kitchen collectibles

We have accent rope lights that run along our upper kitchen cabinets, which create four great spaces to display more pottery and china collections. Hall china was this collector's first passion, and I have more than 100 pieces of it, mostly art deco ones people got as a premium when they bought a new refrigerator from Westinghouse, General Electric, Montgomery Ward or Sears. We photographed six iced tea pitchers that Hall made for the McCormick Tea Co. in the 1950s and re-released decades later. They're called Nora and are common, so I don't think I paid more than $25 for any of them. Neither should you.

A story told

Our daughter and son are grown and out of the house, but we created displays in their rooms as an homage to the 15 or more years they slept there. Our daughter's display is two hanging shelves that feature two vintage Cincinnati photographs (she has a fine arts degree in photography from the Art Academy of Cincinnati). One is a photo of seventh-graders on the steps of St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica in Covington on First Communion day. The other is a really cool shot taken by Young & Carl Studio in a Cincinnati concert hall in Cincinnati of the Trinity Symphony in March 1920. (I wish I knew what hall this was!) These are significant because our daughter was reared Catholic and took violin and piano lessons until she left home. On the top shelf is a photo of a family Doberman Pinscher in a snowy cemetery that was part of her senior project at AAC. The plastic dolls on the first shelf cost $5-$10 each and are called "Campus Cuties." Louis Marx toy company of Erie, Pennsylvania, made all but one of these in 1964. Fashion was our daughter's passion for years.

Getting small

Let's move upstairs to our two other bedrooms. My wife's three miniature, vintage dressers are 2017 acquisitions and come from Burlington, Everything But the House and the Moeller Antique Show. She loves small things (like hallways!), and uses these three green dressers to store jewelry and small clothing items that don't fit in her small closet. She got a lot of storage and style for the $200, don't you think? On the shelf above the middle dresser, she displays priceless photographs of her parents and grandparents.

Ahoy, boy!

The last of our curated displays are in what was our son's room but is a guest bedroom today. There's a little of Cincinnati and my native San Francisco in the room, but the rest represents our son's life. Two wall shelves feature toys, photos and vintage things we have collected to remind us of a kid who once said he wanted to grow up to be a fire truck, loves Batman comics and movies (Hey Bane! Hey Joker!) and recently finished a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy. We hung a wool Navy coat on his closet door and eventually added a vintage Batman pin I bought for him for $2, the ball cap he wore during basic training in Illinois that all his buddies signed, and his actual military dog tags.

All these sentimental displays remind us of who we are and how important our family is to us. Truly, they make our house our home. 

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