Cat Campbell’s Call to Nature and Secondhand in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Cat Campbell is taking Grand Rapids by storm.

Cat Campbell is taking Grand Rapids by storm.

With the sun setting on the summer, Cat Campbell is hoping to squeeze in a few more trips to the beaches of Lake Michigan before the cold hits. While she may not be heading back to school, discovering new treasures during her walks through the Grand Rapids woods revives the wonder of being a kid. If you haven’t seen her Krrb corner already, check out Vintage Sprawl to see more of the curiousities that catch Cat’s eye.

Hey Cat! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a background in both biology and art which sounds a little polar opposite, but the reality is that biology is the design and curation of life, so a transition into art was easy. I am an avid nature lover and have a curio cabinet with things I find outdoors and on my travels. I also have collections of artwork and objects set up like installations around the house. I really love the idea of being a stylist for my own home and it is constantly changing.

Where are you from and where do you currently live?
I have always lived in Michigan and I really love everything about it. It feels like I have a history with this state because I can still go see the house where my grandmother grew up, and where my great-grandfather was a Life-Saver (today known as the Coast Guard) on the waters of Lake Superior. I grew up close to Ann Arbor, Michigan in a town called Dexter. Currently, I live in Grand Rapids with my fiancee and our furry four-legged children.

What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?
Definitely the trees. We have oak trees that line our road that have been there for over a hundred years. It is becoming less and less common to find a road like ours just outside of a city. It still feels like a country road, but we are only a few minutes away from the amenities we need. There is also a farm down the road that has an old barn and horses, where you can occasionally see someone from the local retirement home feeding them apples. It really brings something unique and relaxing to the neighborhood and reminds you to slow down and take in the scenery.

A special find in Cat's neighborhood.

A special find in Cat's neighborhood.

List the top 5 places you go locally to discover hidden treasures.
I love going to estate sales. There is something very special about rescuing an object that someone once cherished. You have to be able to pick out the objects from their surroundings and imagine their potential in someone else’s life. For me it is an intimate look into a persons life and history and I really respect being able to take part in it.

Thrift stores. Grand Rapids is known as Furniture City because we are historically one of the leading producers of furniture in the United States. We are home to Herman Miller, Steelcase, Witticomb, Haworth and literally hundreds more. I think because all of these furniture companies made their homes here, there was also an abundance of people that understood good design, and choose to live with objects because they were well-made and cutting edge. For alot of people today, that has translated into furniture that is commonly seen. We see vintage furniture pieces from makers like Steelcase and Herman Miller everyday in our neighbors homes, in doctors offices, and even occasionally on the curb. I oftentimes scour thrift stores hoping to find one of these uncommon, “common” gems.

Another great place to find treasures are antique stores. Items are usually fairly priced and have already been curated into different styles and periods. It’s easy to find an antique booth that fits your style with a little hunting, because almost every small town has a shop. With that being said, I love going on day trips and checking out what small towns have to offer. They usually also have great garage sales and flea markets.

Finally, lets not forget Krrb! I need some business cards to hand out to people. I’m your West Michigan spokesperson…(Editor’s Note: Well, shoot Cat! The cards are in the mail!)

Some of the secondhand finds that Cat's collected over the years.

Some of the secondhand finds that Cat's collected over the years.

Did you go to garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores as a kid? How did you begin going to thrift stores, markets, etc?
My parents were both avid antiquers, so I definately picked it up from them. I remember shopping with my mom at antique stores and garage sales when I was very little. It was something we did together on Saturday mornings. I have a collection of little glass pitchers that we started collecting together at sales along the way. It was just one of those things, I’m not sure why we started collecting them, we just did. Today they have a new home in a shadowbox frame on my wall.

How often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? Any personal tips you’d like to share?
I try to get out once or twice a week, but sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less, depending on my schedule. It doesn’t hurt that there are two thrift stores less than 2 miles from my house. In my opinion, summertime is the best time to find vintage goods. There are so many shopping opportunities from garage sales and flea markets to church and rummage sales. I think the key to a successful shopping trip is really understanding what you love. If you are passionate about what you love, you will get better at spotting those items. People who share similar tastes with you, will naturally gravitate to you. Another tip is remembering that sometimes you come home empty-handed. This too can mean a successful trip, it means you didn’t buy something that you weren’t completely in love with. I have found that if I am unsure of an item, I need to apply the ten minute rule. After ten minutes, if I am still thinking about it, I’ll go back and make the purchase.

The Vintage Sprawl booth in a local market. Don't it make you just want to browse?

The Vintage Sprawl booth in a local market. Don't it make you just want to browse?

Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
Yes, to both. If you ask my fiancee, I am a hoarder. In my mind, I’m a romanticist. I feel every item I collect has a story and a past worth taking a look at. I don’t have a hard time getting rid of things, unless they are relics from passed family members. That, I struggle with.

What is your most cherished handcrafted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess? What’s the story behind it?
I lost my mom and grandmother to cancer about 10 years ago. The items that were the simplest parts of their daily routines I think are the most special to me. My mom had a little gold nest that she had next to her bed that she put her rings in every night. Now it sits next to my bed. My grandma taught school for over 50 years. She taught in a one room school house in the 1920’s where she had to de-ice the chalkboards every morning, up until the mid-seventies where she taught in a modern public school. I have her classroom bell that she used all those years. It was rang so many times the bottom of the bell is nearly cracked off.

A lovely vignette sits on on Cat's bedroom dresser.

A lovely vignette sits on on Cat's bedroom dresser.

What blogs (design and otherwise) do you read right now?
Over the years I have had lots of blog crushes. My favorites right now are Decor PadDecor 8Poppytalk and Apartment Therapy. As the owner of a small ranch house I especially love Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool Contest they have every year where readers can submit their well-designed houses that are under 1000 square feet.

What are you working on these days?
Other than running Vintage Sprawl online, I also have a booth space in an antique store here in Grand Rapids. The store is Lost and Found-Treasures of Old and New. I have a lot of fun every week revamping the space and bringing in new goods. The store is curated by some very talented people and you never know what you are going to find. This week there is a section that looks like a science lab-complete with anatomical models and antique Pyrex chemistry glassware. I also have a Tumblr blog that I dabble with called Design-Sprawl. You may have to hit refresh to make the images magically appear….

Thanks Cat!

The Short List

Apartment Therapy

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