Driven indoors by the dog days of summer, I often find entertainment perusing local antiques stores. At a leisurely pace, the thrill of the hunt beckons for those of us who love bringing antiques and vintage items into our homes to add style and dimension to a space. If HGTV shows are any indication, along with a surfeit of specialty magazines, there are millions of us across the country pounding the pavement at area antiques shops and fairs. With Benicia’s waterfront as an inviting late-summer backdrop, it’s easy to lose oneself wending one’s way in and out of shops with a sharp eye towards the perfect find.
Adding older items into one’s home can enliven a room even in the most contemporary of styles, adding whimsy, an air of history or an element of fun. In my 30 years of antiquing I’ve managed to cobble together treasured one-of-a-kind pieces and small collections. Some of my favorite pieces have been handed down from Mike’s and my families, some from local shops and antiques fairs, and some from our travels over the years.
From my family, I have wonderful photos of relatives going back generations, and from Mike’s, a large collection of crackle glass, unique silver serving dishes and really old books. But many of our diverse items have come from haunting antiques stores in Benicia and Martinez, Benicia Peddler’s Fair and the monthly Alameda Point Antiques Faire. From these places, I have scored many deals: vintage French grain sacks, French antique copper cookware and lots of things made of iron, such as antique horse bridle bits, shelf brackets and finials. It’s fun to repurpose things like heavy old copper hose nozzles into bookends, or grain sacks into pillows. Some of my happiest finds are antique French lunch boxes—their unique charm never fails to elicit a smile.
Although it can be a lucrative business for many, I’ve never attempted to make a profit from repurposing vintage or antique items. Who has the time? But August is an especially good month to enjoy the quest for an unexpected start of a collection, a great bargain to transform, or to speak directly with shop or booth owners to sell something of your own. The annual pedestrian-only Benicia Peddler’s Fair kicks off Saturday, August 12, 8am-5pm on First Street. The event is free. The Alameda Point Antiques Fair, one of the largest in California, opens first Sundays each month at 6am. Prices start at $15, and drops to $10 and then $5 as the day wears on. Benicia’s many vintage and antiques stores, some going out and new ones coming in, are peppered throughout downtown, each with their own distinct style.