Found on the porch or picked up along the way, pieces of the past add warmth and intrigue.
From the inevitable driftwood, Petoskey stones and beach glass — all treasures for the taking — assemblages of fishing reels, local maps, canoe paddles and vintage signs bloom in cottage getaways across the state.
“All of a sudden, it’s an activity” to hunt down the next addition to a collection, notes Gene Galley, co-owner of Noble, a top home, garden and lakestyle shop in Lexington.
Uncovering jadeite glassware is a popular pastime for many summer residents seen here on Michigan’s Sunrise Side, he says. While the jade green, opaque milk glass has been favored since the mid-20th century in the United States, its fresh hues of green and blue make great timeless cottage décor.
“It’s easy to find and affordable,” adds Galley, a personal fan who buys harder-to-find pieces like cake stands and salt and pepper shakers along with cream and sugar bowl sets new from Mosser Glass in Cambridge, Ohio.
“I find at the end of the day, if we surround ourselves with ‘lost’ objects and their individual stories — if we incorporate them into our lives and homes — it brings our surroundings much more depth and richness.” — Tereasa Surratt
Building a collection also tightens ties to place and times gone by, says Tom Wilson of East Grand Rapids, who shares a passion for accruing early travel ephemera in the Great Lakes State with his wife, Christine Byron. The couple, co-authors of three acclaimed books unveiling “Vintage Views” of early tourism in the Mackinaw Straits Region, Charlevoix/Petoskey/Harbor Springs and along the West Michigan Pike, enjoy as much time as they can themselves up in Northern Michigan, where they own a cottage on Glen Lake.
“We have a big collection of old pennants that have great graphics,” Byron shares. “We also have a few Michigan souvenir tablecloths and…tons of postcards.”
By “tons of postcards,” Byron means the 25,000 slices of yesteryear the couple houses in some 50 three-ring binders. The pair’s vast, amassed trove also boasts a historic array of local maps, resort pamphlets and tourist attraction brochures, all of which infuse nostalgic charm and character.
Multiply and Imagine
When Tereasa Surratt and her husband David became the owners of Wandawega Lake Resort in Wisconsin, an old 1920s’ summer camp he used to attend as a boy, the medley of abandoned objects that began surfacing — from vintage aprons and bed linens to Fiesta Ware and board games — became inspiration for the myriad unique displays outfitting Camp Wandawega today.
Grouping found items like a tennis racquet, fishing lure, old life preserver or lantern with more of the same picked up for a thrifty price or less over the course of five years also prompted Surratt’s enticing DIY book “Found, Free & Flea — Creating Collections from Vintage Treasures” (2011, Clarkson Potter/ Publishers).
“I find at the end of the day, if we surround ourselves with ‘lost’ objects and their individual stories — if we incorporate them into our lives and homes — it brings our surroundings much more depth and richness,” the author and avid treasure hunter says.