It's easy to miss the nondescript exterior of Chartreuse International if you're not paying attention. But step through the door of this quirky store in Seattle's Belltown neighbourhood and you enter a bright, inviting world where vintage meets modern in an eclectic, colourful mix. "We're about 60 per cent vintage from the 1940s to the 70s, and about 40 per cent new or consigned," says Mari Franke, who runs Chartreuse together with her daughter, Rae McCullough. Their third "partner", a Corgi named Olive, greets customers and proudly supervises daily operations. "She's our CEO," McCullough jokes.
Chartreuse's collections lean heavily towards Danish modern, with items by Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner, BÝrge Mogensen and Arne Jacobsen. Other nationalities are also represented, such as the Italian Ettore Sottsass and the Americans Ray and Charles Eames and George Nelson. Kartell is a popular line, as is Artifort, whose sofas and chairs in primary colours are the first things you see on entering. Modern pieces include a chair made entirely of skis and a bench built from recycled plywood.
"This is the stuff I've collected," says Franke, who owned a Scandinavian import business with her husband in the 1970s. "Even the new pieces blend in because they're so classic." Household items include tea kettles in silver and black, knife holders shaped like people, and a variety of funky wall clocks and lamps. Chartreuse also carries Marimekko fabric frames, which were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s and have recently made a comeback as wall art. The back corner of the store houses vintage toys and a mix of plastic kitchen and toiletry gadgets by Alessi.
"I personally collect a lot of the modern art and vintage items from the 60s and 70s. I've been a collector for 37 years," says McCullough, who spent 13 years as a window display designer before opening Chartreuse 11 years ago. The two women are not alone in their passion for vintage and modern design. Several staff members are collectors or sell to Chartreuse on consignment. One long-time employee, Rex Lambert, even took a paper route as a boy to earn money towards his first Saarinen Tulip chair.
Sourcing the items that make up Chartreuse's inventory is no easy task. "There's no magic warehouse for vintage. It really is a lot of footwork. I buy from all over - estate sales, garage sales, consignment," explains McCullough. She and Franke like to present pieces well, frequently re-upholstering and restoring items that have suffered wear or damage. They make a point of informing customers whenever they have done so.
For non-vintage stock, Franke and McCullough seek out items that have some history or are a reissue of an older design. You'll find no knock-offs at Chartreuse, only originals. The shop's diverse clientele includes art fans and collectors as well as local residents. "People love to see how we've included the old and the new," says Franke. And it's this blend that makes Chartreuse special. "It's a mix that you don't see too often," notes McCullough. "Most places are all new or all vintage." But here, the periods combine to create something entirely unique.
+1 206 328 4844. www.modchartreuse.com