A New Way to Buy Vintage: Taste Setters Flash Sales

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Facebook is no longer just for hunting down old high school classmates, savvy entrepreneurs are using the social platform to reach international audiences hungry for classic, well designed vintage pieces to adorn their homes and offices. Launching tonight at 7PM Pacific Standard Time, Taste Setters will offer iconic designs every week through themed “flash sales”. 
Read on to see how the six founders of Taste Setters met, what they collect and what we can expect to see posted during their weekly sales. A special thank you to Scott Lindberg for answering the following Q & A:

Why did you and the co-founders turn to Facebook as a selling medium? What benefits does it offer versus other routes of selling like ebay, etsy or craig’s list? 

Between our six founders, we have had quite a bit of experience selling through various flash sale sites and services. When we hatched the idea of Taste Setters, we discussed several options for venues for our sales. Facebook wound up being the place where we could most immediately start offering items to a broad audience. Each of our shops already had established followings on Facebook, so it seemed like a natural solution to tap into that resource and build on it. This isn’t to say that Taste Setters won’t at some point grow beyond this Facebook model, but it gives us a solid starting point.

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Milton Glaser “Dylan” poster, 1966 via New Documents.

For those readers unfamiliar with Facebook flash sales, please give us an overview of the process. How often will the flash sales occur, what will be their duration and how many items will be posted? Will there be “theme” sales in the future?

The process is simple. Our sales start on Sunday evenings at 7PM PST, at which time Taste Setters will post images of items for sale to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tastesetters. Each photo will be accompanied by all the information someone needs to make an informed decision to purchase: a description; notes on condition; price; shipping information; and which vendor is offering that item for sale. The first person to comment “sold” on the item and sends us a Facebook Message with their contact information buys it! Taste Setters will then have our vendor send an invoice for payment, and ultimately deliver the purchase to the happy customer! During each sale, every Taste Setter will also be available on Facebook to answer questions that may arise about the process or specific items.

All of our sales will be inspired by a particular theme. For this week’s upcoming sale we’re being inspired by the mid-century eclectic décor of Charles and Ray Eames. This doesn’t mean it is a sale entirely made up of Eames chairs (although they do make an appearance). We’re looking at the space the Eames family lived in and noticing how they put a room together: their artwork; impeccably curated collections of small objects; a love of Folk objects; pieces inspired by their travels, especially to Japan; and so on. Future sales could include themes based around countries of origin, movies, specific designers … the sky is the limit. Using themes as a way to group items for our sales provides us with an interesting and unique way to show how these objects relate to one another.

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Catherineholm of Norway Olive Green Lotus Tea Kettle by Greta Prytz Kittelsen via Bit of Butter.

Describe the overall point of view or visual style of Taste Setters– what sets you apart from other flash sale models? 

Our mission is to offer you fresh and iconic designs that celebrate and inspire. All of the Taste Setters founders are dedicated researchers who are deeply knowledgeable about mid-century modern decorative and fine arts, so we are sticking with what we know and concentrating on doing what we do best: providing buyers with historically appropriate, distinctive decor. And since we are an international group, we pride ourselves in shipping virtually all of our items internationally.

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Five Vintage Mid Century Viking Figurines via Mid Mod Mom.

How did the co-founders meet? What are your work or educational backgrounds and do all of you sell vintage full time? 

Taste Setters was born in 2013 among six shop owners and friends, spread across the US and Canada, who share a passion for mid-20th century design. We all initially met in the social media sphere, where we found each other by discussing our love of mid-century modern design. Although we have never actually all been in the same room together at the same time, the six of us have all bonded over our shared aesthetic and goals, which really became the genesis of Taste Setters.

Scott Lindberg’s background is in fine art, particularly printmaking, and he currently works as a full-time graphic designer out of his home in Manhattan, Kansas. Scott’s shop, New Documents, specializes in midcentury modern graphic design.

Alison Walker and Kevin Eustice are a husband-and-wife team that makes up Bit of Butter, a Seattle-based shop that offers mid-century objects primarily from Scandinavia and Japan, with clean, modern lines and whimsical twists. Kevin is a Ph.D. in Computer Science and works in the tech industry. Alison holds a Ph.D. in medieval literature and is an expert on medieval manuscripts.

Beatriz Macias, a native of Colombia, has an undergraduate degree in Architecture and a MFA with emphasis in printmaking and installation art. Her shop, Mid Mod Mom, is informed by all her travels and her love of modern design.

Maarit Varkel founded her Toronto-based shop ModernSquirrel as a way to rescue forgotten treasures and find them new homes. Thanks to frequent trips to her native Estonia and elsewhere abroad, she often adds unique pieces from Europe to complement her local finds.

Chelsea Howell currently calls Boston home. Her background is in interior and commercial design, and currently nurtures her creative side through web and graphic design. Chelsea’s shop, Bergen House, is all about the pursuit of good design.

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Iconic vintage pieces for the home via Bergenhouse.

Currently there are six members of the group, will you expand to add more vintage dealers? What kind of merchandise or aesthetic will you be looking for when screening for new members?

The Taste Setters is a core group of 6 people, but we strongly feel that everyone can be a Taste Setter in their own way. We will definitely be partnering with other vintage sellers who share our mid-century modernist aesthetic for future sales, and have several guest sellers lined up for events in the near future. We’re always looking for folks who can offer high quality and unique modern art and furnishings. We really want to push ourselves to find the best examples, iconic designs, pieces with historical significance, and things you can’t go out and find in a dozen other shops.

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Office space incorporating MCM pieces via the Taste Setter’s pinterest board.

What demographic is Taste Setters targeting? How are you building exposure for the Facebook page?

We are trying to reach people with a passion for high quality mid-century modern design. People that care about the history of design. People that appreciate “good design.”

As far as how we’re trying to reach those people, we are being as organic about is as we can. We’re all very active on social media, so most of our energy is going in that direction. We’re discussing Taste Setters on Twitter (@tastesetters). We have very active Pinterest inspiration boards (http://www.pinterest.com/tastesetters/), curated by all of us as a group plus a weekly guest Taste Setter pinning inspiration based on the theme of our upcoming sale. And of course we’re on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tastesetters). We’ve also set up a weekly giveaway that is based on the theme of the upcoming sale. That has proven to be a very popular feature for us as we start up.

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Living room featuring MCM pieces via Bit of Butter.

What do you personally collect? When did you first get into buying vintage? 

Scott: I got into mid-century modern design about 20-some years ago when I discovered Russel Wright’s iconic dinnerware. I started researching Wright’s life and career, and from there my interests bloomed. I started collecting fine art when I graduated from college and made the decision that I needed “nice” things to hang on my walls. I still buy myself a piece of art every year for my birthday. I began collecting modernist graphic design when I began working as a graphic designer myself in the 1990s. It initially served to inspire me when I found myself hobbled by creative block. That’s the collection that ultimately took over and grew into New Documents.

Beatriz: My largest collection consists of original art, mostly prints, some of it vintage and some of it contemporary. I also collect vintage Dansk pepper mills, mid-century glass and Palatnik animals. In a way I collect much more than that, but I do not keep it all. My customers are the ones that benefit from my constant search for beauty.

Maarit: I love the thrill of the hunt and beautiful things, so it was a good fit for me. I started off decorating my own house and as I ran out of space, I opened up ModernSquirrel on Etsy and turned out that other people shared my taste. I mainly collect Scandinavian glass and am working hard at keeping my collection well-curated (i.e. manageable).

Chelsea: I grew up antique shopping with my mom but never really got into buying vintage personally until my late-20s. And it was a couple years later that I started buying for Bergen House. As my knowledge continues to grow and taste continues to take shape, my collections seem to reflect that. Currently I have a small Scandinavian glass collection as I am diving deeper into learning more about vintage glass. I also have a few Danish teak friends and various mid-century studio pottery that keep me company.

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An original C. Jere sculpture adorns Modern Squirrel’s living room.

How did you transition from collector to dealer? Do you have a special piece you’d never sell?

Scott: When my personal collection grew out of control, I naturally started selling bits and pieces as I curated the collection to meet both my needs for space and my interests. New Documents naturally grew out of that. As far as special pieces, I’m particularly fond of a virtually complete collection of 1960s issues of the Push Pin Graphic. This publication by Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, and the other designers at Push Pin Studios features some of their most iconic work, and even served as the springboard to Tiny Tim’s career (it’s a funny story).

Beatriz: In my case I was able to justify my collections once I started selling. The more I sell, the more I collect! It is a win-win situation. I have a difficult time choosing a favorite piece. I would have to say that all the art that I have feeds my soul and inspires me. If forced to choose a favorite it would have to be my signed Charley Harper original serigraph. Such a lovely piece.

Maarit: Turns out, there’s only so much you can fit into a condo! I feel really lucky to be able to help people find something that they’ve been looking for, something that had a place of honor at their parents’ house or something that’s so beautiful they can’t get out of their mind once you see it. It’s an interesting job, one where you can never stop learning, and I think everybody’s favourite finds and scores are a combination of being at the right place at the right time and having the knowledge and the eye to find the jewels. My favourite object in my house is a Timo Sarpaneva Orkidea vase that I picked up from an auction house. Apparently there were no other fans of FInnish glass in attendance who knew what this heavy piece of glass was.

Chelsea: In my situation, I was dealer before collector. I solely scouted for Bergen House initially and only kept a few items for myself. Even now I still struggle, like most, with wanting to keep so many of the items in my shop but you have to pick and choose, which is a luxury for us. I just want to be surrounded by design that keeps me engaged – whatever that might look like. Probably a favorite recent find is a gemstone dish by Helmut Wolf. It is currently at an auction house in LA and will be featured in their Natural History auction in December.

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