Tarek Anandan and Valentine Hacquard were spending weekends driving around, searching for a coffee table for their 1919 Wardman rowhouse on the border of Petworth and Columbia Heights. “We knew what we wanted, and we were picky,” says Anandan, describing what they were looking for as “the potentially impossible blend of mid-century lines with a touch of deco flair, plus a drawer for remote controls.”
But their frustration at the time it took to find just what they wanted sparked an idea: Why not set up a Web site where on any given day, in one place, consumers could see what area vintage and antique stores were offering? It would be a local alternative to shopping on eBay or Etsy.
So Anandan, a Web designer, stayed up late experimenting with ways to accomplish this. In the process, he figured he could help small local furniture businesses, many of which have little or scattered Web presence, expand their reach.
In May, he launched Attic (www.attic-dc.com), a Web site featuring 30 dealers from Washington, Maryland and Virginia. The goal is to make shopping from independent dealers easier, to encourage using restored, reclaimed and upcycled pieces and to promote buying local.
With the help of co-founder Francisco Serrano, Anandan adds pieces in a variety of styles and price points daily. You’ll see chrome dinette sets with red seats, industrial auto parts cabinets, Danish modern teak lamps and lime green velvet wing chairs. At some dealers, a 5 percent discount is offered if you mention you saw the item on Attic.
A launch party last week was a rare meet-up of some of Washington’s vintage dealers (and 150 of their fans). It was held at Miss Pixie’s 14th Street NW shop, amid gilded ballroom chairs, rustic farm tables and stacks of retro dishware. Dealers from places such as Hunted House, Modern Mobler and Barefoot Dwelling attended.
“I think Attic has so much potential,” says Wendy Hauenstein, co-owner of Off the Beaten Track warehouse in Northeast and one of the dealers participating in the new venture. “If you could search locally for what you wanted, then you could go directly to the place that has what you want.” Hauenstein says she thinks the huge popularity of Craigslist has made it too cluttered.
Right now Anandan is pulling items of many styles from the participating dealers’ Web sites, Instagram postings and Etsy stores. The mix varies: Hollywood regency chairs, “Mad Men”-style mid-century sofas, shabby-chic dressers. Included are stores in Baltimore, Reston, College Park, Falls Church and the District, and he would like to add more dealers.
He says he hopes Washingtonians will discover new sources in their own neighborhoods. “If you ask someone your favorite store in D.C., it’s usually a one-of-a-kind place. It’s not likely to be anything you’ve seen in Denver or Los Angeles.”
By the way, Anandan and Hacquard still haven’t found that perfect coffee table. “When I say this started as a personal, passion project, it’s 100 percent true,” he says. “My wife and I were the first users and might still be its most frequent users.”