Local Gems

Five on Friday: Thrift Shops

TGIF! Fridays are great for so many reasons - the end of a (traditional) work week, the beginning of two days to spend with family and friends, the day to finalize those weekend plans, and more. For Valerie and I, though, one thing we look forward to on Fridays is the potential for what the next morning might bring - thrifting! Now, it's unfortunately not something we get to do every weekend (hey, we're busy, people!), and generally by this time of year it's getting a little cooler and, therefore, we don't go as often (especially to those outdoor flea markets). But, the weather is still unseasonably warm and the opportunity for thrifting, whether at a thrift store, flea market, yard sale, antiques market, etc., is always on our radar. So, for today's edition of Five on Friday, I thought I'd share my Top 5 Thrift Shops in the Central PA region! As mentioned above, thrifting doesn't have to happen at just traditional thrift shops, like Salvation Army or Goodwill, so stay tuned for some other variations too.

With that said, here are my...

Top 5 Picks for Thrift Shops!

  1. Blue Mountain Thrift Store. This thrift store is located in Annville, PA. Don't be turned off by its unassuming location and building, however. Once inside, this place is bigger than it appears from the outside, carries an assorted, ever-changing inventory of furniture, household goods, clothes, books, and more, and I cannot remember a time when we've left here empty-handed!

Furniture at Blue Mountain Thrift Store.


  1. Williams Grove Farmers' Flea Market. You may have seen this flea market surface in one of Valerie's previous posts, so it'll come as no surprise that this is one of our favorite local thrifting spots. However, since that post, some things have changed - the lower portion of the flea market, which was held at the former amusement park, is no longer in operation. You can read more about this here. As sad as this is, the upper portion, maintained by the Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association, is still in operation and has taken on many of the vendors that previously sold at the lower area. Therefore, while some of the amazing atmosphere is no more, the finds are still there! Bonus: as its name suggests, there's a Farmer's market there as well!

A stand at the Williams Grove Flea Market.


  1. Hampden Center Goodwill. Located in the Hampden Shopping Center in Mechanicsburg, PA, this is your typical Goodwill store. What sets this location apart, however, is its collection of home goods and housewares. Located in the back of the store (which is great because you have to pass by all of the clothes, where you're sure to find a gem as well, to get there), these items are neatly (well, neat for a thrift store!) organized by color, which makes any thrifting adventure even more fun :)

Hampden Center Goodwill.


  1. Antique Marketplace of Lemoyne. Valerie and I love, love, love this place. Located just over the river from us, it's a convenient trip to make, especially since they're open everyday! From the beautiful building to the many independent vendors, shopping here always proves to be a good time. There's always a variety of items to ogle, and even with this being an antiques shop, we've found many affordable items during our various shopping trips here. The photo below happens to be a shot of one of our favorite vendors located inside. If you get a chance to stop by this gem, be sure to check out Architecturally Speaking!

A vendor space from the Antique Marketplace of Lemoyne.


  1. Root's Old Mill Flea Market. This is another favorite and a place I grew up going to. Situated in a huge field, which allots for many vendors (and with many vendors, usually comes many great finds!), Root's (pronounced "Ruutz") is near Manheim, PA. Make sure you take time to go inside the barn too; there are more vendors inside! Located across the street from the Root's Country Market & Auction, you can literally spend the whole day here.. just make sure it's a Tuesday since that's the only day it's open :)

A table at the Root's Old Mill Flea Market.


Well, now I'm in the mood to thrift! The good new is today is Friday and we've got a pretty open weekend ahead of us.. I think I know what might find its way onto our agenda!

Have a thrifting gem you want to share? Tell us about it in the comments!

Getting Some Exposure

Last week, I was contacted by the Patriot News, our local newspaper here in Harrisburg, for an interview on a story about Home Design Trends for the New Year. I, of course, was happy to help and therefore participated in a phone interview with a reporter from the Patriot. Well, today the article was published on the front page of the Life section of the newspaper! Yay! Check it out below. The images aren't the best, I know. I snapped them on my iphone (which is due for an upgrade)!

Front Page spread.

Close up of front page.

Second Page

Overall, I am really excited to be featured in such a big way and, of course, get some exposure for our design studio and hopefully reach out to people who may not know about us and our services. Unfortunately, I'm not 100% pleased with the article content, but that's just probably the perfectionist and control freak in me, ha. I think with the nature of interviews, and specifically phone interviews, things often get misunderstood, misquoted or taken out of context - which happened in this case. Bummer.

Nonetheless, I know it's an awesome opportunity, and I am grateful!

So, I've copied the article below (reformatted for the blog) for those of you who can't pick up the Patriot today. You'll also see that I've striked through the quotes that were misquoted or misunderstood.

This Year, Home Design is all About You!

Wondering what the hot home design trends will be for 2012? The answer, at least in some instances, is whatever you want it to be.

"2012 is going to be an eclectic mix. It's not going to be something that's very definable," said interior designer Valerie Betz of StudioVB, at 218 Verbeke St. in Harrisburg (studiovbdesign.com). "It's not going to be this style or this country a particular style or particular look. It's more about taking a deviation deviating from one particular style and being more eclectic."

Still, Betz did note a number of home trends appearing on the horizon.

Sustainable Design

Being green in the home was a big trend last year and will continue to stay popular in 2012 according to Betz.

"Green design crosses the entire gamut of products used in the home or in decorating your home," she said. "It's everything from how the flooring is laid out to how it's painted flooring to paint. It's huge, up and coming and hopefully will be here to stay."

Most green design involves using furniture or other products that produce less waste in the manufacturing process or use more rapidly renewable materials like bamboo or cork (instead of, say, mahogany, which doesn't grow back as quickly).

Part of this trend includes using "reclaimed" materials, such as wood from a salvage yard or an old building, which can then be incorporated into new furniture or accessories. "A lot of designers are making new furniture out of reclaimed wood to give their work a rustic charm," Betz said.

Cork flooring

Reclaimed Wood Headboard

Personalized Design

Instead of picking an item out of a catalog or buying factory made matching furniture set, more and more homeowners are selecting items that match their own unique personal tastes, Betz said.

"I think clients and homeowners are leaning toward wanting to express themselves and are less about what's hot right now or what's in the catalog," she said. "It's more, 'I like this unique piece' or 'I want to hang my own artwork' versus what's in stores."

That can take many different forms, from hand-painting a dresser or vase (a new coat of paint could revive an old piece of furniture) to making throw pillows out of fabric scraps.

Not everyone is going D.I.Y. though. Those less inclined to be crafty are simply purchasing handmade items that appeal to them on websites such as Etsy. It's more about finding a look that reflects your own individual tastes rather than being able to to make your own pottery. "It's about looking for that one of a kind thing piece," Betz said.

Painted Furniture

E-design

The continued growth of the Internet has expanded the reach of many designers, according to Betz, as they are now able to offer their services to clients that traditionally might not have been able to afford them felt that design services were available to them.

Using videoconferencing tools such as Skype, interior designers can provide concepts, plans and ideas to help homeowners get started on a project that they can then create on their own time and within their own budget. Because there's no travel involved and the designer isn't taking on the whole project, the cost for their services is much lower.

"It's making design more affordable and accessible," she said.

Sketch from E-Design Plan

Open Kitchens

Along with stainless steel appliances, open-area kitchens continue to be a trend, Betz said. More and more people are opening up their kitchens to the other areas of their house so they can visit and talk with their guests while cooking.

Open Kitchen

Gray is the New Beige

Beige was the big neutral color for a long time, but gray is starting to push it aside, particularly when it's paired with rich colors such as mustard, golden yellow, violet or turquoise. The idea is to use colors that pop out and provide a striking contrast when paired with gray.

Gray Color

New Seating Styles

Puffy, overstuffed, bulky chairs are out. In their place, Betz said, are lower and more streamlined or tailored seats. "It's more casual and comfortable clean lined and sophisticated," she said. (I'm sure I mentioned the casual and comfortable sentiment at some point, but it does not have a direct correlation to the seating style)

Streamlined Seating Styles

Wallpaper is Back

Decades of bad patterns have scared many homeowners away from it, but a wave of bold patterns and textures are pushing wallpaper back to the forefront. "It's taken awhile to convince clients, but definitely higher-end houses and designers are using wallpaper," Betz said.

Modern Graphic Wallpaper

Well, there you have it!

And, if you were inspired to update the design of your home utilizing some of the current design ideas and trends described in the article, feel free to contact us! Also, the article only included a handful of the design trends I discussed, so maybe I'll post about some others in the coming weeks.

Images from here and here.

Paint the Plugs - Part 2

A few posts ago, Valerie wrote about the Paint the Plugs contest that we, StudioVB, are sponsoring and that Valerie is participating in. Well, the period in which the artists had to paint their plugs has come to an end. Despite the rain that lasted for what seems like all of last week, Valerie was able to take advantage of a few sunny days and get out there to clean, scrape, prime and paint her assigned plug on Verbeke and Third.. and it turned out awesome!

Although her original design plan was to paint the hydrant to make it look like it was constructed of materials other than metal (specifically wood, fabric and rope), with her limited time due to the weather, she decided to focus simply on the wood aspect. I think it's brilliant and so did a few passers-by who stopped to talk to Valerie while she was out painting.

Here are a few shots of the progress as well as the finished product.

Valerie applying stripper.

Close up of the stripper gel on the cap

Hydrant with stripper corroding paint.

Scraping the paint off of hydrant.

Valerie sanding the hydrant.

The primed fire hydrant.

Fire hydrant painted brown and white.

Valerie painting fire hydrant.

Fire hydrant painted to look like wood.

A close-up of the painted fire hydrant.

Painted fire hydrant from an angle.

If you are local to the Harrisburg area or ever find yourself here, be sure to check out the various painted plugs. They can be found on Third Street between Forster Street and Maclay Street.

Don't forget to visit the Friends of Midtown website to see all of the artists' creations and vote for your favorite one. Hopefully, it's ours!

Voting lasts from today, September 16th to next Friday, September 23rd. We'll let you know how we make out!

Even if I Leave Empty Handed..

So, I wrote a blog post quite a while back on flea market finds.. but today's post is less about the finds and more about the journey. In talking with my aunt and uncle recently about flea marketing, I simply asked my uncle, "Well, what are you looking for at the flea market?" And his response, "I don't know yet". While my question was more curious of what his interests were, his answer quite simply explained the joy in flea marketing. My aunt went on to add to the answer, "Yea, I don't know what I'm looking for until I see it." I just love that statement, and I couldn't agree more!

Most flea market enthusiasts would answer the same way, because unlike shopping at the grocery store or the mall, you don't necessarily head to the flea market with a list or even an idea of what your looking to buy. Instead, you head there with the excitement that you never know what you might find and often leave with something you didn't know you needed, ha!

Male dress form at a flea market stand.

Garlic press bird.

Turquise owl necklace.

Anyway, though there are times I do head to the flea market with a "mission", as I like to call it, to find something I just haven't been able to locate, most often it's more about the journey - what will I come across today? who will I meet? what will I just have to buy? and sometimes even, what will I learn today? And, that's just one of the reasons I love stopping by the flea market, a yard sale or even thrift stores.

So, summer is coming to an end, and as the chilly weather begins, most flea markets start to dwindle. So, before that happens, I wanted to make sure I got out there. This time, I went to the Williams Grove Flea Market that I had mentioned in that old post, for a lovely day of "flea-ing" (that's a good term for it, right?) and also, finally took a few photos of the interesting old amusement park grounds to share with you.

Oh, and for the record, though some part of me really wanted each of the items in the above images, I didn't buy any of them.

Shot of the mid-way.

Shot of the wooden roller coaster.

The old basketball shooting game.

Shot of the old train tracks.

Showing the old bumper car pavilion.

The bingo building.

The old water slides..

Used furniture under the old concession stand.

Another thing of beauty at flea markets is the retail merchandising, or lack there of, hehe. I'm always a fan of collections (or piles) of items. Not sure why, but my eye always goes toward them, and so does my camera!

Collection of antique skeleton keys.

Collection of antique boxes.

At the end of the afternoon, though my belly was full with the yummy homemade soft pretzel stick you see in the photo below.. my hands were empty. I didn't buy one single thing, but I was still leaving with some new ideas, lots of inspiration, and of course, having had a nice journey!

Me with my soft pretzel stick!

Paint the Plugs

So, if you follow us on twitter, you saw our latest tweet about picking up supplies for our Paint the Plugs entry. If you don't follow us, what are you waiting for? We tweet helpful design tips, inspirational design ideas and insights into the daily happenings of our studio. So, stop everything you are doing and go click the "follow" button now. We'll be here when you get back! Anyway, today we wanted to let you in on the details of the Paint the Plugs project and the design we came up with for our plug, aka. fire hydrant. I'm sure you've seen these community projects around here, or around your town, where artists from the community are called to submit designs for painting public objects like, well, fire hydrants - to bring some fun, personality and creative arts to the city streets.

Here are a few examples to clarify what I'm talking about.

Photo of me with a painted mario hydrant.

Zebra and pink hydrant

Photo of painted dalmation hydrant

Well, Friends of Midtown, our local community group (which we are, of course, members of) is hosting one of these events called Paint the Plugs and, as these events often are, it's a contest. We heard about the Paint the Plugs event a few months ago, but with our busy schedule we didn't consider submitting a design to participate as an artist. Instead we wanted to support the project as a sponsor. So we did! Then several weeks later, we ran into the Friends of Midtown leaders at the Pride Fest of Central PA, and they mentioned that they had very few artist submissions, so they kind of talked me into designing a submission!

Our design is entitled "Illusion".. we call it this because we plan to paint the plug to look as if it is constructed of something other than metal.. specifically wood, fabric and rope. Hopefully fooling your eye into actually believing it is.

So, check out our design concept images below!

Design concept for our hydrant.

Design concept for our hydrant.

Happily our submission was selected to be one of the contestants, so wish us luck on the execution of prep work and painting, and even more luck on hopefully winning the contest! When the time comes, voting will be online at the Friends of Midtown website, but not until September 16th!

As of now, here is what the plug looks like.. or as we're used to saying.. here's the before photos!

Before photo of our hydrant.

Second before photo of our hydrant.

Stay tuned for progress updates and the finished product!

Eating Local!

DISCLAIMER: Today's post has pretty much nothing to do with design, but I wanted to share it anyway =) View of the farm fields.

So, although we have known about the idea for quite awhile, this is our first year as a member of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) thanks to my sister-in-law who asked us to become members and split a full share with their family. We are already about half way through the harvest season, but every time we get a new delivery (which is every week) it just makes me happy and that's why I wanted to blog about it today!

View of the Spiral Path Farm sign

So, first, I guess I should mention (specifically for any local readers) that the CSA we chose is Spiral Path Farm, a 255 acre family farm located in central PA. Spiral Path offers a "wide variety of certified organic vegetables, herbs and annual fruits", as they say on their website. And it's true, already this season we've gotten strawberries, sugar snap peas, radishes, spinach, green beans, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, yellow squash, and tons of lettuce and greens!

The neat thing about it is that you don't know exactly what you'll be getting that week, so it's always a fun surprise! And, even more awesome is that you get foods you may not typically eat or, if you are like us, possibly something you've never had. Which does present the issues of "well, how do I cook this?" or "what am I gonna make with this?" - but I think that's really the joy of it! One example of that for us was getting swiss chard. While I have seen and heard of swiss chard, I had never tried it or attempted to cook it. But Logan gave cooking it a whirl, and it was really pretty yummy!

Oh, and Spiral Path also includes several recipes for the specific food we get each week. Bonus!

Overall it's really a great opportunity to support a local family farm while getting extremely fresh organic produce delivered to you each week, and for a reasonable cost. How can you beat that? Plus, it shortens my time at the grocery store, which if you know me at all, is a huge plus!

A hand written strawberries sign.

The awesome thing about it too, is that they have Open Farm Days, which are, just as they sound, days when they open the farm up to their CSA members to come and have fun - you can pick your own fresh fruit, veggies and herbs straight from the plant, have the opportunity to see the fields where your organic produce is grown, buy other goodies from other local vendors (like meats, cheeses and breads), and of course experience a little taste of farm life. Not to mention, they also make it fun for the kids!

We, of course, went to an Open Farm day several weeks back with my sister and brother-in-law and our niece. Here's a bunch of photos from our day at the farm!

Isabella planting herbs.

Valerie and Isabella picking strawberries.

Ann Marie and Isabella with a full basket of strawberries!

Logan and Valerie with our basket of strawberries.

View of us walking by the sugar snap pea plants.

Close-up of the sugar snap peas.

Shot of the bread vendor.

Well, thanks for letting me share! And, if you aren't already, I would totally suggest becoming a CSA member! For a local CSA in your area check out www.localharvest.org!

Flea Market Season

Between StudioVB work and projects around the house, I have been trying to get time to get out and enjoy the summer. I know I've said it many times before, but I am definitely a warm weather kinda girl. And, along with warm weather comes a ton of things that I just can't get enough of - the breeze through open windows (both in the car and at home), ice cream (yep, i'm a total sweet tooth), being outdoors (the park, the lake, the backyard, wherever), and one of my faves.. flea markets! Luckily, we have a few pretty good ones here in the Harrisburg area. Two of which are the Annual Shipoke Flea Market, where we went this past weekend, and the Williams Grove Flea Market that I am planning to pop by this coming weekend. The Williams Grove Flea Market is probably the largest and maybe one of the coolest. It's held at the old Williams Grove Amusement Park grounds, and the setting is totally cute and really quite cool. It has these great little shaded walkways strolling past some of the park's old buildings and old rides and attractions that remain, dilapidated but wonderfully aesthetic. It definitely shows the history of the place. Anyway, I will hopefully take some photos while I'm there to post in the near future.

But as for the Annual Shipoke Flea Market - it is very cute and nice as well. This flea market is set along the Susquehanna River in the quaint Shipoke neighborhood of Harrisburg and is only held once a year (hence the "annual" part). So, I always make sure to go because the people are nice, the setting is beautiful and the finds are often pretty good! This time, we went a little later in the day than I hoped, so you know some of the good stuff was already gone. Lots of stands had mostly glassware and ceramic chotchkies/tchotchke/chachka (I'm not sure I know how to spell that - I don't think I've ever written it out), and you know that stuff rarely sells! Anyway, here are a few photos from our day!

Shot of the flea market.

Another shot of the flea market.

Here are a few items we thought could be good finds!

A shot of a folding luggage rack and cute magazine holder.

A photo of a cool antique trunk.

A photo of Logan with an owl art print.

So, sidenote - here's the owl story! We had come to the Shipoke Flea Market last year, and had seen a piece of art with a really quirky little owl that we really liked, but we passed it up hoping on the way back through we could offer less than what it was marked! Well, that was a rookie mistake (even for these veteran flea marketers) because obviously someone else thought it was cool and snatched it up before we made it back through. We were so bummed - Logan especially, because of course it was my suggestion to wait it out. I can't help it, I guess I am too thrifty for our own good! But I learned that lesson well - if you are going to be heart broken if it's gone, bite the bullet and buy it when you see it! So anyway, as you can imagine, I haven't heard the end of it about the 'lost' owl print over the past year. So, when we came across this unique little print (I'm slightly convinced it's the same one), we snagged it right away! I hope I've redeemed myself. Now we just need to find a spot for it.

Back to our afternoon at the flea market! Well, of course, you always find some really strange or weird stuff at flea markets too, but that's part of the fun of it. So here are a few of those finds!

A photo of baskets full of barbies.

A shot of a van seat.

A photo of a motorcycle with toliet paper bungeed onto it.

Ahh.. nothing better than an afternoon at the flea market!