Around Town: Vintage Style
Shopping retro in San Diego with Jenna Pilant
Jenna Pilant is a self-described music theater nerd-turned-full-time creative. Since giving up acting several years ago, she’s added upholstery artist, lifestyle blogger—with a fun fashion sense—and most recently, “Room Bloom” star to her list of talents.
You can find information about all her ventures at jennapilant.com, and if you’ve never heard of “Room Bloom,” this is her must-see YouTube channel where she documents the vibrant DIY renovation of her dated Pauma Valley home, room by room, with humor and lots of personality.
Jenna’s a rainbow; she brightens her surroundings not only with her big, cheerful personality but also with the bright colors and patterns she welcomes into her interiors (she’s a master at dressing up gently used chairs in bold, modern fabrics) and wardrobe. I had to know where she shopped, so I asked if I could tag along with her to visit her favorite shops and vintage stores to find brand new pieces as well as pre-owned treasures and fashions. It was a day spent browsing record collections, exploring tchotchkes, trying on designer frocks and having a heck of a lot of fun along the way.
1. Sea Hive
We start at this 12,000-square-foot space in Oceanside selling vintage, modern, antique and artisan-made items. It’s actually a new go-to place for Jenna. It opened in August 2017, and she only recently discovered it after the colorful, geometric sign caught her eye while she was driving down Coast Highway.
“Now, I’m obsessed,” she admits. She’s drawn to the art-deco pieces and midcentury-modern furnishings. “It kind of feels like a brick-and-mortar Etsy. There’s so much cool stuff.”
Having two music degrees under her belt (for musical theater and music business) means Jenna’s a true fan of tunes. While thumbing through the wall of vinyl, she pulled crooners she loves—Johnny Cash, June Carter, Patsy Cline, The Beatles, Tina Turner, Cher and Prince.
Then a corner of midcentury-modern art pulls her gaze from the records. “I love this,” she says of a black-and-white abstract lithograph with pops of red, blue and green. But it’s a two-foot ceramic giraffe (pictured above) that wins her heart—and a future spot in her family room. Jenna collects giraffes and loves this multicolored one.
1555 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside, 760-547-5706, seahivemarketplace.com
2. Societe Fine Flowers
“Having fresh flowers in your home is like bringing the sunshine in,” Jenna says. And this nearly 2-year-old floral and retail shop in Del Mar is her go-to spot for beautiful blooms because it reminds her just a little bit of home. Originally from Nebraska, Jenna grew up a true farm girl. “I spent my childhood cutting thistles out of the fields, and Allison [Stevens, co-owner and creative director] uses them in some of her arrangements,” Jenna adds. To be sure, there’s nothing rugged about the floral designs Allison creates. Her compositions are elegant and chic and incorporate the unexpected: Allison puts herbs in vases, marries modern pincushions with more traditional flowers and uses unique greenery.
2683 Via de la Valle, Suite E, Del Mar, 858-259-0705, societeflowers.com
Six years ago, when she and her now husband Darrell moved in together, Jenna discovered this furniture, decor and gift shop in Encinitas that stocks iconic brands like Herman Miller and Knoll. The couple had a place in Carlsbad, and Jenna wanted it to reflect their shared modern aesthetic so she came here.
She picked up an outdoor rug (which she still has), a few planters and some coffee-table books. Now that she’s redoing their home in Pauma Valley, she’s got her eye on some big-ticket items: an arc lamp and the classic Eames Lounge chair and ottoman. “The chair is actually about the same price whether you buy it new or vintage,” she says of the seat that was originally designed in 1956 and starts at about $5,300 regardless of age.
7 S. Coast Highway, Suite 105, Encinitas, 760-230-1563, shopgrounded.com
4. Kurtz Street Vintage Marketplace
This collective of antique, vintage, midcentury modern and art dealers opened its doors in the back of the Consignment Classics’ Sports Arena location less than a year ago. Jenna found them this summer through friends on Instagram, but this is actually her first visit.
Within minutes of walking in, Jenna discovers some kitsch she can’t live without—a framed Christmas tree fashioned from beads and brooches. “This is one of those pieces that if I leave without it, it will haunt me,” she explains.
We spend the next hour weaving in and out of various stalls on a mission to find additions to Jenna’s collections, which include cake stands and vintage vases. She finds a pair of chairs in need of some major TLC but explains that at $45 a piece, they’re a score. “I always tell people that an inexpensively priced wingback chair in good condition is always a good bet. It’s a timeless silhouette that can look rad in a new fabric.”
3602 Kurtz St., San Diego, 619-291-3000, kurts-street-vintage-marketplace-antique-mall.business.site
5. Shane Bowden Art + Design
Jenna visits this Little Italy gallery to find art that doesn’t take itself too seriously. “Shane’s got a kind of Andy Warhol-inspired thing going on,” she says. “I discovered him at a fashion event, took Darrell to the gallery and told him to pick anything; I loved it all.” Darrell selected “Bitch I’m Catholic,” a painting that depicts the Mona Lisa wearing a crucifix that’s been strung through the canvas, which now hangs in their dining room.
2040 India St., San Diego, 619-807-6048, shanebowden.com
6. The Frame Maker
For over four decades, this family-owned and operated shop in Mission Hills (though it began in National City) has been creating custom frames for art-loving San Diegans like Jenna, who comes to them not just for the selection (they carry more than 8,000 samples) but the expertise.
Today, Jenna excitedly picks up the completed piece that will hang in her home office. Jenna selected a colorful custom frame (with the Frame Maker’s lead designer Tom Houk’s help) for “Rainbows,” a fine-art, limited-edition, numbered and signed print she bought through Instagram from the Australian artist Rachel Castle. “I feel like a little piece of me dies creatively when I have to sit down and handle the admin part of what I do in my office,” Jenna says. “But this print makes me so happy and inspired.”
3102 Reynard Way, San Diego, 619-260-2600, theframemaker.com
7. Frock You Vintage Boutique
Our shopping excursion concludes at this resale shop in University Heights, which is having a “Huge Frocking Sale” (held several times throughout the year) in the lot adjacent to the shop. We start there, sifting through racks of clothing organized by decade—from the 1920s through the early 2000s.
Jenna attributes her appreciation for vintage fashion to her theater background. “I prefer vintage pieces to today’s fast trendy fashion,” she says.
She pulls a red strapless 1950s-era dress to try on, a vintage Valentino that she calls “very Designing Women” and a for-rent-only pink fringe number. Most of it was just for fun, but after putting on the Valentino and being complimented by nearly everyone in the store, she decides to buy the dress but stops at the case of jeweled accessories before checking out.
“My wedding bouquet was a collection of vintage brooches,” she says, eyeing a large red floral pin. “I still hoard them, and this one is coming home with me.”
4121 Park Blvd., San Diego, 619-220-0630, facebook.com/frockyouvintage