Italian expat Marco is a mod-obsessed thrifter who runs Mid Century Home. He loves "learning and discovering the mid-century modern design era and thrifting in Amsterdam and across Europe to share my findings with like-minded thrifters and design lovers."
After seeing photos of his thrifting adventures in beautiful Amsterdam, I had to ask him about thrifting in Italy, and all around Europe.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Marco.
I'm an Italian expat who’s been living in Amsterdam for two and half years and loving the city so far.
I'm a mid-century modern design enthusiast -that's why I started my blog [Mid Century Home] - where I write about design, architecture, the designers of that amazing period and -of course- of my thrifting tours.
When and why did you start thrifting?
Without knowing it -I didn't know what 'thrifting' meant until one year ago- I started more or less 12 years ago. I used to go to a second hand store in my hometown, hunting for treasures: or as my mother would put it, ‘the weird stuff'.
You're originally from Italy, did you thrift there? What was it like? (I lived in Naples, Italy for 4 years as a kid and miss it; there were no thrift stores, though!)
Well, in Italy, what are normally defined as thrift or consignment stores were not common until ten years ago. And still today only big cities have them.
I still go thrifting in Italy every time I have an opportunity and I especially love those fake baroque objects or amazing handcrafted early XIX Century furniture, nothing from the mid-century though.
(Van's Note: Oh, I remember those fake baroque objects!)
What cities have you thrifted in?
So far: Palermo -my hometown-, Rome , Berlin, London and Amsterdam; of course.
[A beautiful summer market in Amsterdam. Imagine thrifting here!]
What do you think makes thrifting in Europe different from thrifting in North America?
I never thrifted in the US but I think people in Europe thrift having something specific in mind -something they need- rather than for the fun of collecting or looking for the design piece.
Also I believe that the kind of goods you can find are different. In Amsterdam it is really easy to find mid century German potteries for a few euros -for example- or handmade Scandinavian pieces...basically because we're in North Europe where these products were made and sold the most.
What is "thrifting" called in Amsterdam and in Italy? Any fun nicknames for thrifting?
Actually, even when I talk with my friends that I would call 'thrifters' they've no idea what thrifting means! :) I think is an American word only.
Here as in Italy, I never heard of a nickname to define 'us'.
Is there a large second-hand shopping/junking culture in Amsterdam and Italy? Is it seen as something dirty or something for low-income families?
In North Europe, in general, there is. Recycling has been part of North European culture for decades. For them the re-use is absolutely normal and socially accepted.
In Italy it is a little different. People who buy second hand objects -or take them from the street- are usually considered poor. Except for those who go to well known 'art markets' that are considered collectors. But as I told you, things are changing quickly, fortunately.
What are flea markets like in Amsterdam and Italy?
I don't see many differences between a big Italian flea market like Porta Portese in Rome or the Ij Hallen here in Amsterdam. Except that Porta Portese is weekly and the Ij Hallen monthly.
You can find a lot of rubbish in both of them but, as I said before, also local design gems. Everywhere, negotiating is a must!
What are thrift stores like in Amsterdam and Italy?
Thrift stores in Amsterdam are more like your Salvation Army basically. People donate to the store the stuff that they don't want anymore and the store keeps the money. In Italy,instead, the stores I visited have more the structure of a consignment store. North Europeans are probably more generous.
Is there a large creative and crafting culture in Amsterdam and Italy?
You write about mid century design, who are your favorite mod designers?
That's a very difficult one! :D Even though I'm a fan of streamlined designs like the Le Corbusier or Walter Gropius ones - that were the inspiration of many mid-century designers- I really love Finn Juhl for the organic and sculptural forms of his pieces. He was unconventional and brave. I like this kind of people.
What's your favorite thing to collect from thrift stores?
I'm addicted to lamps and German vases! But I'm forcing myself to stop buying them…my cellar is already packed and I keep changing my house decoration to have them around. My friends think I'm a bit weird.
(Van's Note: Such is the fate of a thrifter/collector! I think my friends are used to my weirdo collections now.)
Do you have a bad-ass collection of mid century modern treasures you've collected over the years?
Probably lamps, again. In my house there are more lamps than furniture probably…but at least I have the perfect atmosphere all the time ;)
Marco's website Mid Century Home is all about "Sharing, learning and discovering the mid-century modern design era and its protagonists with other mid-century enthusiasts." You should check it out, I love the clean design fun photos, and accessible/conversational tone!
If you would like to be featured in Thrifters Around the World, shoot me an e-mail. I would love to interview you and chat about thrifting where you live.
Past Thrifters Around The World Interviews:
[2/15/2011] Thrifting Pro Miss P From the UK (Part I)
[2/22/2011] Thrifted Treasure's Alice from Australia[3/01/2011] Thrifting Pro Miss P From the UK (Part II)
[3/08/2011] Switcheroom's Elle From the Philippines
[3/16/2011] eLousion's Cindy From Puerto Rico
[3/30/2011] Ashleigh's Thrifting Tales from Taiwan and Tokyo
[4/15/2011] Kimberly's Thrifting from France to Germany
[5/13/2011] Thrift in Vancouver, Canada with SixBalloons
[5/19/2011] The Vintage Cabin's Becke from Toronto
[6/17/2011] Planet Fur's Marlous from the Netherlands
[6/22/2011] Thrifting in the Arctic with Mali of Arctic Mum