Late that year, Territory Hardgoods launched with a website, an Etsy shop, and a warehouse in Port Richmond. A year later, they opened on Fabric Row in the former Kincus Fabrics space with a friend, Chelsea Pearce, who makes jewelry and resells vintage clothes under the name Moon & Arrow. The effect is that of a dreamy, old-timey mercantile shop with an artisanal lifestyle bent. Floor-to-ceiling shelves that once held bolts of fabric now hold vintage small goods, new small goods with a vintage feel, and Pearce's modern bohemian jewelry. There is plenty of floor space for Territory's larger pieces: a Steelcase tanker desk, a Mission-style writing desk, plenty of solid wood and reupholstered chairs, and a vintage barber's sink.
In Thieme and Olsyn's workshop, separated from the store by a piece of burlap, a Stickley desk and a few vintage Morris chairs are mid-revivification. Olsyn learned woodworking from her parents, who worshipped at the church of good craftsmanship. "Rescuing something well-made was a really important thing," she says. "If we saw a piece that was outside or neglected, I understood from an early age that that was a sin." Her parents showed her how to refinish her first piece of furniture when she was 5.
Thieme has taught herself how to reupholster, mostly by taking things apart. "It's amazing what you find," she says. Horsehair. Hand stitching. Their husbands, half-silent partners, pitch in, too. All four rewire old lamps and tighten and clean up furniture, and Olsyn's husband makes furniture from reclaimed materials on his family's Louisiana farm. Their overall aesthetic is beat-up. "No high gloss or lacquer," says Thieme. And they try to do the least amount possible to a piece - the goal is to bring it back to a well-loved state. "We want things to feel livable," says Thieme, "not precious."
Laura Thieme and Kristy Olsyn explain their plans to restore a vintage Morris chair at www.philly.com/makingit .
Caroline Tiger is a design writer in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter at @carolinetiger.
A blog, launched in 2001, called "Bewitched By" for fashionistas on a budget. "It was a pre-blog blog," says Thieme, by which she means pre-Wordpress. Or pre-anything like Wordpress that makes blogging easy. It was innovative for its time.
Why "Territory Hardgoods":
"There was a lot of debate over the name," says Thieme. "We went through every iteration of 'general store,' 'mercantile.' We wanted something with an old-timey feel." Adds Olsyn, "We have an affinity for the Southwest and for the time of westward expansion. And 'territory' resonated, because your home is your territory."
Seventy percent of the hard goods are from estate sales, flea markets, and auctions within a 2- to 21/2-hour radius of Philadelphia. The rest hails from points between Louisiana and New Hampshire. Thieme and Olsyn have family scattered along that route.
What restoring vintage furniture has in common with acupuncture:
"In my mind, they coordinate," says Olsyn. "The idea of trying to preserve something in someone - a body, a piece of furniture - of trying to keep the integrity of whatever it is."