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Take your home decorating efforts on a treasure hunt that'll transform your place from cookie-cutter to kooky-cool
Lifelong pals Anna Marie MacLellan and Anna Jean McLean opened Duchesse Vintage and Such in the summer of 2012 with the plan to break away from their service jobs and feed their love of treasure hunting.
Entering the diminutive store, located on Columbia Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown, is like walking into a cooler, edited version of an old fashioned flea market. There are sparkly dresses, Raggedy Ann dolls, cocktail rings, microscopes, babushka dolls and things beyond description – try a stand-alone mixer with pheasant bird wings.
Anna Marie laughs as she disappears behind a rack of clothing and then re-emerges with an item that she can’t wait to share – a golden Scottish figurine attached to a game die inside a miniature tea cup attached to an old-fashioned wooden post, all items pulled from the store. An assembly artist, Anna Marie sees the shop as her creative outlet.
“I love the show-and-tell aspect to what we do,” says Anna Marie. “We don’t want to be typical and we look for things that are surprising.”
The Annas, as they are collectively known, also plan to tap into the growing interest in one-of-a-kind, recycled items.
“People like vintage because it is green,” says Anna Marie. “It is also part of the shift toward buying local.”
What sets Duchesse apart from its competitors, says Anna Marie, is their interest in both clothing and home items. The space is set up like a lifestyle store with a front seating and kitchen area stocked with household items. Interspersed throughout are racks of vintage clothing and shelves of curios.
Anna Marie learned the vintage trade working at clothier deLuxe Junk Company for three years and selling her own finds at local markets. Anna Jean is a former server at Chinatown’s Bao Bei.
One of the biggest challenges the duo faced when opening Duchesse was creating a high-style space on a small budget. For the task, they enlisted local installation artist Ricky Alvarez, who helped design and build their store.
The focal point of the shop is the back wall covered in hand-stained fir floor planks assembled in a chevron pattern that evokes a retro vibe.
Drop ceilings, fluorescent lighting and drywall were removed. Exposed brick was revealed and refinished by hand. Uneven concrete floors were covered in plywood and painted with marine boat paint.
“The floor was too uneven to refinish, so we painted it. It scuffs up nicely and looks like it has always been here,” says Anna Jean.
Vintage schoolroom chairs were hung side-by-side across one wall to form an unexpected shelving unit. As a nod to the neighbourhood, Chinese cooking pots were used as light covers and the lids as ceiling caps.
On a weekday afternoon, a customer dashes in to buy a stand-alone ashtray with a metal Greyhound motif that she spied on Instagram. Anna Jean phones next door to ask their neighbours at The Shop Vancouver, a custom motorcycle parts and coffee shop (yes, that’s right), a question.
“It is important to us to be part of the neighbourhood,” says Anna Marie. “We want it to be like you are walking into your friend’s home.”
BESTSELLER: Vintage dresses. Dresses from bygone eras typically feature higher-quality fabrics and workmanship than comparable modern clothing. $30 – $300
MOST UNUSUAL: Electric mixer with pheasant wings. This quirky and functional household item nails the Annas’ whimsical esthetic. $500
SPLURGE ITEM: Steamer trunk. This large trunk, originally design for ship travel, can be left open and used as a displa
Duchesse Vintage Feeds Love of Treasure Hunting
Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.