Are You Authentic … Or Lost In (Following) The Crowd?

Real Takes Time

Dec 12, 2011 by

I love old, retro authentic “stuff.”

Rusted boxes? Ancient baskets? Yep, love ‘em (in moderation, I should note). One of my favorite garage sale finds wass a circuit breaker box with a fine “patina” (read rust) – polished up beautifully.  A friend found my truly vintage (company has been defunct for decades) steel and brass file cabinet on a street corner; it polished up nicely too.

A small chair my uncle made some 70-odd years ago in shop sits next to my sofa, holding books. (I remember it sitting in my grandmother’s bathroom [? Go figure] for years). My solid wood swivel desk armchair (In which I’m sitting as a I type this on my slick-lookin’ iMac) was a $12 steal at Salvation Army.

I hang framed postcards next to expensive art. I collect rocks and display them in crystal jars. I keep my cowboy boots in the living room. Well, you get the idea…have I told you enough to validate my credentials as a lover of “authentic?”


But, wait! All that authenticity may be getting old (according to the recent article in the NYT home section.) It’s Handmade. It’s Unique. It’s Everywhere. 

“How much authenticity is too much? It’s an oddly philosophical question, given the subject matter, but one that might occur to anyone confronted with the deluge of vintage and artisanal products now available online and through mass-market retailers. Put another way, have we finally reached a saturation point, where the “authentic” loses its eternal quality and becomes just another fad?”

I think it’s “too much” when it’s an “authentic reproduction” or bought in bulk, for ridiculous prices. You can buy the look, but you’ll never have the history.

I enjoy visiting Pottery Barn and Anthropologie (love the way they put things together in displays)…but I can get originals for far, far less than they charge, with real history…made out of real metal and real wood (as with my desk chair, which is available at Pottery Barn for about $400, in a flimsy imitation.)  I love that my desk chair’s worn arms were rubbed by someone’s shirt cuffs over the years, not in some mass-production factory line.  (PB’s and Anthropologie’s prices sometimes actually make me laugh out loud…Seriously?   But that’s a post for another day…)

Pottery Barn sells vintage items from around the world as part of a collection called “Found.” Um, I’ve got a similar collection … things I’ve actually found, such as fossils in my walks around town. There’s a story behind every object, rock, and branch. Makes me smile as I wander my cozy home of a winter morn, drinking my coffee.

 My “unique” isn’t yours. Real history takes time. An authentic look (or life) isn’t easy or instant … but it sure can be fun.

About the Author

Mary Schmidt Has Written 26 Articles For Us!

Mary is a proud Corporate America refugee, having long ago decided that quality of life is far more important than quantity of stuff. However, that said, she thinks money is a very good thing - when used as a tool, not a success measurement. In addition to writing for us, she blogs about business development and marketing at and about marketing to and by women at In her consulting business, her clients have ranged from mega-corps such as Hewlett-Packard to local Mom & Pops.
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