Tag... You're It
Kate Gerken (pictured above with her two sons) has the ability to see the beauty in a piece of discarded furniture. Not only that, she turns those pieces into funky, unique and most of all, useful household items. Just after Kate's first son, Quincy, was born she decided to make her move into the realm of tag sales and vintage styling. After finding two friends who also shared a love of quirky treasures, they teamed up to create Artifact with a motto of "vintage finds for modern life." Artifact hosts tag sales in Kate's backyard, which just so happens to be beautifully designed by her husband who is a landscape architect. If you live anywhere in the vicinity of Lawrence, KS you are lucky enough to scope out their next sale on Saturday, June 24th. Check their Facebook for details. Otherwise, you will have to drool over the photos of Kate's perfectly staged backyard and join the group of us who are attempting to bribe her to come redecorate our homes.
Read below about how Kate started on this adventure and how becoming a mother inspired her to go for it. Also check out a full gallery of her images in Creative Spaces.
Tell us about what you are working on.
A few years ago, two friends and I began hosting what we call “tag sales” once or twice a year where we sell vintage furniture and accessories. We give new life to old pieces by repurposing them and/or adding color, fabric, and other modern twists. Our next sale is coming up soon—Saturday, June 24th! The sale takes place in my backyard where people can wander through the little vignettes we’ve set up to showcase the furniture and accessories.
I should add that my husband Mike is a very talented landscape architect, and he has transformed our yard into a beautiful space. We receive numerous compliments at every sale about what an amazing setting it is and it’s really been a draw for our customers. I think some people come just to see the yard and that’s okay…the more the merrier!
From Knotting Hill to Gilbert, Iowa
Travel has been a major inspiration. I was lucky enough to study abroad in London when I was in college, and one of my favorite past times was wandering through Portobello Market on Saturdays. It’s an enormous street market in Knotting Hill with tons of vendors and an eclectic blend of stores and stalls where you can find amazing antiques, vintage clothing, food, and more. I’ve always been drawn to the character, quirkiness, and sense of style that can be found in both architecture and products abroad.
There’s also a great little vintage shop called JB Knacker in my hometown of Gilbert, Iowa. I stumbled upon it when I was visiting my parents one weekend and was so inspired that I emailed the owner to find out how she’d gotten her start. It turns out that she and a friend had started out holding tag sales in her friend’s barn, which grew in popularity and eventually led to them opening the shop. This is how I learned about the concept of tag sales and what sparked the idea of holding them in my backyard.
Partners in Design
I work with two friends – Melanie McFarland and Angie Knight. Our partnership happened very serendipitously. Melanie, who also happens to be my neighbor, and I went to an estate sale together one day. I mentioned that I’d always dreamt of refurbishing furniture and selling it, which led to her showing me a collection of accessories (wooden beads, glass test tubes, Polaroid cameras, mermaid bottle openers, etc.) that she had collected. All I could think as she was showing me everything is that this type of décor would complement the furniture that I wanted to sell perfectly. I shared the tag sale idea with her and she thought it sounded like fun. She asked her friend Angie, who has a great eye and a lot of retail experience, to join and the rest is history!
Go for it, mama.
I’ve always loved interior design and day-dreamed and talked about doing something like this for a very long time. It wasn’t until I became a mom (4.5 years ago) though that I finally got up the nerve to try it. I love to be busy and working on furniture was something that I could easily do at home while the baby napped or played nearby.
Don’t overthink it, just do it! Diving in forces you to figure things out as you go. Being creative is an amazing outlet and something that you can do with little ones around. I now have two little boys, Quincy (4.5 years) and Milo (9.5 months) and it truly is a family affair. They accompany Mike and I on picking expeditions and are always nearby when we are outside working on projects.
Favorite things to help you get in a creative space.
Perusing Instagram, Pinterest, and my favorite design blogs…and listening to music while I work is a must!
One day all to yourself...
I’d love love love to go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market in LA to wander and shop for pieces. I’m also never opposed to sitting on a beach with a cocktail in hand.
Anything else you want to tell us?
It’s a lot of hard work but it fills me with joy to be able to transform pieces that people have tossed away into quirky, useful, and attractive household items.