Beads Galore

Beads Galore is the REI of Valley bead shops, which is fitting, because it's just around the corner from the outdoor mega-store's East Valley outpost. BG is stocked wall to wall with everything a beader (beginning or advanced) could want, from basic supplies like wire and clasps to pearls in every color of the rainbow. A small selection of semi-precious gems may tempt you, but your dollar will go further in the bins of Czech glass beads, where you can feel free to dig for just exactly the right color, shape and size. Or grab strands of everything from crystals to trade beads to polymer clay. Your only limit is your own imagination.

Diane Ribbon and Notion

"Diane" is like the crazy love child of Michael and JoAnn, a place where you can find much of the crafting gear available at those bland chain stores, but where you can also find an entire aisle devoted to old plastic doll parts, equal in size to the ribbon department. There's no rhyme or reason, and that's why we love this dark, sort-of-scary warehouse, so far off the beaten path that these folks don't know the meaning of the term mega-mall. But there's nothing small about Diane Ribbon, except the parking lot, so be glad this place is still a buried treasure. Get over there, though, because rumors abound that someday, the chains will put poor Diane under.

We try to feel only the love in Best of Phoenix, but we've got to stop and grouse for just a moment. Though we have a vibrant art scene, certain financial realities dictate that galleries don't, for the most part, keep regular hours — at least, not the downtown spots with the funky work we want to buy. Miss first and third Fridays, and you might be S.O.L., wanna-be art buyer.

That's just one reason we love etsy.com, a national site featuring scores of independent salespeople — including the Valley's own Jason Hill, a fantastic printmaker whose iconic Phoenix images have graced the cover of New Times on occasion. Hill had a show recently — up for just one night — and we e-mailed him, lamenting the fact that we already had plans.

Hill graciously pointed us to his etsy shop, and now we can shop his stuff to our hearts' content, 24/7. Now if we could just decide between the "I Heart Urban Sprawl" T-shirt and the Arizona Biltmore print. Or maybe the Bikini Lounge one.

And we wonder who else among our favorite local artists we'll find on etsy. This could get expensive. But worth it!

Lizabel's Treasures

First, we wanted the multicolored writing desk with the crossbow legs. Then we had to have the bright reddish-orange workbench, to use as a coffee table. Finally, we couldn't last another minute without the black-and-white-spotted legless side chair (we wanted to put it next to our bed as a nightstand). We knew we didn't have room for all this gorgeous stuff in our house, so we started fantasizing about moving into a new house and having it decorated and painted entirely by Joe Willie Smith, and at this point we realized we were freaking out, so we just bought the legless chair and fled. But this sort of extreme reaction is pretty much how we — and anyone with a deep fondness for cool furnishings — tend to respond to the work of local artist Smith, whose fun, funky furniture can be found at Lizabel's Treasures on 16th Street.

Smith is a multimedia artist who works mostly with found objects, which he turns into well-regarded artwork that has been exhibited at eye lounge and at Bentley Galleries, among other local arty hotspots. At Lizabel's, though, Smith's art is as much about function as form: witness the low, gorgeous, rough-hewn chest he's painted a warm blue (if it were ours, we'd top it with glass and use it as an end table) and the multi-hued writing desk that would look great in our entry hall . . . Oops! There we go again, obsessing about Smith's fabulous furniture. You can, too.

Embellish Home

Everyone knows that the last thing you're supposed to do before you leave the house is stop, look in the mirror, and remove one accessory. It's the key to elegance, as far as we're concerned. (Not to mention avoiding looking like a clown.) But when it comes to the home, we ditch the theory in favor of what we fondly refer to as "cluttered chaos." Family photos, tchotchkes, light fixtures, candles, pillows — bring it on. More to dust, but more to love, and we love showing off our personal style in our personal space. That's why we were awed during a recent trip to Embellish Home. We wanted it all: the delicate bedside lamp with the pink chandelier accents, the funky Mediterranean-esque lantern, the cabinet full of scented candles. Hey, give us the cabinet, too! If you can't choose, Embellish offers interior design services, including a clever, reasonably priced consultation package where the designer helps you work with what you've got. But after a visit to Embellish, you just won't be able to resist adding a few more touches to your home.

Antiques on Central

The best high-end antique shop in the Valley is in the center of the city, on the northeast corner of Central and Camelback. Victorian writing tables, cherry wood waterfall bureaus, and Deco dining suites share space with Eames chairs and Mondrian prints — every era of fine furniture is represented here, and shares space with a wide variety of smaller pieces, like the vintage shaving kit we bought for $22, or the '30s ceramic planter shaped like Shirley Temple for a little less than 50 bones. Bargain shoppers will be happy with the many great deals to be had on glassware, dishes, and religious arcana, too — and be sure to tell your friend the vintage Christmas ornament collector about the shocking display of really old bulbs and blown-glass bits on sale at this, our new favorite antiques mall.

Rust and Roses

We had no idea what we were going to do with the 1830s Federal-style hope chest we found at this, our fave place to buy shabby-chic décor for our home and garden, and we didn't care, because the price (and the piece itself!) were so breathtaking. Ditto a 19th-century French silver coffee service, a 1940s rubber frog squeak toy, and a chrome centerpiece punch bowl. We couldn't pass them up, because they, like everything else we ogle at this cleverly organized store in Seventh Avenue's Melrose shopping district, were so perfect and so perfectly priced. Rust and Roses specializes in vintage garden and architectural salvage, so they offer nearly as many gorgeous artifacts for sale on their vast outdoor terrace as they do indoors. We bought a perfectly patinaed patio set last time we were there but resisted the many pretty pieces of vintage chalkware we spotted, because, well, we were afraid that if we didn't stop shopping, we'd buy the whole store!

Vintage Solutions' tagline is, "Offering you endless possibilities for your home," which is certainly true — we've decorated practically our entire home with amazing finds from this fabulous furniture store. But what's really been piquing our interest of late is the swell selection of high-end '60s furniture and accessories this nicely appointed, welcoming shop has to offer.

Oh, sure, the guys who run this place always feature an array of great stuff from every era (we recently bought a gorgeous Deco Bakelite-and-chrome floor lamp for next to nothing), but lately we've become obsessed with their selection of high-end, low-priced pieces from the Swinging '60s. The long, low, Formica-topped coffee table looks great with our '50s sofa, and the pair of gold-leafed chalkware vanity lamps is perfect with our 1930s bedroom set.

We didn't used to have the nerve to mix and match interior accessories from different eras until we started visiting Vintage Solutions, where stylish mixing and matching is the name of their display game. What's more, we didn't even think we liked '60s stuff until we started seeing it through the well-trained eyes of this store's proprietors, whose flair for fashionable interiors has us considering redoing our game room around a groovy oil lamp we saw there recently. We're newly brave, thanks to the 40-year-old beauty we've found at Vintage Solutions!

The following nugget of wisdom was drilled into us the minute we signed our first mortgage: Take care of your house because, someday, it'll take care of you. Weeeelllllll, maybe. If you live in Connecticut. Or Monaco. Here in Phoenix, homeowners are shackled to the fickle fortunes of a Wild West, boom-and-bust economy. Yee-haw.

This nugget of wisdom was drilled into us pretty much the day after we dumped all our money into a house: Diversify. Don't be a boob and hold on to those two remaining shekels like grim death. Rub 'em together in the hopes they'll go forth and multiply.

A surprising number of the smart shekels these days are going into . . . movie posters? Yep, the burgeoning collectibles sub-genres known as ephemera and Hollywood have come together with a boom in recent years, escalating the Golden Age poster market to ludicrous heights. Crazy, perhaps, but when you think about it, posters exude a lot of natural charm as collectibles: 1) many are rare, because they were considered expendable (a.k.a. ephemeral) in their day; 2) the most coveted — Casablanca, The Mummy, etc. — contain archetypal pop-culture images that transcend eras and styles; 3) many people practice "theme living" these days, and a collectible poster or two can really spiff up that home-theater room; 4) it's Hollywood, baby; everything sells.

Mark, Sherry, and Brandy Goldberg of Femmes Fatales are collectors and resellers of the vintage beauties, which they display in a remodeled 3,000-square-foot building on Scottsdale's Main Street drag. (Much of the funding for the swank spot comes by way of Mark, a founding partner at the personal-injury law firm Goldberg & Osborne, a.k.a. "The Eagle." See how Mark diversified, students?)

About 200 of the clan's 1,500-poster collection — spanning the 1920s to the present — are on view at any given time. Prices vary, but the tags usually start at $200-ish and can run to five figures. Ouch, right? Well, that's not so out of whack with what the "real" art in downtown Scottsdale brings, and it's not even close to the six figures the rarest of the rare posters net. (The record, as of this writing, is $690,000 for a 1927 Metropolis.)

For their part, the Goldbergs play mostly to the "theme" crowd. Therefore, they stock common works powered by high-watt superstars like Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, Errol Flynn, Brigitte Bardot, and Robert Redford. They can also hook you up with top-notch restorers and framers, and will even use their connections to help you find that highly elusive poster you didn't know you couldn't live without.

Musicians Discount

Because musicians are some of the most competitive folks we know in the creative community, a music store founded and operated by these people may sound kind of intimidating. But even folks who are starting or playing in their first band will feel welcome at Musicians Discount. The spacious store in the Poca Fiesta strip mall that once housed Tower Records specializes in brand-name new, used, and vintage guitars. There's a quiet room where you try out any of the store's instruments by plugging into a variety of amps and jamming out. The shop also sells the most affordable effects pedals in town as well as sonic odds and ends such as speaker cable and recording gear, all at reasonable prices.

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