Having survived, and thrived, since the mid 90s on north Willamsburg's ever-changing Bedford Avenue, vintage-housewares shop Ugly Luggage is something of an institution. But I headed for a visit assuming that the shop, like its surroundings, must have become far more trendy and upscale over time. I remembered it as a charming but crowded spot where I could actually buy things, but I was prepared to find that everything had changed.
What I found: a space less crowded than in the past but, amazingly, still offering fun and affordable items (along with well-preserved vintage furniture pieces that, yes, will cost a bit—but each could be the showpiece of a room).
I collect antique postcards and was very pleased to find some lovely ones here, along with assorted vintage snapshots ($2 per postcard or photo). Vintage typewriter keys ($2 also) can be used for jewelry or craft projects (how about using them for those rings that distinguish one guest's wineglass from another's?).
I got a kick out of staff-written commentary on some of the price tags. For example, a small, decorative metal "tragedy" mask, priced at $12, had "Life sucks" written on the tag. An antique globe was selling for $80; its label called it "one of the nicest we have had."
A lovely container described as a "skate box" ($49) bore the words "Kenny" and "Tommy's Rink." Original collages dating from the mid-60s ($66) would make a great wedding present or "Thanks for having us!" present. And some items were both beautiful and arcane, like the large glass slides of sheet music (apparently called "lantern slides" and originally to be used with a projector; $10).
What to do with a canoe-shaped blue ceramic container ($15; the tag read "Form/Function)? Whatever you'd like—this shop will offer you lots of handsome and well-made items to keep and use or wrap and give as you see fit.
And what of its namesake? Is there ugly luggage here? Luggage yes, ugly no; and you'd probably want to use these pieces as beautiful storage units while letting your newer canvas-on-wheels bag bear the stresses of airport security.