Four West Hartford friends – Katie Wickham, Jennifer O’Connell, Julie Jones and Tracey George — who are neighbors and all have kids, started the business in 2011. Back then, they held two backyard sales a year — in the fall (Blaze) and spring (Bloom). They specialize in giving new life to discards and otherwise reusing, repurposing and sometimes completely reconceiving old stuff — old maps, blueprints, books, fabrics and furniture.
Take, for example the Zenith bar. Yes, it’s a mid-century TV console that swivels. They pulled out all the wires and tubes and other weird stuff (apparently quite a job), painted the interior red and added lights, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind cocktail bar for a family room or man cave. Cheers!
Jennifer spotted a 9-foot porch trellis, rusting and old, by the side of the road. (“I love rusty and old!” she says). She upended it, wove in a wide strip of burlap to look like a Christmas tree and added lights.
Katie has a big collection of old road maps (Esso vintage) and blueprints — and decoupages them onto tables, desks and chests.
“We believe in recycling, reusing, refurbishing, upcycling,” Katie says. “We don’t like to throw anything away. There’s so much inherent value.”
The Blaze & Bloom philosophy is, essentially, “We can do something with this. It still has a life. We can keep it out of the trash.”
Strips of vintage fabrics are turned into holiday garlands. Christmas balls now dangle from an old round needlepoint stretcher.
The pages of an old book are intricately folded for displaying photos. An old piano stool is now covered with an old potato sack, “to give it a more hip life,” as Katie says. And the “item of the week” is a nifty metal catchall — made from segments of an old factory conveyor belt. If you need to get organized, there were two when I stopped by this week, priced at $55 and $65.
Jennifer says they love the hunt, and buy a lot at estate sales and garage sales. “We just all see things and when we fall in love with them, we say, this will be a great piece to sell. There’s no formula.”
Sometimes the new life of an old item isn’t immediately clear. Jennifer stenciled the word TABLE on a table.
“People loved it, everyone laughed, but nobody bought it,” she recalls. Then Katie decoupaged a map on it, and, Jennifer says, “Voila — it was transformed. It sold in an hour.”
While the four friends started out just for fun, in July they got serious (though they’re clearly still having fun). They moved into a terrific space at 50 Bartholomew Ave. in Hartford — just down the street from the Design Center on the corner of Park Street — that used to be the RLF showroom and long before that was a metal file factory in the 1800s.
The building also houses landscape designer Cynthia Dodd’s Dirt Salon, the new Birch Papery, puppeteer/kinetic artist Anne Cubberly’s workshop and a variety of other artists’ studios. The whole place has a really wonderful, creative, collaborative vibe.
Blaze & Bloom has been open just a few days a month since the summer, but starting on Jan. 4, it will be open from 10-5 every Saturday, and by appointment. And it’s open today, if you’re on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind gift.
For more, go to www.blazeandbloom.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-888-2087, 860-816-0880 or 860-305-0172.