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A Short but Sweet Pictorial History of Escutcheons

Posted on February 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

es·cutch·eon (aka. door back plates)


noun: escutcheon

  1. a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms.
  2. a flat piece of metal for protection and often ornamentation, around a keyhole, door handle, or light switch.

Origin: late 15th century: from Anglo-Norman French escuchon, based on Latin scutum ‘shield.’

No matter what you call them by, we have a huge collection of stunning pieces. Ranging from ornately decorated Victorian to stream-lined art deco and everything in between, Hippo has your era covered.

They truly don't make them like they used to--this late 1800s Victorian-era escutcheon boasts an intricate design and a key hole cover:

This Victorian "reole" pattern piece has tiny carved roses, scroll work and elegant lines:

This piece is from approx 1910 and has a japanned finish:


These craftsman/mission styles are minimalist yet stately in both shape and design:

These art deco pieces are iconic in both design and shape with their tell-tale stream-lined yet glitzy details from the 20s through the 40s:

This art deco has a lovely sunburst-like pattern:

Unfortunately the intricate patterns and classic styles were only made through the 1940s. This classic mid-century escutcheon and door set has become the new modern standard.

A far cry from this row of design and craftsmanship:


(DIY hint: don’t want to use them on a door? Use them as a backplate for hooks or anything else you want to display!)

A Very Long Engagement: the restoration of the largest chandelier we've ever seen

Posted on January 14, 2018 | 2 Comments

Our lighting department manager recently finished a most massive restoration of impressive proportions: this huge Maria Theresa chandelier. This beauty was finally lit last for the first time in over half a century—25 lights in total! The fixture sold recently but we wanted to commemorate this 8 year journey to restore one of the most regal light fixtures we've seen.

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Hippo Hardware is Moving.. Someday

Posted on November 26, 2017 | 8 Comments

We are so grateful to all our customers over the years and we have been hearing many questions lately about what is going on with our building. We want to level with you, so here's the deal:

1) We do not own our building.

2) Our building will be torn down and redeveloped in the next 2-5 years.

3) Our landlord has been awesome over the past 26 years.

4) We don't know where we will go.

We've been given a long lead time by our aforementioned awesome landlord, so we are checking out our options. Real estate in Portland has gone through the roof, but nearby areas aren't substantially better (we're looking at you, diamond-in-the-rough Milwaukee). We are working with some bankers and real estate folks to see what we can find.

We have a few options we're considering:

1) Our landlord will continue to own the property and offered us the ground floor in the new building. The trick here is the 1-2 years of demo/construction time, not to mention the ever worsening parking situation.

2) We are looking for a 15,000 - 20,000 sq ft building (we currently have 25,000 sq ft) somewhere not too far out and close to old houses (Portland? Milwaukee? Oregon City? Gresham?)

3) We are thinking about having a smaller inner city 'showroom' space and a bigger warehouse/industrial space farther out. This does mean two locations which brings up a bunch of other problems.

So, dear supporters and co-conspirators, we are telling it like it is so you know what's happening and in case anyone has an extra building laying around they'd like to share. When we know a little more about our plan, we will likely have some kind of kickstarter/gofundme/pleasegiveusmoney campaign to help with the costs. Until then, thank you endlessly for the continued care and support.

How to Buy and Care For a Clawfoot Tub 101

Posted on October 15, 2017 | 3 Comments

We answer a lot of calls here at Hippo with questions concerning Claw foot tubs, and they usually lead to more questions. So, here’s my little clawfoot tub primer of do’s and don’ts if you are considering upgrading to one of these irresistible beauties. They can that be picture perfect luxurious soak you’ve been dreaming about.

#1: While it’s not impossible to find feet for antique tubs, it may be impossible to find the exact four feet, or missing foot, that connects to your tubs unique bracket and profile. Each maker had their own unique casting. We estimate there are somewhere around 400 different castings. On some tubs, the back two feet are be a little taller for proper tilt for drainage. So, rule number one, buy your tub with all four of its feet. However, if you already bought a footless tub, all hope is not lost. The best way to find out if we have feet for your tub is to bring your tub in. We realize that's prohibitive for some folks so a good second option is to press some soft modeling clay over the entire surface of the leg mount and make a mold.

#2: Weather and harsh chemical cleaners are not your tubs best friend. Storing a tub outdoors in the elements is a bad idea, buying a tub sitting in someone’s yard an even worse idea. That beautiful pristine porcelain finish is thin and porous at a microscopic level. The harsh environment of rain and winter degrades the surface, and you may be left with stains that have permanently damaged its originally glossy appearance. Additionally the iron may be brittle from the extreme temperature changes and humidity.

#3: Once you have your dream tub, make sure it stays dreamy with proper care. Harsh chemicals can damage the porcelain and end up causing more harm than good. Here’s a great resource from Apartment Therapy on the care and cleaning of your antique tub or sink.

#4: If you need to restore your tub's surface, leave it to the professionals. Home kits often leave a less then stellar surface, that becomes even more problematic over time. The biggest key to a successful refinish is a totally sterile environment. Any dust or particles will keep the chemicals from bonding with your tub's surface. Be aware that if you buy a tub that has a failing re-finish, it will cost a little more to have it stripped and re-surfaced professionally, but well worth the money.

Those wonderful claw feet that we all fell in love with, can also be given a new lease on life in the hands of professionals.  Remember there’s no shame in having a love affair with your well-worn tub either, with their numerous coats of paint on the outside, scratches, rusty feet and all. After all who’s perfect?

#5: Another thing to consider is the space your working with, I’ve seen many regrets over the years, from people who could have had a larger soaking tub, but went smaller. Sizes on tubs range from 54” all the way up to generally 6’. As a rule, we recommend you buy the biggest tub you can comfortably fit in your space, your aching bones will thank you!

#6: Let's talk about valve placement: there are few standards in plumbing, and tubs generally come a few different ways to fill with water. By far the most common style has the valve mounts to the inside surface of the tub with the drain directly below on one end of the tub. There are a few other unusual styles as well such as valve holes are in the of the rim or in the center of the tub. Most tubs have a mounting hole distance of 3 3\8ths. The valves we sell range from cool old antique tub fillers, to basic reproduction valves with a diverter, to fun valves with porcelain levers and a built in hand shower. So many options!

#7: Wanting to re-tile your bathroom? Thinking about adding some tub coasters? Make sure your plumbing drain and supply lines will fit the new height! Although needing to go shorter may add some time, ensure you include that in your schedule. If you'll need a longer drain or supply lines, definitely factor in replacement parts as part of your costs.

Are you ready to dive in now? We have many antique claw foot tubs in the store to choose from. Or maybe you just need to accessorize your little gem with some porcelain tub coasters, or an over the rim soap holder (or maybe two)? Let us know how to get your clawfoot tub dreams up and running!


Think Outside the Light: Chandeliers for Every Mood

Posted on September 08, 2017 | 1 Comment

There’s nothing quite like a chandelier. Their romantic elegance and wide array of designs provide endless possibilities for home décor.

As the summer winds down and the outside lights sheds a golden hue why not try a chandelier outdoors for those late-summer dinner parties, gatherings and events?

Go classic with a glass armed design. This look is perfect for any covered patio:

Or for a rustic look, try a DIY pulley light fixture:


Don’t want to mess with wiring but want an eclectic look for your outdoor space? A fresh coat of paint and a trip to the garden center turns these Williamsburg chandeliers into planters!


For a simple statement, try a glass globe shade candle holder (note: do not use real candles as they can explode the glass—flameless candles are best for these shades).

Of course, if an outdoor chandelier doesn’t work for your home, you can always go classic and add one inside for a traditional elegant statement piece like these many armed beauties that abound in our store: 

Any way or where you hang it, a chandelier is certain to add a romantic and unique ambiance to your living space.  

Say Goodnight, Gracie! The last days of the Caldwell Funeral Home

Posted on August 13, 2017 | 2 Comments

Located on SE 14th, snug between Burnside and Sandy, the Caldwell Funeral home stood elegantly from 1929 until 2017. Hippo had the privilege of salvaging some of the architectural gems from this incredible place. We were able to be one of the last few people to walk through the building. We would like to use this blog post to pay tribute to a gorgeous building with a long history in our city.

The building was stately:


 Photos above credit:

The inside however, was just stunning:

 The images above are from the ground floor. Our first trip in, we were taken through the basement where all the mortuary work took place including an autopsy room and a cremation room. Unfortunately, when we came back with the camera, the entire floor was closed off for hazardous waste disposal so dear readers, we can only try to sketch the beautiful austerity of these rooms.

Most of the salvage we handled went directly to a large restaurant client but we did end up with this remarkable bronze fountain:

and we still have one of three steel gates:

We also nabbed a kitchen sink, iron driveway gates, and walnut inlayed light switch plates which have all sold before we had a chance to sit down and write about it.

Although it's a little sad, here is a final shot of the last day of such a grand old lady. It took an army to bring you down, you tough broad!

DIY With a (Re)purpose

Posted on July 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

These days I find myself wanting to turn everything (and I mean everything) I see into a tiny plant container and/or a bud vase to hold flowers from my garden. My hobby of re-purposing anything vintage that looks like it could hold a tiny, adorable succulent has crossed the line into obsession and with the recent trend of entire terrarium stores popping up in PDX, it seems the general population shares my affinity for tiny plant culture. 

These projects are so satisfying and here's why: 

    1. The possibilities for plant containers and bud vases are endless. They require little to no handyperson skills and yet I get the satisfaction of knowing I "DIYed it". 
    2. I can showcase my personality. Example: I. Love. Milk glass. Especially hobnail milk glass. Therefore, any hobnail milk glass item that has an opening on at least one end will get turned into a container for one of my tiny plants. 
    3. I get to actually USE these items now instead of just displaying them. 
    4. They are a perfect, simple, and inexpensive idea for craft night. 
    5. They make great gifts. Everyone loves getting something homemade; it says you went the extra mile and got creative. 

      I could go on. Truly. 

      *All the items I'm using are from our vast lighting department


      Here's what you will need to create your tiny plant container and/or bud vase: 

      1) A small item with an opening. Like this for a bud vase:      

      hobnail glass

      Or this for a succulent/air plant container: 

      hobnail cone


      2) A small plate or flatter surface to attach the container part to. This can be optional or necessary depending on if the container part has 2 openings. But it provides a sturdy base and will allow you to use a wider variety of items. 


      (Note: this particular piece is part of our vintage lighting collection and does have a hole at the bottom. This can easily be covered up with some tape on the bottom and glue to fill the hole in.)

      3) Glue--I recommend E6000 craft glue. You can use super glue but the E6000 is better and works on many different materials. You can find it at most craft supply stores. 

      craft glue


      Step 1: Glue the container part to the flat/plate part.

      diy product

      2) Wait for it to dry.

      3) Fill it with adorable tiny plants.

      That's it. 

      End results: adorable and one of a kind! 

      diy bud vase

      diy container


      The best part about this project is the shopping for the components. Maybe you have something at home that you've been saving but if not, it's a great excuse to get out to the local salvage store and explore the possibilities. And then you get to go plant shopping too! So get to it. go DIY something adorable and unique. Go re-purpose the heck out of that vintage hobnail milk glass thing you've been eyeing. 

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