Euro-kitsch Sightseeing?
July 6, 2016 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Quirky places for an ephemera and sign-loving graphic designer visiting Edinburgh, Yorkshire, London, Paris, Barcelona, and Stuttgart?

We've got an epic trip coming up, and I'm hoping to visit at least one or two sites imbued with the certain offbeat charm created when proprietors have extensive collections, time on their hands, and a distinct visual voice. Similar places I've visited and loved have included The House on the Rock, Confusion Hill, Tinkertown, and (on a smaller scale) Buck's of Woodside.

Beyond kitsch, these places are also filled with handmade signage and personal anecdotes about the objects and location, many of which give insight into the creator's personal worldview.

Other design-related or heavily curated locations are also welcome.
For instance, the Wes Anderson cafe in Milan was a heavy contender until Milan was nixed from the itinerary. I would have LOVED to see Banksy's Dismaland if the timing had been right.
posted by redsparkler to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The John Soane museum and Dennis Severs' house in London seem like the sort of things you're after. There's also a pokey, warren-like "Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising" in Notting Hill which I found pretty interesting as a copywriter but might not be offbeat enough for your tastes.
posted by Ted Maul at 11:03 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising is exactly up my alley; in fact, I already own several of their books!
posted by redsparkler at 11:33 AM on July 6, 2016

I really enjoyed the John Soane museum as well.

Barcelona is a whole design-related city. It's a city full of architecture taken to design extremes. Gaudi's work hovers just on edge of kitsch in many cases but is also stunning and beautiful. I really enjoyed Park Güell, as well as the displays about Gaudi's life and design techniques at Sagrada Familia. Also toured Casa Milà which was quieter than the cathedral and seemed really livable.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:35 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's also a tiny, quirky shoe museum in Barcelona in the Gothic quarter.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:36 AM on July 6, 2016

Best answer: I'm not sure if it fits your bill 100%, but The Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire is essentially a private folly gone feral. I highly recommend it.
posted by cardamine at 12:39 PM on July 6, 2016

None of these are probably as kitschy as what you are looking for but....

When you're at Soane's go across the park to the Hunterian collection too. Not really graphic design but it should be seen. "Animal/Human parts in jars" doesn't quite sum it up.

The London Transport Museum is great (though packed with screaming children) - tons of maps, brochures, posters, etc from the history of transit. Look for storage units they have in random corners where you can pull out drawers to see more archival type stuff. They have a depot in Acton as well - it's never worked for me to get out there but I'm sure their tours would be amazing.

I want to check out this place and have never made it:

You might contact Jane Wildgoose who has an amazing curated house full of artworks and collections related to Victorian England (the "library" is a room in her house).

La Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (and its across-the-town alter ego, Deyrolle taxidermy shop). If you're going soon, there's a Mark Dion exhibition/re-curation at the Ecole des Beaux Arts that might fit your bill. The Ecole in general is kind of interesting in a falling-apart architectural collection kind of a way.
posted by bluedeans at 12:51 PM on July 6, 2016

Two less well-known houses in London:

House of Dreams: "After seeing a series of programmes on television in 1998 about outsider art, I began working on a life project the ‘house of dreams museum’ within my home and garden in east dulwich. Every surface inside and outside has been covered with found objects, ie false teeth, old disabled dolls, bottle tops and wigs. Together with my hand-written memory boards which recall important events in my life." This is the artist Stephen Wright's home. It has 6 open days a year but if you contact him you may be able to arrange a different date.

575 Wandsworth Road: "575 Wandsworth Road was acquired by the National Trust in 2010, because of the rich and striking interiors created by Khadambi Asalache (1935-2006), a Kenyan-born poet, novelist, philosopher of mathematics and British civil servant. He bought the house in 1981 while working at the Treasury, and over a period of 20 years (from 1986) turned his home into a work of art. Prompted by the need to disguise persistent damp in the basement dining room, he initially fixed pine floorboards to the damp wall. He went on to embellish almost every wall, ceiling and door in the house with exquisite fretwork patterns and motifs, which he hand-carved from reclaimed pine doors and floorboards found in skips. The house stands as he left it, with his painted decoration on walls, doors and floors and with rooms furnished with his handmade fretwork furniture and carefully arranged collections of beautiful and functional objects, including pressed-glass inkwells, pink and copper lustreware, postcards and his typewriter."
The photos don't do this house justice. It's incredible. You have to book in advance and numbers are really limited
posted by boudicca at 1:27 PM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also Viktor Wynd's Museum of Curiosities: "this museum will merely display everything that has glittered & caught the eye of it's founder – from rare priceless marvels of the natural and scientific worlds like Dodo Bones or speculum to the intriguing beauty of McDonald's Happy Meal Toys, from old master etchings to prison inmates & mad women's doodles, occultists paintings and pop art prints, the horrors and wonders of nature, two headed kittens and living coral. By placing the rare and the beautiful on the same plane as the commonplace, banal & amusing this museum seeks not to educate but to subvert, to show the world not in a grain of sand, but in a Hackney basement."
posted by boudicca at 1:48 PM on July 6, 2016

London Transport Museum is great for this as well as the Reading Train Museum, which is less than an hour outside of London and conveniently located next to the train station. If you're more adventurous and can stand up to getting on what in the UK is a fast train, the Stockport Hat Museum has a great packaging collection.
posted by parmanparman at 1:53 PM on July 6, 2016

The upper part of the Museu de Frederic Mares, in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, is an ephemera lover's dream, and really sounds right up your alley. Don't miss it.
posted by theperfectcrime at 5:49 PM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Museum of Fairground Arts in Paris. Just amazing, and no one you know will have ever been there (except me).
posted by Joleta at 8:40 PM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh goodness! The Museum of Fairground Arts looks amazing, and they have limited English tours, and I just booked one!
posted by redsparkler at 9:56 PM on July 6, 2016

Barcelona has the Poble Espanyol, a kitschy reconstruction of traditional architecture from all over the country, where most houses are souvenir shops or restaurants.
posted by sukeban at 12:21 AM on July 7, 2016

The National Railway Museum in York has a good deal of (admittedly fairly similar) signage.

There's a pair of fascinating war memorials in Sledmere, which is on the way to nowhere you're likely to go in Yorkshire. (There is a stately home if that's your thing.) One is the Wagoneers Monument which is vaguely like a short, squat Yorkshire Trajan's column. The other is this fantastic mix of brasses like you'd find in a church cross with the standard names-on-a-column first world war monument. Neither is kitsch, but if you're interested in war memorials, they're fascinating.
posted by hoyland at 1:19 AM on July 7, 2016

If you're driving from Yorkshire to Edinburgh, take the A697 and stop at Branxton, near the border, for the Branxton Cement Menagerie.
posted by sarahdal at 6:57 AM on July 7, 2016

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