NJ’s Skylark Diner, Pride of U.S.1


THERE’S ONE REDEEMING FEATURE of Interstate U.S. 1 as it runs from southern New Jersey to New York City — unless you count the colorful, post-modern Michael Graves Miele factory near Princeton, always a welcome sight. Then there are two.


The one I’m talking about is the retro-styled Skylark Diner in Edison, N.J. It’s not an old diner that has been restored, but a recent one that’s at least as attractive, to my eye, as the vintage stainless steel thing (and I love the originals). The Skylark is screaming ’50s, with all the starburst, Sputnik, and ameoboid motifs that implies.


I often stop at the Skylark for a plate of eggs or a Greek salad on my way back to Brooklyn from Philly. It’s Greek-owned, and the food is way, way better than diner-normal, and reasonably priced.


I always gawk and marvel. I love the extent to which the decorative theme was carried out, partly with familiar mid-20th-century furnishings like fiberglass Eames chairs, below, but mostly with custom seating and lighting cannily designed to mimic a ’50s look.


Last Sunday night, I asked, finally, who designed the place.”Someone from Canada,” I was told. Not very illuminating. Also wrong. The interior design turns out to be primarily the work of Josh Nathanson of the Pawtucket, R.I.-based firm Morris Nathanson, which specializes in hospitality projects like resorts, cruise ships, nightclubs, and restaurants. Makes perfect sense.


Heading north, the Skylark is about a mile before the near-impossible-to-find turnoff to 440 (Outerbridge Crossing/Staten Island), on your right. It’s a place worth stopping, whether or not you’re hungry.

Lighting My Cottage Bathroom

Z008418TIME WAS, you could turn up a great Art Deco lighting fixture at a flea market for $3, but you’d have to look long and hard, and maybe re-wire. I’m thinking of something like the one at left. We do indeed have that exact fixture in its original incarnation in one of the bathrooms in Cobble Hill. Found it years ago for a few bucks, with a pull chain (that tends to stick).

Well, no more of those hassles. Now you can simply go to Rejuvenation Lighting’s online catalogue and pick and choose from reproduction retro-inspired lighting of all eras. The offerings start in the Victorian age, and move up from there through Arts & Crafts and Art Deco into the 1960s. You get to choose the finish, the shade, the projection from the wall (in inches), and so on. They’ll custom-build it for you, and ship it out in 2-3 weeks.

I’ve just done that. I was in search of a fixture for my East Hampton cottage bathroom, and under a mini-gun, since my contractor said he would throw in the installation if I got it to him at the right time — in about two weeks — and centered it above the sink, exactly where the previous one was.

Here’s the ‘before’…


I’m replacing something ugly but effective, above. I always felt four bulbs was overkill. It’s going, along with the inset medicine cabinet, both remnants of the bathroom’s last re-do in the 1970s. Staying, however, is the white-painted carved mirror at left, which I bought at a yard sale last summer for $20 <yay>.Z006063

Here’s where I initially thought I might go — something like this frilled fixture, right. It reminds me of Paris, somehow, and would have been fun.

But ultimately I chose the good old American-style chrome fixture with an 8″ white satin glass shade, below (boring, I’m afraid), for about $100.


I like that it can also be used facing up, if it’s too busy with the carved mirror, or if I decide I prefer more flattering (i.e. less illuminating) indirect lighting.


Do check out Rejuvenation’s catalogue. It’s fun to browse, and has the potential to solve a whole lot of problems.

Retro Buses Ply Brooklyn Streets


AS A HOLIDAY TREAT for jaded straphangers, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has fired up its fleet of vintage buses from the 1950s through ’70s (that actually get a mile per gallon more than most current models — 3 instead of 2).

Through December 31, nineteen nostalgic coaches will operate during morning and evening rush hours along selected routes in all five boroughs. In Brooklyn, look out for the vintage buses along the B1 line between Manhattan Beach and Bay Ridge, and the B65 between Ocean Hill-Brownsville and Downtown Brooklyn.

But don’t expect to pay the 1960s fare of 15 cents. The vintage buses have been retrofitted to take Metrocards.

For more about the retro buses and the perennially popular ‘Nostalgia Train,’ a string of 1930s subway cars with wicker seats and ceiling fans which will also operate this holiday season, click here.

Map Giveaway: LI Before the LIE

IMG_3417UPDATE: Lisa of South Slope, Brooklyn (comment #7) is the winner of the map!

THIS PAST SUNDAY, I followed a yard sale sign to a classic 1850s Greek Revival. It was late on Day 2 of the sale, and there wasn’t much left (and I was on my way to yoga — a girl’s gotta have priorities). But I did manage to snatch up a couple of 1930s road maps with mellow retro colors and evocative pen-and-ink illustrations.

As a little incentive to you, dear readers, to get you in the habit of commenting on this blog — and in the interest of market research — I’m giving away a 1930s Esso map of Metropolitan New York and Long Island, gratis. It’s full of anachronistic touches, like the words “The Ghetto” plastered over the Lower East Side; a ferry schedule; a long, long list of golf and yacht clubs; and no Long Island Expressway or Kennedy Airport. Suitable for framing!


All you have to do is comment on this post. Click on ‘Leave a Comment’ or ‘[Number of] Comments,’ above, under the headline of this post, and a form will open up for your comment. You can use your real name or not, but you do need to give an e-mail address, which won’t appear on the blog, so I can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. On Sunday, June 20, I’ll select the winner at random using random.org’s random-number selector.
Tell me how you discovered this blog, what you like about it (or dislike – I can take it), what you’d like to see covered here, why you like old maps, what kind of old house you live in — I don’t care what you say, just comment! You might enjoy it.