Written by: Marie Spada

Photographed by: Dhrumil Desai

We’ve all been there, sitting on the ground for seven hours while trying to make sense of a shoddy instruction booklet to build do-it-yourself furniture. Trying to figure out how to assemble the new TV stand, only to finish with nine miscellaneous pieces that never seemed to make their way into the construction project. Fast, build-it-yourself furniture has weaseled its way into almost everyone’s lives at some point. But what about all of those handmade, old antiques that have stood the test of time and aged better than a heartthrob leading man? For husband and wife antique dream team, Joseph and Jessica D’Ambra, there is nothing better than a great antique find that can be restored or repurposed with modern touches to create a unique, one of a kind piece. At their shop, Heirlooms and Hardware, located at The LAB in Costa Mesa, one can find a bevy of fascinating older pieces, or go to them with a furniture project in mind for the home (or restaurant, or boutique…they do it all) that they’d love to tackle. With stories of old World War II crates that have been turned into shelving, and shutters from a woman’s childhood home that they made into a coffee table, it is no wonder that business is booming for the creative couple.


Q: You have traveled all over the world to find pieces for your store. Where are some of your favorite spots, and where have you had some of your best finds?

Joseph D’Ambra: We went to Eastern Europe, and there was just a high quantity of cool, old pieces.

Jessica Joy D’Ambra: It was the coolest place we went, and a very fun way to buy. They help you pick it out and show it to you, and it’s just very different than antique shopping here. That was a fun way to purchase antiques.

Joseph D’Ambra: Texas would be another one.

Jessica Joy D’Ambra: Definitely. There’s a lot of antique markets there that you can just dig through; they’re massive. It’s a fun experience.

Q: At what age did you start working with building furniture yourself?

JD: In high school, I was a freshman. I started in Wood Shop, and that’s where I grew my passion. By senior year, I had so many free periods, that I would just go to Wood Shop five periods out of the day. We brought my project to State and won first place, so I’ve always had the passion and skill. Later, I did remodeling, did props in movies, and then I was in the metal trade for a bit, so that’s where I picked up welding and incorporated that [into my work].

Q: Customers often design pieces with you for their homes. How much of your business is custom work?

JD: More than half, definitely the majority.

JJD: It’s neat because it started with a few cool pieces. People would ask if we could “do this” or “try this, ” and the customer and Joe would work together right from the start.

JD: Everything is for sale in our store because we can make anything. We will sell everything; nothing is just display.

Q: What are some of your most popular creations?

JD: We sell a lot of tables, probably because they are more streamlined in the design, and it shows off the reclaimed wood a lot better.

JJD: Besides doing the custom pieces, he also repurposes antiques. He has these WWII gun crates that he was making kitchen islands and shelving out of. To be able to tell people, “oh yeah, my shelves are made out of World War II gun crates” is pretty cool. We customized all of the metal and welding on them, and those were some of my favorite pieces.

Q: Which restaurants in the area feature your pieces?

JD: Gypsy Den was the first. We also did Moulin Bistro in Newport, Pandor Bakery in Newport and Long Beach, and we are working on some pieces for their packing house in the Anaheim location. Barley Forge Brewery is a new brewery behind The Camp, and we did a lot of work for them, from their tables to their bars. BLK Burgrz has a restaurant in Laguna Niguel, and they’re opening one in Huntington Beach. We’ve done two restaurants for Fish District, one in Carlsbad, and one in Carmel Mountain. We also did about 30 pieces for Spice District in LA, owned by Hannah An.

Q: What trends in antiques seem to be the most popular right now? Least popular?

JJD: Least popular would be glassware, wouldn’t you say, Joe? It used to be more popular to use vintage glass, but now it’s all about the industrial stuff, like old scales, typewriters, etc.

JD: Trade pieces, like typewriters, sewing machines, even things like a dog tag maker are the most popular.

Q: You feature work from a lot of local artists; who are you currently showcasing in your store, and what do they design?

JD: We have Luke Hobbs; he does a lot of lighting pieces. He makes a tough sensor light that is really cool. Evan Mayfield from RI-STOR takes our found pieces and makes them into different lights.

JJD: Jesslyn Blake, she’s a designer in LA that does a lot of repurposed canvas and leather bags. It’s been important for us from the beginning to sell and produce locally made products. People will come in and say, “Hey, I make these wallets, what do you think?” We’ll be like, “Yeah that’s awesome, you’re making something by hand that we can’t do, so we’ll give that a shot and try to sell it.” We’ve got a lot of different wallets that we are testing. We also sell By Nieves, and she’s up in San Francisco. She makes all natural skincare, and there’s just a ton of great stuff about her product.

Q: What else do you make in your store beside the furniture?

JD: We just started making cutting boards, reclaimed wood California cutout signs, and blocks for the candles. We also make the succulents, wall art, and signs. We even mount the Manzanita trees to reclaimed wood.

Q: Are there any modern trends in furniture that you incorporate into your designs?

JD: I would say the best selling style that we sell is the “modern rustic, ” with the modern lines but reclaimed wood. It gives [the piece] a warmth and history with a story behind it with a newer look. We had an old gym floor that we reclaimed and used the maple slats. We made a metal frame to turn it into a coffee table.

Q: What is your favorite type of custom work to do that has yielded some of your favorite pieces?

JD: I would say my favorite pieces are from intermixing the found objects with what we do to make it into a table, like those WWII shelving units. One of my favorite bases is from an old table saw that we stretched out to turn into a 10-foot conference table.

JJD: That kind of stuff is great because then it’s totally one of a kind. We aren’t getting that base again, so that piece is the one and only.

Q: What do you consider to be essential items in people’s homes that are worth splurging on?

JJD: Dining room table, coffee table, or even the kitchen island, because they’re central places to that room that people gather, so they aren’t just hidden away somewhere.

JD: Anything with “table” in the name.

Q: In what ways can the antique novice use antiques to spruce up their home?

JJD: Taking something that’s a passion of yours, like photography for instance, and then buying something that has meaning to you, like a vintage camera, and displaying that piece in your home.

Q: Of the restaurants that feature your pieces in the area, which are some of your favorites?

JD and JJD: Pandor.

JJD: We did this unique, awesome community farm table for them.

JD: The owner reminds me of my dad and treats me like my dad did, in a joking way. When I go in there, he runs and puts me in a headlock.

JJD: He has the best desserts I’ve ever had, for sure. And of course Gypsy Den; he was the first restaurant we ever did, which is nostalgic for us.

Heirlooms and Hardware
2930 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

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