Best Builder 2002 | Jeff Fairey, Vintage Contemporaries | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

"Our philosophy is to build a home that's going to age like a fine wine," says Vintage Contemporaries' Jeff Fairey, who recently spoke from the comfortable interior of his latest project: a gorgeous Spanish Eclectic home, complete with clay tile roof, that's located in the M Streets but could fit right in on Lakewood Boulevard, alongside the 1920s homes built by noted Dallas architect C.D. Hutsell. As the company name implies, Fairey specializes in new homes made to look old. To accomplish that, Fairey does not cut corners on the materials or build blowouts that loom over the neighbors. Instead, he reduces the size of his homes and finishes them out with expert craftsmanship we thought had become a thing of the past. "We make our smaller spaces a lot more grand."

Part of the Bishop Arts District's Renaissance, this pleasant shop carries a wide range of gift items and objects from local artists. Among the constants are personal care items from the Thymes Collection and scented candles from Ergo and Votivo. Co-owner Michael Harrity says he has "without a doubt the strongest candle collection in Dallas." About 70 percent of the market's inventory is unique items, many from local artists, including furniture, paintings, pottery, turned wood bowls, handmade jewelry and metal sculpture. Prices range from about $10 to more than $150. Gift wrapping is free. Because the shop serves a wide geographic area, it has a wide price range that in recent years has been trending upward with the revitalization of the neighborhood.

As we anticipate Halloween, the fond memories of years past come flooding back--those days of pinning a black bath towel around our shoulders, wedging two pointy candy corn under our top lip and chasing our younger sibling with the forbidding chant, "I vant to suck your blood!" in the best Transylvanian accent we could muster. Now, as an adult, the times we thirst for human blood are rare. Yet, on some level, it would still be fun to have fangs. Enter Pamela Sedmak, owner of Fangtastic Fangs. For $125, she will hand-carve a set of fangs custom-fitted to your mouth. In the past 10 years, Sedmak has made hundreds of fangs for actors and Halloween costumes, but most of her clients are just "normal people." (Once vampirish dental prostheses are involved, "normal" becomes a very subjective term.) The fangs are incredibly realistic and durable--she's had her pair for 12 years--but she doesn't recommend eating ("OK, maybe a Jell-O shot") or trying to open beer cans with them. Plus, if Anne Rice likes them, how can we argue?

This 1.5 million-square-foot mall near D-FW has everything anybody could possibly want in the way of escaping the weather and wasting time. The 5-year-old mall is one of the largest in Texas and offers a bunch of stuff to do besides shopping. The mall has a 30-screen theater, restaurants and a GameWorks that has a bar. If you get bored with the mall, a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is right across the parking lot. There you will see all manner of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who make a pilgrimage to this fishing mecca. Also, when you get bored, play "Guess Which Shopper is From Oklahoma." That's always fun.

If you thought Whole Foods had a unique selection of soap, you haven't seen anything. Established in 1752, Caswell-Massey is, as it claims, "America's oldest chemists and perfumers," and now Dallas residents can shop at one of its newest locations. Need soap? They've got a skin-tingling array of domestic and imported soaps made of everything from oatmeal to lavender and beyond. The store also sells a wide array of other pampering products, including body oils, shampoos and crèmes. Unlike many toiletry stores, which tend to focus on her needs, Caswell-Massey carries a wide selection of men's products, including sandalwood and almond-scented shaving creams. They go perfectly with the house's very own silver-tipped badger shave brush. Remember those?

Let's say you've found a cherry 1946 Martin 6 horsepower boat motor in your grandfather's garage, but the rope-pull starter mechanism is broken. You know what most boat shops around Dallas are going to tell you? Tie a rope to it and use it for an anchor. But Barber Boats on Harry Hines is old-style, meaning they actually know how to fix stuff. Boat motors shouldn't be like computers: The answer shouldn't always be to throw it away and get a new one. At Barber it's not like that.

Perusing the racks, you may find the occasional space where a video once had a home but is now long gone. In its place stands a card berating the thief, with identification if possible. On their Web site, along with new arrivals and special event info, owner Ben Moore features a shoplifter of the week. Needless to say, in person or on the Net, the descriptions are never flattering and always entertaining. We love the ones complete with photos. While you're there, check out a cult flick or Mark Ryden's latest book.

Once again, the key ingredient to a good bookstore is its selection. And the selection of used books (not to mention software and music) at Half Price Books is far and wide. In fact, its store on East Northwest Highway in Dallas is so big, this book lover's companion recently made the mistake of taking a trip into the store's "paranormal" section and wound up vanishing into thin air. It took a good hour for her to reappear with body intact, book in hand and, after checkout, bank account still padded.

This little blue house turned Mexican import store also consists of a neighboring garden shed full of hidden, hanging piatas of many a color, shape and size. Sarita's fills custom orders when provided a photo and given at least two weeks' notice. So if you've been wondering how to get your hands on, say, a George W. Bush piata for your next big birthday bash, now you know where to go.

No matter how hard we bemoan the loss of the mom-and-pop hardware store, no matter how inept we are at handymanshipness ourselves, no matter how much we would like reality to be different, let's face it: Elliott's rules--certainly in this category, anyway, as it has for years. The big boys like Lowe's and Home Depot feel so, how shall we say this, Wal-Mart-ish and just don't tape-measure up when it comes to sales, service and such. Nowhere can you find more interesting stuff, nowhere is that stuff as easy to access, nowhere can you find more knowledgeable help--or any help at all, for that matter. The folks at Elliott's do their best to make home improvement more than just a rerun of a so-so TV sitcom.

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