Feighan: Ferndale antiques store helps give 'Green Book' just the right look

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
Steve Humphreys stands in his store Vogue Vintage on Hilton in Ferndale. He'll be watching the Oscars with interest on Sunday since he supplied some of the set decor.

About 10 minutes into the Oscar-nominated film “Green Book,” actor Viggo Mortensen arrives home from work in the wee hours of the morning, opens his family’s refrigerator and chugs milk right from the glass jug. It’s the early ’60s, after all.

While watching the scene in the theater with his wife Lynn, local antiques store owner Steve Humphreys elbowed her as Mortensen, who plays one of the main characters, hung from the refrigerator’s door, showing off its vintage green interior.

“That’s my fridge!” Humphreys exclaimed. “That’s my fridge!”

That kind of excitement is expected when you’re the guy who found the fridge and dozens of other classic mid-century items for a film that could pick up several Oscars during the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday.

“Green Book,” nominated for Best Picture along with several other awards, is about an unlikely friendship that develops during a road trip to the deep South in the early 1960s. It’s based on a true story.

Humphreys, who specializes in mid-century modern decor and co-owns Vogue Vintage in Ferndale with Lynn, said he was tapped to help out with some of the vintage decor by the film’s set decorator Selina van den Brink, a Ferndale native who he’s known for years. The two have collaborated on several movies in the past, such as the stylish Detroit-based vampire flick “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “Freaky Deaky.”

Humphreys said a lot of the mid-century decor he has isn’t available in New Orleans, where “Green Book” was filmed, because of the climate and Hurricane Katrina.

When van den Brink called Humphreys, she gave him a few instructions. Since the movie is set in 1962, they wanted furniture and decor from the late ’50s.

Humphreys immediately got to work. He found lamps, appliances, phones, vintage Christmas paper, antique ornaments and many ashtrays. According to his notes, still kept in a manila folder, he supplied 20 ashtrays for the movie.

“Everybody smoked then,” he says.

Authenticity was key for the film. Even the phones had to be gasket-less, meaning they had no clip. The cord went directly into the receiver.

“I drove it all down there in a 26-foot truck,” said Humphreys.

The producers were adamant about one detail: They didn’t want artificial Christmas trees in the movie. So in early January of 2018, Humphreys tracked down two real trees at Ray Wiegand’s Nursery in Macomb Township.

“I packed them up and had them shipped to New Orleans,” he remembers.

Humphreys is no novice when it comes to finding just the right furniture and decor for movies.

When the film credits were in full swing in Michigan, Humphreys, who actually spent 30 years selling cars with his dad before switching to antiques two decades ago, said he supplied items for about 50 movies filmed here. He even had an 8,000-square-foot warehouse filled with vintage items. 

But those days are gone and the warehouse has been sold. Today, Humphreys and his partner Tom Kerr sell their goods at Vogue Vintage on Hilton and run estate sales. And he’s always on the lookout for unique finds.

He combs estate sales and has “pickers” who call him about items he may want. One of his latest purchases: several salon chairs with metal dryers attached and ashtrays built right into the hand rest from a Warren beauty salon. 

“I walked in and it was like a time capsule,” says Humphreys.

A time capsule he could appreciate. And while he doesn’t see the movie business coming back to Michigan – it’s now firmly entrenched in Georgia, he says – he’s still helping with set decor on different films (he collaborated again with van den Brink on Netflix's upcoming "The Dirt," premiering March 19). He isn’t sure if “Green Book” will win Best Picture on Sunday. He loved “Bohemian Rhapsody” too.

“I think it’s a tossup,” he says.