Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: House and Garden Wares Worth A Look in West Berkeley

By Ron Sullivan
Friday June 08, 2007

When we’re in the Fourth Street shopomania neighborhood we’re usually on the way to buying groceries for Shep the snake, though if we get a parking space we might go see if Cody’s still exists, or stop for lunch at Tacubaya. So it’s no surprise I missed Eastern Classics while the store was nearby, and had go read the little A-frame signboard on the corner to see where the enterprise had gone. 

That sign promised garden as well home stuff, so I warped on over to Camellia Street near REI and the Nomadic Traders seasonal shop and, mirabile dictu, found a space right in front of the door. I think of such events as signs from the Goddess Asphalta.  

I parked next to an interesting antiquish device that resembled a cross between wheelbarrow and hobbyhorse and bore the store’s banner. (I still don’t know what it is.) 

The shop itself is small but not cramped and the garden stuff is right up front: mostly carved lanterns—real carved stone, not cement—and small fountains. Most intriguing of these were a couple of art-glazed ceramic jugs maybe two feet tall; there’s a photo of one such on the company website, but it doesn’t do it justice.  

Most of Eastern Classics’ stock is tansu, and most of those are goodlooking, reasonably-priced reproductions. The Yin family has a workshop in China where items are made, their info says, singly by hand and (optionally) to order. If you like tansu, go take a look. 

Lots of noren, too, long ones in interesting fabrics; a few clothing items in that great folk indigo that Japanese craftspeople wear; lamps, lanterns, baskets and bowls for interior use. Pretty stuff.  

What really made my sox roll up and down was the set of burlwood furniture—chair and loveseat—back in a corner. Manager Jay Yin told me these were a traditional craft item from Fujien Province in China.  

They’re carved and polished from massive burls of, Yin said, maple or fir with back and side outlines following the curl of the grain. They look like frozen auburn waves breaking on rocks.  

These are strictly for interior use, though they’d look great in a very simple garden courtyard of the raked-gravel and one-tree variety.  

They also look very comfortable; I was schlepping too much to give one a test drive or I might have sold all I hath and bought it. It’s worth dropping by just to see them.  

I’ve always liked the habit of bringing the outside indoors, as the Japanese and others do. The Roman Latin word “impluvium” might be the best word in any language. It describes a central courtyard pool into which rain (pluvia) falls. In a civilized society, every dwelling would have one—or at least a room that’s also a garden.  



Eastern Classics 

1001 Camellia Street, Berkeley 

(510) 526-1241 

Saturday & Sunday 11 a.m.—5 p.m. 

Weekdays by appointment.  

Jay Yin: “I’m usually here, but people should call first to be sure.” 


Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears every Friday in the Daily Planet’s East Bay Home & Real Estate section. Her column on East Bay trees appears every other Tuesday in the Daily Planet.