Ken Wingard at Cliff's Variety in the Castro District of San Francisco. He has ladders for both work and home, but his sentimental favorites are vintage wooden ones.
By RIMA SUQI
Published: July 4, 2012
AS one of the experts on “Home Made Simple,” a D.I.Y. show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Ken Wingard often finds himself painting, hanging pictures or doing other home improvements that require a ladder.
That is true in his life off camera as well. Mr. Wingard, 48, started a home-furnishings company 16 years ago and now has a retail store in San Francisco; he also owns an Edwardian house there and a country home in Mendocino County, Calif., which he shares with his spouse and their 1-year-old daughter.
Ladders inevitably figure in many of his chores, at work and at home, “whether it’s replacing a track bulb in the store with its 15-foot ceilings,” he said, or “repainting our hideous circus-peanut-orange barn a real barn red.”
One of his favorite sources for ladders (and lots of other things) is Cliff’s Variety, a San Francisco institution in the Castro District that carries a wide range of merchandise, including fabric, copper sheeting, tools and even toys. Mr. Wingard, who has shopped there since he moved to San Francisco from New York in 1989, quickly singled out one of the many ladders on display: the Xtend and Climb by Osh.
“This is the perfect New York City or small-apartment ladder,” he said. “It scrunches down to nothing, so you can keep it under your bed. But if you need a huge ladder — boom — you’ve got it.”
At the Crate & Barrel in Berkeley, Calif., he picked out a basic three-step ladder, the kind “you’d keep in the utility closet for reaching the bunny-shaped platter you keep on the top shelf and use every fourth year.”
Mr. Wingard suggested Werner’s 22-foot multiposition ladder, which he found online at Lowe’s, for those who have only one ladder.
“It does everything,” he said. “It can be a simple stepladder, or you can use it to paint a double-height stairwell, because one leg can be shorter than the other.”
His favorite type of ladder, however, is the orchard ladder, he said, because he has a sentimental attachment to his collection of vintage wooden ones.
Online, he found a three-legged aluminum version he liked, from Ben Meadows. But when it comes to cherry- and peach-picking at his home in Mendocino, Mr. Wingard prefers one of his rickety old ladders.
It is probably not the safest option, he admitted. Still, vintage ladders “look incredibly poetic,” he said, “and make me feel like I’m an early homesteader.” RIMA SUQI
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