04 April, 2012

If these chairs could talk

Ever wonder what an old frame would say if it could talk? My friend Carolann Burke (whom many of you know as the Manager at Lee Jofa) an avid collector of beautiful objects of art and design recently came across a collection of beautiful frames from an upholsterer who was down sizing a century old family business. Being an intuitive and passionate collector, Carolann could not pass up the opportunity to save these wonderful pieces. So one rainy morning we assembled some of the frames in an antique barn, the wind and rain was howling outside, but in this barn on that day by candle light these frames spoke and my what a wonderful tale they had to tell...

Carolann when did you start collecting?
"The collecting bug evolved out of a necessity to furnish my first studio apartment on Beacon Hill, as a young professional on a limited budget.  I started frequenting the Goodwills and Salvation Army thrift stores in town to augment the few hand me down pieces I had from family and friends.  I didn't start collecting  beyond my immediate needs until I got my first car in my mid thirties, which opened up a whole new world of opportunities beyond the city limits.  I started scouring fleea markets and auctions, buying items because they seemed too good to pass up, in terms of being undervaluled treasures.  Minor repairs or refinishing would rejuvenate them to their former glory.  Acquiring more and more inventory than my humble one bedroom apartment in Southie could accomodate necessitated the launch of my antique business.  A small booth at a local antique mall in Plymouth provided the outlet for me to sell at a modest profit, the myriad of items I was accumulating at an increasing rate."

What draws you to a particular art object or piece of furniture?
"It is hard to articulate what draws me to any particular item.  I have very eclectic tastes, and it has certainly evolved over the years.  Originally, I bought anything I thought I could make a buck on.  But as I got stuck with things I didn't love, I tried to limit my purchases to things that really spoke to me.  Be it ceramic, glass, wall art, ligting, industrial, or small furniture.  I started imposing the criteria that I would only purchase what I would want to to keep, in the event I couldn't sell it.  I found the pieces that I lived with and enjoyed for a time, became imbued with a positive energy that in turn, would appeal to a potential buyer.  I've also always been a champion of the underdog.  I like to rescue things from an ingnominious end, and have been known to dumpsterdive, shall we say, in my various neighborhoods, finding everything from a complete Edwardian stainglass transom window, to a set of eight dining room chairs.  I relish the opportunity to salvage something of quality, wrongly destined for the trash heap, and provide it with a good home, making a small financial gain in the process.  In recent years marketing gurus made the brilliant realization that buying antiques is green, or environmentally sound.  Why buy a piece of furniture made of particle board and formaldehyde, that will be clogging up a landfill in a couple of years when it falls apart, when you can buy a future heirloom for the same price, or cheaper, that has zero carbon footprint?" 

What is the fate of these wonderful frames you've acquired?

"When I recently got the chance to inspect some antique frames at a local upholster who was moving his operation, I felt it was the opportunity of a lifetime.  I got giddy at the prospect of such a large and varied lot of sleeping beauties, covered in decades of dust.  Though I had no idea where I would store them, I committed to buying over two dozen frames of varying style, age and stages of decrepitude.  The common denominator was they were all beautiful, and could be resurrected to their former glory.  It was only by the good graces and generocity of a friend and client, interior designer, Jeffrey Delvy, that I was able to bring my vision to fruition.  His historic property in the country includes an assembly of barns, attached to his house, which he graciously offered to me as a storage facility for my menagerie of misfit frames.  He is a kindred spirit, and is himself in the process of renovating his historic property, so he shared  my philosophy of rescuing treasures from the past.
What I plan to do with these frames is to restore and reupholster them and offer them for sale.  A couple  of stools have already been scooped up by an artist and an antique dealer in Somerville, who purchased them form my antique coop, Acushnet River Antiques in New Bedford, MA.  One particular partially deconstructed tufted chair frame has garnered such admiration and envy, that I am thinking I may keep the original and have copies made.  I even harbor hopes to sell the rights to the design to a corporate entity in the "to the trade" interior design industry."

Tell us briefly about your antiques business?
"I've been selling mostly vintage items through antique co-ops for eleven years.  I had a successful show last April, at the Concord Armory, but the co-op venue works for me as it allows me to devote my weekends to buying. I don't have to physically be in a shop or at a show to sell.  I've been elevating the quality of my offerings over the years, from my humble beginnings.  Every year I try to bring the business to a higher lever.  This month I am making my first foray overseas to buy antiques, to explore the possibilities that the flea markets of Paris have to offer.  There is only so much that can be done two days a week on the weekends, as I work Monday through Friday managing the Lee Jofa showroom at the Boston Design Center.  So far, social media has provided a great vehicle for me to start to brand myself and get exposure for my business, but selling online is the next frontier for me.  Wish me luck!  And many thanks to you, Michael for championing my cause and providing me with the platform of your blog, not to mention taking those fabulous photos in  Jeffrey's barn."

Warm Regards,


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