Small Moments

June 14, 2013

Chip

THIS is a picture of a glass stove top. Actually, it’s a picture of a chip in the surface of MY glass stove top.

When my parents first came to visit me in my new house in Dallas, there were several “rites of passage” that occurred between my parents and I. For example, my dad took me to Home Depot, to buy a lawn mower…and taught me how to mow grass. For the first time. Ever.

And my mom made breakfast for us, in the kitchen of my first home-of-my-own.

She made us scrambled eggs in a very heavy skillet. And as she lifted the skillet away from the burner, the skillet suddenly tipped and chipped a small piece of glass off of the stove top.

The look on my mom’s face was panic. This moment that she had clearly been enjoying  – making breakfast for her family in her son’s home – was replaced with this sudden burst of apologies to me, as if she had somehow defiled the entire structure, rendering it unfit for occupancy.

I assured her that it was OK. And it was.

In fact, whenever I scrub down the countertops, I always maneuver the washcloth strategically around the sharp edges of the chip (it’s pretty dangerous), and think of all of the good times we all had together here in this house in Dallas.

Because on this day especially, I get to allow myself to miss my mom a little more than usual, I have a special appreciation for this little chip.

If I ever sell this house, I think I’m gonna have to take this stove top with me.

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Milton Kent

February 5, 2013

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When you find yourself at the Knox/Henderson intersection in Dallas, you should probably try to have a designer dog with you, or an equally fashionable cup of coffee/plastic water bottle in your hand. It’s that kind of place.

So the first time I stepped inside of Milton Kent (on Henderson), I tried to avoid eye contact with anyone in the store thinking that my post-workout, chalk covered t-shirt and gym shorts would be a clear indicator that I was Dallas “NOKD” (not our kind, dear).

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But contrary to the regulars who frequent the Uptown location, even an East Side guy like me will find himself at ease when greeted by the store’s friendly, knowledgeable namesake, Milton.

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Milton is not only a dealer but he is also an interior designer, which is evident throughout the many rooms of his store.

When you step inside, it’s like you errantly got added to the guest list at someone’s stately home for the weekend. All of the rooms seem to have a lived-in comfort with antiques displayed as if they had never been displaced from their original owners.

There are salons, dining rooms, studies, even a kitchen filled with furniture, art and collectibles of various pedigrees. Most of the pieces are 18th-19th century with an occasional anomaly, strategically thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.

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When something catches your eye, be sure to ask Milton about it – besides the fact that he’s just a generally pleasant kind-of-guy, there’s also usually at least some little detail that he can share like, “that champagne flute is 200 years old” or “oh, that chair once belonged to President Harding”….

Another reason to stop and ask a few questions would be regarding the price. Milton is usually willing to negotiate.

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Milton Kent

2819 N Henderson Ave Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 826-7553 Kent

Chasing Nostalgia

February 5, 2013

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After moving into my house in Dallas, I was amazed at how hard it was to make it feel like a home. For the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t renting…and yet, it didn’t feel like mine.

I had all of the basics: tables, chairs, couch, bed…everything a single guy could need. But even after hanging some of my mom’s water colors on the walls and placing a few books and family pictures on the shelves…it still felt kind of empty.

To “fill the void” and to bring some life to the place, I would visit all of the catalog stars: Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, West Elm, Crate & Barrel.

Each one of these stores seems to have its own style signature…some variance of “traditional” from modern (Crate & Barrel and West Elm) to classic (RH and PB).

Don’t get me wrong…I like all of these stores and their “signature styles”. If I had all the money in the world, it would be sooo easy to just have an RH dining room vignette transplanted into my house and be done.

But on my single-income bachelor’s budget, that really isn’t an option. And…well, it wouldn’t be “me”….it would be the catalog-picture-perfect version of me that would be nice, but it would never be entirely authentic for how I live. I am just not that catalog-perfect-kind-of guy.

Then I found Mecox Garden. Have you ever been to a Mecox Garden?

Wow.

First off, it’s SO me: a gentle mix of old and new. Antiques mixed with contemporary, vintage collectibles combined with pedigreed treasures, all orchestrated into a statement of casual sophistication. ME, right? RIGHT?

I walked in there for the first time and said YES, I LOVE MEXCOX GARDEN.

Then, I saw the price tags, and I CURSED MEXCOX GARDEN.

When I say that Mecox Garden is expensive, what I mean to say is that it is ridiculously overpriced.

But I get it. To get the “Mecox Garden Look” takes a lot of work because everything in there comes from “somewhere”. It’s a curated collection of one-of-a-kind items that would take a lot of time, creativity and energy to try and put together on your own. It’s a one-stop-shop for a great look at a premium price.

But, if you want that “Mecox Garden Look” without breaking the bank, you could always curate your own collection just like they do. Every week there are estate sales and garage sales all over Dallas that are filled with bargains that would go for so much more in a shop like Mecox Garden.

If you have the time (and the aggressive nature…the people who show up to these sales tend to bring their “game faces”) and a very good eye, you could totally achieve that sophisticated, eclectic look on a budget, over time.

Check out: http://www.24-7estatesales.com/ for a weekly listing of estate sales in the DFW Metroplex.

If you’re hitting the estate sale circuit for the first time, get there early. Most estate sales start on Thursday mornings and run until Sunday afternoon….but if you wait to go until the weekend, all you’re gonna find are the scraps left over by the professionals.

If you can’t drive all over the Metroplex every Thursday morning curating small decorative items because maybe you have a life, there are other options.

I am going to start profiling my favorite spots to treasure hunt in Dallas. If it’s a Saturday afternoon, there’s a very good chance that I might be at any one of these shops because they’re always getting new stuff and you never know what you’re going to find.

If you decide to visit any of these locations, my advice would be:

a) Walk through the shop once and then follow the same path in reverse. You will often notice things that you missed the first time

b) If it speaks to you, buy it. It’s one of a kind

c) The value of an antique or vintage piece is based on what people are willing to pay for it – if you are looking for something specific, research it on Ebay or 1Dibs for reference and be a reasonable negotiator

e) Check out the Antique-ing In Dallas link

d) Stop thinking about Mecox Garden

 

Homecoming

January 21, 2013

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With all of the foreclosures lately, it seems logical that properties are often being exchanged with banks and institutions rather than people. While that whole situation is very sad, as a ‘nostalgia junky’ I think that it is especially tragic because such transactions pretty much erase the personal history of the home’s previous owners. There is no ceremonial “passing of the keys” or a handshake between one owner with the next; it’s just a series of signatures validated by a notary.

So when a ‘nostalgia junkie’ and his Australian Shepherd find themselves living inside the freshly painted walls of an older house that once was home to others, it’s difficult for them not to think about all of the unknown faces and stories that those walls had witnessed over the decades.

And then there are the other, more practical/less romantic questions that  come through the pragmatic applications of living within the space: “that door seems to be the wrong size”, and “WHO DECIDED TO PUT A SWIMMING POOL  DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH A 100-YEAR OLD OAK TREE?”.

But a few weeks ago while Christmas shopping in Dallas, I purchased something with a personal check, something that I never, ever do (people who bottleneck the checkout line by writing personal checks torture my soul).

Anyway, to complete this transaction, I QUICKLY wrote out and handed the check across the counter to a very personable lady who took the check and seemed to take an extremely long look at it.

 I became a little self conscious and worried . Did I look shifty?

The woman looked up at me and said “Lanshire Drive?” I nodded and she said, “YOU live in my house”.

It turns out that I was standing across the counter from Martha – the owner of my house from 1969 to 1993 (the house was built in 1958).

Once I had gotten over the incredible coincidence of the situation, I tried to think quickly of all of the questions that I wanted to ask. First and foremost: “Did YOU install that swimming  pool under that tree?”, to which she smiled and replied “yes”, and continued to provide all kinds of secret details about the work she’d done to the house over 30 years ago – turns out that the magnolia tree in my front yard had been a gift from her aunt.

 Martha and I exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch. She finally came over yesterday afternoon to walk through the house that she once called home. She showed me where pocket doors used to be, and where hardwood had replaced brickwork. The most revealing story was about my front door, which is very different from all of the others on the block — turns out that it’s a salvaged antique that she had customized for the house.

I have always enjoyed the many mysterious quirks of my old house. Now we have some stories to help illustrate the quirks in this house, and a new friend.

Thank you Martha!

Howard & Huck

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The day that Knox passed away, I purchased an oil painting at a local antique mall. The old painting was kind of expensive (for me) but it was a landscape of Yosemite that reminded me of home and had great billowy clouds that resonated with my “grieving soul” at that moment…so I bought it and wrote-it-off as retail therapy/a tribute for Knox.

The old painting hung on a wall in my living room for about a year…unframed, discolored from age and abuse from previous owners over the past 100+ years. There appeared to be a signature at the bottom of the canvas but I could not decipher the name.

Out of curiosity a few weeks ago, I finally decided to try and do some research. I Googled “19th Century”, “ Yosemite”, “oil painting” in all sorts of combinations. Of course the big names like Bierstadt appeared. But his stuff really looked much grander than my poor old painting.

But one of the links that appeared in my search led me to a gallery in San Francisco , so I decided to give them a call – expecting that they would turn away my “poor-man’s antiques road-show” inquiry with  a mean laugh or some other verbal rolling-of-the-eyes.

To my surprise, they did not immediately hang up the phone. But I was told that the gallery did not specialize in this genre of art and that I should contact the North Point Gallery instead (also in San Francisco ).

The owner of the North Point Gallery was very nice and after I emailed a few pictures to him, he wanted to see it in person as it was “in the manner of Virgil Williams”…an artist that I had never even heard of before.

Virgil Williams was a contemporary of Biesrstadt…the famed painter of 19th century Yosemite. Which would mean that my sad painting could be of great importance. The possibility that a museum-worthy painting was hanging on the wall of my living room was very exciting.

I received a special box to ship the painting and sent it to San Francisco. Meanwhile, I started to think about what color I should choose for the Porsche (with VIRGL vanity plates).

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After careful evaluation by the experts – the results were in, and the mystery was solved. The artist was Henry Frey – an artist that was discredited in a review published in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin of August 20, 1868 as a PLAGIARIST.

SO – no Porsche. My painting is a fake Virgil Williams produced by a 19th century rogue artist.

Now, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

But it was an exciting process and I sure did learn a lot about the art world (did you know that a painting with human figures in it would be more valuable than a painting without?). I was also really impressed with the nice people at the North Point Gallery who spent a great deal of their time to help me learn the story of an old oil painting held together by threads and some tape.

In hindsight, a new Porsche would have been nice…but it would have made me sad to let the painting go considering the circumstances by which it came to be mine. And even though it’s not by Virgil Wiliams or museum worthy, it means a lot to me. And the fact that it’s the work of a scoundrel kind of makes it more endearing….

If you are ever in San Francisco – please drop by the North Point Gallery and say hi to Jessie and Alfred for me!

3 years.

June 14, 2012