Luke Kelly: The Homes of Antique Dealers

November 27, 2012

I’ve always been interested in peering behind the curtain, so to speak. I like to peek into back rooms, back gardens and anything else that tells the hidden story. When I was in my late teens, I started a photographic project of artists in their studios with the sole aim of weaseling my young self into the beautifully disheveled studios of England’s artists. I would ask each artist I photographed to nominate someone whom they admired to be the next person to be subjected to my noisy visits. It quickly spiraled up the totem and ended with me sending Lucian Freud many notes asking to be admitted to his paint palette covered studio. I begged him, and listed all those who had nominated him as the apex of my series. The notes eventually came with obscure Champagne–I was told it was his weakness–but to no avail. The series ended at him.

Freud by David Dawson

Now that I am an antique dealer of sorts, I still like to peek behind the curtain, but now it takes the form of glancing into the backrooms of my favorite shops and imagining what the owners’ homes are like, which brings me circuitously to the supposed subject of this blog post: antique dealers’ homes. Antique dealers’ homes are fascinating places. They contain a mix of the favorite and the transitory. Gaps emerge as things move to be sold and perfectly tailored collections of objects are split up. This often leads to an eccentric feel. A friend of mine, and fellow New Hampshire antique dealer, lives in a converted bowling alley above her antique shop. It is always in a lovely flux. If I am lucky, I will arrive at a high tide when things have just arrived, but just as often I pull in at an equinox moment–when her furnishings have washed away in a Hudson dealer’s van and there is hardly a place to sit.

The apartment of antiques dealer Sarah Seaver. Photos by Luke Kelly, unless otherwise specified.

My cabin, too, is always changing. Often unfashionable things, that haven’t found their time yet, end up at the cabin next to old favorites, heirlooms and things that are far too odd to sell. I also have to find a balance between the personal and the universal, since we sometimes rent our cabin out to weekenders who probably don’t want to feel our presence too heavily:

Dusk at the cabin.

The fireplace mantle doubles as a bookshelf.

A corner of curiosities.

The bedroom is simple.

Pictures line the walls throughout the cabin.

To take this interiors voyeurism away from my own house and towards the more established doyens of antique dealing, there is an amazing coffee table book I highly recommend called, Dealers Choice, which showcases the homes of thirty-two major antique dealers including Blackman Cruz, J.F. Chen, Galerie Half, Richard Wright, Alex Vervoordt and many others. Each dealer’s taste is boiled down and condensed, with antiques given more context and charm then they would inside the respective shops. The dealers’ natural tastes are exposed and celebrated. The homes vary from Belgian castles, to minimally chic mid-century houses to old world apartments–with the focus varying from a few Wegner chairs to a chaotic tableau of mannequin-like sculptures and glass vases.

This book would make a fantastic Christmas present for anyone visually minded, but there’s no need to take my word for it, as here are a few of my favorite pages for you to see for yourselves:

Photos courtesy of American Interiors Press

An eclectic display.

A staircase with a traditional balustrade.

Another of the many collections of treasures in the book.

A room that could pass as a well-curated antiques shop.

The perfect spot for contemplation or creative pursuits.

-Luke Kelly

Luke Kelly and Emily Eisen own and run Mill Goods. The shop sells an eclectic mix of industrial and vintage finds out of an old textile mill boiler house sitting atop a stream, in Harrisville, NH. Luke also writes children’s stories and has three books due out with Putnam.