Candace Manroe of Traditional Home wrote the below article, “Free pass for all us pack rats.” This is a brilliant summary of how a collector feels. I never have been able to put my finger on the reason I can’t stop, but Candace has. The connection to the past.
Bobby and I are collectors to the core. Our shop, Bobby Todd Antiques, was born of the things we had no more room to house. Wooden boxes, tortoiseshell, Imari porcelain, Rose Medallion, 18th century French furniture, 16th and 17th century Italian paintings, Persian rugs, Staffordshire, silhouettes, Italian wood carvings, and anything quirky that has genuine artistic value. That is just in the foyer! These are things that we move around, use, and re-use, and they continue to look good and fresh. Years after we started, we are still drawn to the same genre of items. There must be something that is ok with that.
Anyone who would like to see our collection can go to https://www.toddrichesininteriors.com and look at my “portfolio” and “Casa Real” to see what we love and live with every day. Thanks Candace, for bringing this to your readers.
Every time I start to houseclean before a party, I’m confronted by my collections. The dust they gather. The clutter they might represent to a more detached eye. The statement they haunt me with—you know, that one about hanging onto baggage and what-not.
But the fact is, I love them. The old black-and-white family photographs in Victorian seashell frames or in smaller micro-mosaic frames collected from travels in Italy (first trip, first frame, trip to Rome with Mother when I was 14; Mother’s been gone 9 years, I still have that first frame) and to antiques shops and flea markets everywhere else; all my books—antiquarian full-leather-bound and otherwise (just short of trade fiction), that started as gifts from both grandmothers and have grown to a houseful since—every room book-lined, each with a different category of books: poetry in entry, family room, and master bedroom; history and art in living room; crime novels, first upstairs bedroom; and so on); my father-the-painter’s brilliant art; turn-of-the-19th-century whimseys (I’m like an ostrich: anything that glistens, sold!); seashells, especially cowries; Victorian seashell boxes and art; Staffordshire; ironstone; etc.
Here’s how bad the book collecting alone has gotten. My BFF, neighbor, and fellow collector Andi Kunert once had a nightmare about me. Books had so overtaken my home in her dream that my sofa literally was reduced to nothing but stacks of them. No fill, no fabric, just books as form. Quite uncomfortable, she assured me the next Saturday, as we were out antiquing together, me scouring the shelves for more great old books I would enjoy both reading and treasuring as objets d’art. Andi suggested that, based on her nightmare, maybe it was time I backed off the book collecting. I knew I was in trouble hearing any such heed from her. When we watched GRAY GARDENS (the made-for-TV movie about Jackie O’s increasingly eccentric aunt and cousin whose Long Island home ended up a collector’s and cat owner’s nightmare), separately, in our own homes, and later discussed it, we each pointed fingers at the other and said, “I thought of you!” (I’m eccentric, she’s a crazy cat woman. We’re both collectors. Maybe that’s why we get along. But, truth told, she’s the one tottering on that slippery hoarder slope far more precariously than I.)
All of which is to say, you can imagine how relieved I was when I was at my TRAD HOME desk one day and flipped through an unproofed copy of a new book, OBJECTS OF OUR AFFECTION, by Lisa Tracy ($25, hardcover, 2010, Random House’s Bantam Books). I haven’t had a chance to read it all the way through, but I was immediately intrigued. It’s a vindication for all of us pack rats.
The book is Tracy’s account of her and her sister’s task of emptying their mother’s brimming-with-objects house after her death. Tracy writes: “Even as we know we should be winnowing, we’re wallowing.” She and her sister ran across an inventory that included silver gewgaws, dueling pistols of Aaron Burr’s, a Chinese chest, a chair G. Washington perhaps sat in. All in all, good stuff.
Here’s what the dust jacket has to say: “Tracy chronicles the wondrous interior life of those possessions and discovers that the roots of our passion for acquisition often lie not in shallow materialism but in our desire to possess the most treasured commodity of all: a connection to the past.”
That’s good enough for me. I would love to know what you think of the book—and about your own collecting experiences.