Living with Antiques: Not Goodbye
A new direction after more than a decade exploring the use, care and acquiring of antiques in New Orleans
In 2007, New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles editor in chief Errol Laborde called to ask me if I would be interested in writing the antiques column for the magazine. Of course, it depended on my meeting with the editor, Eve Kidd Crawford.
One Saturday morning, Eve called for the interview, announcing that she lived near my house and wanted to stop by. I was in the middle of making crawfish étouffée for 45 of my Bolton High School classmates who were coming from Alexandria to work with Habitat for Humanity in a Katrina rebuild project. Eve arrived, with her baby Ruby on her hip, interviewed me in my kitchen and we became coworkers and fast friends. It was the only job interview I had dressed in an apron, stirring a cast iron pot.
Sometimes the best relationships begin in the most unlikely ways.
In these last 10-plus years, I have written more than 50 articles about living with antiques. I’ve written about furniture, accessories, architectural details and textiles. I’ve tried to teach my readers how to make an old piece come alive with paint, fabric or by adding or removing a detail. My favorite stories have been about adaptive re-use, new ways to use an old piece. That armoire of your grandmother’s really could make a fine bar and that small chest could make a nifty sink in your powder room. My own homes — and many of my friends’ homes — became the best laboratories for antique experiments and stories.
My beloved mother-in-law, Viola Claverie, was a great collector of antiques. She taught me to go to Royal Street (Magazine Street wasn’t very chic then) and talk with the antique merchants.
“They are like curators of a museum and will teach you so much,” she said. “They’ll help you develop an eye for quality.”
She was right. Each time I began a story, I’d try to find the best person in the city for the subject matter, and my learning process continued.
I’ve met some of the most wonderful people in the world writing this column. Classic decorators like Hal Williamson and Gerrie Bremermann, as well as the millennial stars like Rivers Spencer, generously shared their knowledge. Antique merchants like Andre Moss, Gay Wirth, Bill Rau, Bee Fitzpatrick and Dabney Jacob made themselves and their businesses available to me. Artisans like Diane Killeen, Bryce Reveley, Donovan Killeen and the late Ellis Joubert taught me new ways to look at old pieces, and ways to bring them back to life.
But perhaps my all-time favorite experience for this publication, was writing about the craftsmen who helped Philip and me restore our home, furnishings, silver and art after Katrina’s waters swept through our uptown home. People like Michael Carbine, who rebuilt our Versailles Boulevard home; Terry McConnell of Baker, who restored more than two dozen antiques; Duncan Cox of As You Like It Silver, who restored our silver; and Jeanne Stallworth, who restored our porcelain and artfully replaced a decapitated head on one treasured sculpture. The series helped many other New Orleanians rebuild their homes and lives and gave me the opportunity to thank — from the bottom of my broken heart — those who helped us.
It isn’t easy for me to leave this column, but something inside me tells me the time to do so is now. I’ve learned so much and am forever grateful to Eve for that crazy Saturday job interview and her successors, Sarah Ravits and Melanie Warner Spencer who gave me complete freedom to write about my passion for antiques and were always there with a kind word and enthusiastic support.
But I won’t be far away. I’m taking the job of executive editor for Nola Boomers magazine, a bi-monthly publication for New Orleanians 50 years and older. In that way, I’ll be moving from antiques to, well, vintage treasures of a different sort.
I suppose some writers never change.