Workspaces with Art

Antiques in the office

Many years ago, my husband Philip called local decorating icon Gerrie Bremermann to help him decorate his new office. His law firm required that he use a modern desk and bookshelves, but the rest was up to him. He’d purchased a large, bold abstract oil painting, but then what? Bremermann added two raffia chairs, an antique table, where he and clients could talk, and a few other pieces. By juxtaposing the old and the new, the office gained just the “wow” factor that Philip sought.  Despite a move to a different building 10 years ago, Philip’s office is still as chic and timeless as the day the pieces were purchased.

Antiques can be beautiful and practical additions to an office or workspace. It’s all about surrounding yourself with the things you love and making them work for you.

One local dermatologist, Dr. Richard Sherman, has accomplished such mastery. His Uptown medical office is a treasure trove of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century pieces, each purchased
as a beautiful antique, but used in practical 21st-century ways.

Sherman began collecting antiques while he was a student at Tulane Medical School. After intense days of studying, he would unwind by wandering through the elegant old shops and talk to the knowledgeable merchants, who recognized his interest and gave him an education in antiques that he relies on today. Upon further reflection, he admits his interest began even earlier.

“I grew up in Clarksdale, Miss., and both my mother and grandmother collected French antiques. I was always interested in their antiques from an early age. Once I moved to New Orleans and discovered the stores in the French Quarter, collecting antiques became part of my life,” he says.

 Today his Uptown office is filled with handsome antiques, used in practical ways. His waiting room boasts comfortable, tasteful 19th-century chairs. Placed over a contemporary leather sofa are two large, modern paintings of St. Charles Avenue mansions. Nearby in the foyer is an elegant Empire console that holds pamphlets and brochures about medical services
and products.

An 18th-century French armoire, the first major piece Sherman bought, now houses cosmetic samples and gift bags. Graceful Belle Époque pastry tables with sleek marble tops hold medical instruments and supplies in the examining rooms. Another pastry table serves as a coffee bar in the employees’ break room. More than one dozen restored antique oyster sticks, once used by French oystermen, line the walls of a hallway, adding an artful touch to what could have been a bland passageway.

Sherman’s personal office, which he calls a work in progress, features an 18th-century French writing desk. A large 19th-century iron planter stores personal items and files. A 1960s glass mobile – which once belonged to his grandmother – hangs over a window and adds a whimsical pop of color.

Each piece was bought for beauty and function. “Patrick Dunne of Lucullus taught me early on that ‘antique bargains are at the top.’ By that, he meant that if you buy the best quality antique, over time it will increase in value and get better with age,” he says.

While the antiques are formal and obviously fine pieces, there is no stuffiness to the space. Modern art and a soft sage green palette add a youthful balance.

“As a dermatologist, I live in an aesthetic world. I am trained to look at a patient with an eye for beauty, detail and authenticity. I feel the same way about the antiques and art that surround me in my office,” Sherman says. “In many ways, I wanted my office to look and function as a contemporary version of old New Orleans, and I think we’ve captured that spirit.”

Sherman’s employees appreciate the setting and the care their boss puts into making the office unique. “Working in an office that is filled with such treasures makes for a welcoming, comfortable environment,” says office manager Maureen Darr. “It’s not the stereotypical sterile-looking doctor’s office.”


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