Come with me as I take you where color is a sparkling porcelain rabbit and small rooms accept monsters. The apartment is not hidden. It looms open and ever-present in an old city. Passersby barely glance, never knowing what is inside.
Last week, I went inside, knowing there would be treasures — but not how many treasures. He opened the door for me and it was like entering an Egyptian tomb filled with priceless, ornate vessels and stunning oddities.
Walking in from the entry hall, I was greeted with sunlight and a visual transformation as I saw the small living arena that was filled with stuff — from Victorian table settings, to early English tapestries and even a chair with sable arm-rests.
The walk-paths were clear, clean and inviting. There might have been “stuff” floor to ceiling but this wasn’t a hoarding show. In fact, just the opposite. It was like an antique shop pulled right from downtown Manhattan or a Rockefeller townhouse, or right from a movie set about the rich and famous.
How did I get here on this day? I had known him for a long time, maybe 10 years, and he helped with several art gallery projects, like hanging the exhibit for the Dee Dee Beckley’s vintage and antique commercial bag collection. I’d heard this fellow was a reputable New York designer at one time. He often donated his time for various Bremerton projects.
Then one day, I stopped at a local thrift shop and there he was. I was immediately greeted as he showed me an original oil painting he just purchased. It could have been well worth several thousand dollars.
I finished perusing the thrift shop and headed to Bremerton when I saw him walking down the road with painting in tow. I gave him a ride that day, and that is why I got an invite to come and see his treasures.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long that initial day when I gave him a ride home. Upon leaving, I knew the imagery would be haunting, as if calling me back.
Then the next week, like magic, he attended a gallery walk, saw me and gave assurance that I was welcome to visit again.
There I was, entering yet again. I put both hands tightly to my mouth, looking around with delight as if I were seeing everything for the first time. Oh my, flower arrangements were throughout the one-bedroom apartment — so gorgeous, vibrant, flailing and tall as if they were greeters.
“Can we sit down and talk, and can you tell me how your design career started?” I said. He moved a large, ceramic cat, thus providing a little table space for us.
It was New York, he said; Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, to be specific. He was a designer in a florist shop, with a barber shop in the back where he would occasionally run into Jackie O with little Bobby.
Impressed, my eyes widened in awe. He kind of laughed as he continued telling me that actually Rose was his client. (And that being Rose Kennedy). He went into detail about her design venues, which went way beyond my comprehension.
I think it amused him that I was so excited about hearing the stories.
“From New York, my career continued in San Francisco, where I completed many floral projects for Mrs. Roth,” he continued.
“‘The’ Roth family — Ghirardelli Chocolates and Matson shipping line?” I asked. Answer, yes.
I asked if I could take some pictures and he said to just make myself at home — which I did, like a child in a candy shop. Everything was like jazz. I learned that compositional presentation from artist Augusta Asberry, as she painted African dancers. It means having a lot of precious things close together that move as one in a jazz beat.
Truthfully I didn’t know where to begin. I stood looking out at a view that most would pay a fortune to have. At that moment, I thought of backing out of the project, for I found it difficult to explain what I was exposed to, like one table piled with treasures. Where to start?
“That’s a Sheraton tilt-leg, lift-top Mahogany table,” he said. “Probably a $15,000 value.”
On the centrally located table, there was a humongous arrangement that in any other world would be called obnoxious in a one-bedroom apartment, but here, a breath-of-fresh-air and welcoming — exotic flowers that I am sure wanted to kiss me.
There was a splendid, midcentury modern hutch filled with Asian porcelain. There was a big, big draped tapestry robe with attached bright bows and flowing ribbons. There were small decorative vessels and plates and walls displaying masks, paintings, carvings and textiles.
I slowly walked around taking in as much as I could, wondering how many other homes in Bremerton hide treasures like this — people who take delight in living with and appreciating an enormous amount of color, art, flowers, antiques and novelties. We may never know.
It wasn’t that there was an extreme amount of stuff (there certainly was), it wasn’t that the stuff was all that valuable (but most was), but it was the entire performance with the visuals, background music and stories. A performance piece at its best.
Oh, so quietly, come with me, come visit mysterious places where unexpected treasures are preserved in ordinary homes and apartments, and let us persuade more to share their hoards of treasures in well designed settings.