I work 50- 60 hours a week as an Interior Designer and handle estate liquidations on the side. I figure it is better than wasting time watching TV. Besides, if you are having fun, it doesn’t feel like work!
Several years ago, I was liquidating a living estate for a widow whose sons had moved her close to them during her beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. The day I met her was a good day, and she was bright and present. Because she was moving certain furniture items to an apartment in North Carolina, the dining room table was full of displaced items. There was a pair of silver and ivory tongs on the table that were particularly intriguing. I called the son and asked if his mother or he remembered anything about this item, because I felt it might be significant. They did not know what I was speaking of and told me it must have been some of her late husbands’ family items. (She loved her things and thought his things were just stuff!) I asked permission to pull them from the sale and do some research when time allowed.
After the sale was conducted, I looked up the mark “M. Price S. F.” I found that the item was made by Michael Price, a well known knife-maker during the gold rush in San Francisco. There was a push dagger that had brought $13,000 in 2008, but Price was known for knives, and the economy has crashed in the meantime. I spent months contacting people who knew people in the San Francisco antiques market looking for a potential buyer. After several months of trying to get a call back from Bonhams auction house in San Francisco, they answered and agreed to consign the item into their November armament auction, with an estimate of $3000 to $5000.
Having felt that I had done the best for the client, I worked in a nearby town the day of the auction. When I returned to the office, I logged onto the Bonhams website to check the results. Anyone within three miles heard me hoop and holler that day when the “lime squeezer” fetched $29,000! When someone asked me how often this happened to me, I answered, “once in a lifetime” and I had my turn. I hope I am wrong. I am out there looking for lightning to strike twice!
We, as a nation, are a classless society. We follow the British royal tabloids for vicarious pleasure, but embrace the ideal that all men are created equal. The Windsor chair as we know it was developed somewhere in England, possibly Windsor, around 1725. America embraced this form, as we are less about formality and more about comfort.
You can almost imagine George and Martha Washington sitting in these chairs in the afternoon with the family watching the Potomac flow by. They were our first royal family, receiving dignitaries and guests on their 8000 acre estate.
I have been to Mount Vernon twice and continue to be amazed at the colors used in the interiors. The moneyed public at the time was traveling to Herculaneum and Pompeii and reviving the colors found in the renovated ruins. They were influenced by the latest fashion, just as we pickup fashions from our travels. When I teach my continuing education course for Interior Designers on American Antiques, one of my true/false test questions states that “George Washington furnished his home with priceless antiques.” About 50% of the students find the statement true. The home was actually furnished with the latest in fashion at the time – cutting edge materials and styles. And they ordered most of it from catalogs, such as Thomas Chippendale’s “Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director”. Local cabinetmakers clustered on the coast where mahogany came in as ballast on the ships. They used Chippendale’s catalogs to inspire their clients to commission the latest “contemporary furnishings”.
Our delivery of style has changed over time, but this classic chair has retained its original form. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
I was born a city girl raised by city parents. My mother did not want to live with old furniture or carry a stick of firewood, because she grew up in the depression. My father considered “roughing it” carrying his own golf bag. But we must be born with certain affinities because I am happiest in the wide open with my critters.
When I established my interior design firm, Laurie McRae Interiors, I wanted a timeless brand. I chose a rising whippoorwill as my logo, a symbol of the hope of spring. When I developed a line of clothing embellished with antique and vintage linens, I wanted to continue the brand but with a twist. So, I named the venture “Chuck Wills Widow”. The name started as many conversations as the clothing ever did. A chuck will’s widow is a closely related bird to the whippoorwill, both in the family of night hawks. There is a week or two of time in the south when you can hear both birds call their own name. The whippoorwill call is fast and constant, while the chuck is slower and lilting. So, listen late next May for the hope of spring and the promise of summer during that short time when their migrations overlap.
Link to Whippoorwill Sound from American Bird Conservancy
Link to Whippoorwill and Chuck Will’s Widow Sound from cdavidfloyd