The familiar idiom, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," has perhaps never rung more true than during those still-fresh COVID times. If you have ever waited with bated breath for the custom sofa to complete your family room or even the less-sexy appliance to fill the gaping hole in your kitchen, you have weathered supply chain issues.
People who had never previously considered estate sales queued early to get their hands on patio furniture and desks for home offices while others clamored for used automobiles. Perhaps the teens were ahead of the curve, celebrating all things sustainable and saving the planet one thrifted vintage concert t-shirt at a time. But, there was a void for consumers of all ages seeking instant gratification.
The supply chain issues significantly and uniquely impacted the interior design industry with longer than usual lead times. "What once were 6-10 weeks for custom furniture quickly turned to 20, then 40 weeks," says local designer Cameron Howell of Cameron Howell Interior Design. "I dreaded telling clients who were so excited about the new spaces we had carefully planned that they might have to wait almost a year for it to come to fruition." Finding in-stock options - across all areas of our lives - became a grueling and tedious task, and we all, like it or not, learned to implement a bit of flexibility and grace into our daily lives. "With many great local options for antique and pre-loved options, in many cases, we were able to get creative and improvise without compromising on style," says Cameron.
Thirty years ago, when A.W. Simmons arrived on the Memphis scene and set up shop, "sustainability" was certainly not the buzzword it is today. His aptly named treasure trove, Consignments, located on Central Avenue, has remained a treasure itself, while A.W. has maintained his reputation as the authority on all things antique. Honing his skills early on by attending the major auction houses in New York, he can assure a fair price for items he agrees to consign. Discerning designers on annual pilgrimages from neighboring states make Consignments and Memphis an essential stop along their route to New York. However, A.W. estimates that about seventy percent of the treasures he consigns receive new life right here in the River City. "If it was good the day someone made it, it is always going to be good," A.W. advises.
With quality also paramount, entrepreneur Ashley Baine, owner of New to Me TN, answered the call of designer friends struggling with the cost of storing products that their clients had either replaced or had arrived in the wrong shade or finish. When covid happened, designers had many clients couped up at home wanting to redecorate large parts of their homes. "They had nice pieces they were replacing and needed a way to sell them. I created a simple site and started listing. The first year was a 'learn as you go' process. The designers I worked with were great with helping me put dates, styles and prices on the items," says Ashley.
Today Ashley accepts items from individuals and designers alike, and you can shop local with her from the comfort of your smartphone! "Being a website makes it a 24-hour-a-day business. I do my best to keep up to date at all times while keeping my sanity intact," she says. "The sellers hold the furniture, so with that lack of overhead costs for storage, I can give them a higher percentage of the sales price than if I operated out of a physical store."
As many life lessons and lagging ship times continue to impact our post-covid lives, it is no surprise that a major design emphasis for 2023 is antiques. Yes, "old is new again," says Cameron Howell. "Incorporating found treasures or re-worked pieces from clients' stashes into a contemporary design scheme, whether it be a 1920s chest or reupholstering a set of vintage chairs in a fun current fabric, brings a unique and personal twist to a room while also being a more environmentally friendly design alternative," she says.
Art is also given a new life through secondary markets or resales. While there is plenty of creativity from living artists represented by local galleries, David Lusk Gallery and Goetze Art & Design proudly steward artworks from yesteryear. "First and foremost, we try to keep work that we have previously sold viable. When a purchaser or the heirs of a purchaser's estate can no longer keep a work DLG sold, we try to help find it another home, assuring our artists' prices remain stable, and, in turn, their reputations," says David Lusk. "Then there are the other works that come our way: artwork by artists we have never worked with directly but know could sell easily," he explains. "We've sold works from several centuries, from a Georgia O'Keefe painting to a Banksy silkscreen in 7-digit to 3-digit price points."
Amanda Goetze of Amanda Goetze Art & Design agrees. "Our consignment collection may be the most exciting piece of our business. Assisting in the relocation of estate pieces is thrilling. Art tells a story sometimes beyond our lifetime. Being a shepherd and connecting collectors with future family heirlooms is a privilege," she says.
Whether you have heirlooms awaiting their reincarnation or you are looking to freshen a space by sustainably sprinkling in something old or new to you, the River City is brimming with astute businessmen and women specializing in consignments. Let the treasure hunting begin!