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Going Eclectic Doesn’t Mean Going Wild

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By Bill Primavera

Remembering my parents’ living room in my childhood, during the Dark Ages, there was much order in terms of style accomplished through a “suite” of furniture. It was all in the same overstuffed, mid-century style covered with an itchy horsehair fabric that was uncomfortable to the skin if ever I lay my face on it.

There was an Art Deco coffee table with a blue mirror surface (I can’t recall how my mother matched anything to that) and, for wall décor, just a very large gold-framed mirror and just one piece of original art (a watercolor of a vase of gladioli, painted and gifted by my very talented Aunt Helen).

Other than that, there was nothing I remember that distinguished our living room from anyone else’s in our West Philadelphia neighborhood.

For my first apartment in Brooklyn Heights, I got a close-out deal on a Danish modern sofa and a matching side chair. Nothing of variety there. For wall décor, I had just one painting I was given by a friend in college of a clown, which looked as though it was from Picasso’s Blue Period.

My life as an apartment dweller changed, however, when I was invited to a Sunday afternoon gathering at a neighbor’s apartment whose owner happened to be the window decorator at Saks Fifth Avenue. My eyes were opening wide when I observed his furnishings and décor, which seemed to have been pulled from every decorating period and style. And yet, it wasn’t a mish-mash of ideas, but coordinated in several ways. 

In his case, the principal coordinating factor was color, where fabrics of furnishings were coordinated with tomato red walls. That’s where I got the idea of coordinating my first apartment to my one piece of artwork, the blue clown. That first apartment was turning into a cool environment until I realized that I preferred warm colors surrounding me. That’s when I went to B. Altman (Remember that wonderful store?) and bought a Chippendale-style camelback sofa covered in red damask.

Luckily for me, my decorator neighbor liked to change his living environment frequently, and I would be offered his castoffs if I wanted them. My first purchase from him was a “tree-of-life” pattern rug, a colorful pattern that offered interest and warmth. That carpet stayed with me until it literally wore away.

Soon after I married, my wife and I encountered an incredible opportunity. Even before our wedding, I had quickly converted my wife from a lover of contemporary furnishings to one who loved antiques, even more so than I, after a while. In fact, we were soon looking to rent a shop where we could buy and sell antiques.

By incredible coincidence, one of our friends decided to start a new business, and to finance it, he wanted to sell his home in that same neighborhood in Brooklyn Heights. Even more coincidentally, he had been operating an antiques shop on the first floor of that home, which would go along with the sale. How lucky can you get? 

All at the same time, we became homeowners and antique shop operators. The unique aspect of our living situation was that we actually lived within the shop.  There was a large round dining table in the middle of the space that was topped with several varieties of china for sale. Whenever we were to entertain guests for dinner, we would simply remove the china and other items from the tabletop to set the table for a meal.

The New York Times heard about our unique living situation (actually they heard about it from me, since I am a PR guy as well as a realtor) and insisted on writing a story about our living situation. The resulting article made us celebrities of sorts within our neighborhood and our business in the shop boomed. Again, how lucky can you get?

However, the bottom line to this tale is that we learned to live and love within a space of varied styles, many styles in fact, yet coordinated in such a way, primarily through color, that we felt comfortable. Even to this day, when we live in a new condo, we combine periods and styles with the underlying coordination of color.

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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