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Past Perfect

How would you decorate your home if you had centuries’ worth of antiques at your fingertips? Like this.



Gibeon Photography

Antiques dealer Liz Spradling jokes that her home in Jackson, Wyoming, is her “leftover house” -- full of antiques and vintage finds that were once for sale in her eponymous Houston boutique. “I looked around my shop and picked out pieces that feel well-worn, rustic, with beautiful patinas,” she says. “They work well in the West without feeling Western."

She’s right. Her home’s style is an enviable combination of sophistication and ease, courtesy of pieces that reflect many centuries of craftsmanship from Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Morocco, South Africa and China. All joking aside, it’s clear the home’s collection is a carefully crafted homage to history and beauty.

From the start, Spradling envisioned a clean-lined canvas for her collection. Local architecture firm Hoyt/CTA Architects Engineers helped her design an open floor plan that places the dining room, kitchen, reading nook and great room within view of each other. “The idea is that we can invite our friends and family up and all be together whether we’re cooking or eating or cleaning up or reading,” Spradling says. In this airy space, the plaster walls—a nod to the Old World—feel textural and warm, while the lack of moldings makes the home’s style feel set apart from the typical Wyoming design vernacular. The antique wood beams were reclaimed from a nearby ranch and add timeless, rustic charm. And the cobblestones that cover the entry floor and mudroom were salvaged from Chicago streets. “This house could really be anywhere in the world,” Spradling says. “It has simple, organic forms and very little ornamentation.”

Spradling did all of the design work herself, selecting a neutral palette against which she could highlight her favorite antique furnishings and accessories. “I chose fabrics with wonderful textures rather than patterns,” she explains. “That’s my whole design concept. I prefer to draw attention to the furnishings themselves. Each piece has its own story to tell.”

She knows these stories well: Spradling selects every item for her shop, traveling to Europe several times a year in search of pieces that speak to her. As a result, wandering through her home is a lesson in history. In the sunny reading nook, an 18th-century landowner’s table from Italy stands beneath the windows. Its top slides off to reveal secret storage places where a landowner would hide the money he collected from his tenants. On the adjacent wall hang 16th-century Spanish ceiling tiles called socarrats that “look like modern art,” Spradling says. Not far away, in the TV room, a sculptural iron bottle-drying rack from Arras, France, is a captivating piece of art. Nineteenth- and early-20th-century French families would dry their empty wine bottles on these racks before returning to the vintner for refills. In the stairway leading up to the second-floor bedrooms, Spradling hung an 18th-century iron weathervane with a cross, which came from a small village in Spain.

What’s most remarkable is that despite the breadth of history and geography represented by the antiques, the home’s style feels cohesive and fresh. The great room is the perfect study in this unity: Wingback chairs flank a zebra-skin-covered ottoman, and two small 20th-century industrial stools stand nearby. An 18th-century Aubusson tapestry hangs above a console made of 20th-century wicker-and-iron laundry baskets, topped with a thick Texas fossil stone. And the crown jewel is a piece of plaster ornamentation pulled from a Chicago building.

Spradling says that while there’s no formula for this alchemy, mixing styles and eras is the best way to give a home depth and appeal. “Your eye can get lazy. You need things to wake it up again, just jar it a little,” she says. “Industrial pieces make antiques more interesting. Modern art looks great over an 18th-century table”—and even leftovers, given a new home, can be exquisite.  

Top TipsShopping for Treasure

Don’t be shy When you walk into an antiques shop, break the ice by asking the shop owner to show you her favorite piece and explain why she loves it. “The more you talk to antiques dealers, the more you’ll learn,” Spradling says. “What makes something a Louis XV? What’s a cabriole leg? Educate yourself and your taste will develop.”  

Start small If you love the idea of adding antiques to your home, look for a mirror or small side table. “They’re so flexible,” Spradling says. “You can put them anywhere, so they’re easier to incorporate into your home.”

Take your time “I tell beginning collectors, ‘Buy one piece a year,’” Spradling says. “Don’t fill up your house all at once. Wait for the pieces you love. It really is like hunting for treasure.”

 

INTERIOR DESIGN AND ANTIQUES Liz Spradling, Houston, TX, 713-299-6001, lizspradling.com ARCHITECT Hoyt/CTA Architects Engineers, Jackson, WY, 307-733-9955, ctaarchitectsengineers.com BUILDER Dynamic Custom Homes, Jackson, WY, 307-413-4476, dchjh.com GREAT ROOM WINGBACK CHAIR AND SOFA UPHOLSTERY Holly Hunt, hollyhunt.com READING NOOK CHANDELIER Dennis & Leen, dennisandleen.com GAME ROOM CARPET Stark, starkcarpet.com

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