Let’s Get Lost (In Hudson)
There was a time when shopping vintage (or vintage-ish) was a serendipitous adventure in which the sky seemed to be the limit, whether at a flea market or some delightful hodgepodge of a store. (Ah the 90s.) The town of Hudson, despite blossoming as an upscale decorative-arts destination, is still capable of bringing back those memories — of a time when various indoor or outdoor spaces offered a curious collector the chance to amble, touch, and discover amazing things for doable prices. You never knew what it would turn out to be: an Eva Zeisel Town and Country tear-drop veggie bowl, perhaps, some rare piece of Glidden pottery, or a hot-looking yet brand-nameless chrome floor lamp that could form the basis of an entire new collecting obsession. (Or maybe not — no biggie—-how many cool lamps from the 50-60s does one really need?) The process of objets trouveying in some seemingly unexplored nook was once one of life’s most therapeutic endeavors, even more so when unwatched and alone.
Today a number of shops on Hudson’s Warren Street manage to bring back some of that exploratory feeling: Warren Street Antiques, Carousel Antiques, Mark’s Antiques and Larry’s Back Room, among them. Of all of these, my current favorite is Verso, Harold Hanson’s repository of this and that piled up on tables here and there. On a recent visit, I came upon all four of the above-mentioned objects as well as a very rare piece of Russel Wright and a Dansk spiral stainless-steel candle holder, while at the same time an accompanying friend found a lovely Orrefors crystal bowl. And then there’s Harold himself, 73 years old, a former media mogul of sorts (he was publisher of Northeast, “an independent voice in the antiques word,” he says, which he sold in 2001.)
Now sedately seated off to the side, Hanson remains a refreshingly nimble-witted, wise, and unintrusive watchkeeper of it all. Despite the casual, ad hoc look of the store, there is an overriding philosophy behind it all: “Form, function, and value,” Hanson says. “That’s the cornerstone of a good antiques business that attracts customers.” As an example he points out a lovely Murano glass vase ($250) next to a ceramic planter ($25), Dansk-like wooden bowls ($6 each), and the kind of crystal-glass doodads that dot the space. Hanson also wants it to be known that, unlike many other stores in town, he can be depended upon to be open at least five days a week, every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but nowadays usually even then, and promptly at 11 a.m.
My second fave for ambling, although admittedly higher in price point, is Regan and Smith. Located in a huge space (formerly a Kresges’s five and dime), the store is divided into a rabbit’s warren of uber-stylish vignettes you can admire and/or easily hide behind. Whether you buy something or not, it’s a sight to be seen — or unseen in. During a recent journey I was caught dead in my tracks by one portioned-off section dominated by a largely intact, 1930s trade sign that is “sort of as good as these get, from the expression on her face to her jacket with the epaulettes to the remaining paint on the surface,” as co-owner Kurt Smith puts it. (The pink mark on her right cheekbone is a sold sign, natch; it’s going to a loft in SoHo — also natch). To its right is a decoupage four-foot vase by artist Joe Heidecker ($2,900), bamboo arm chairs from the 40s ($1,250 a pair), and right below it cast-stone planters inset with Arabian tiles ($950 pair), among other items. Smith, 45, and his partner Kevin Regan, 50, herald from the far reaches of coastal Rhode Island (Portsmouth), where Kevin had a shop for 20 years, with Kurt joining forces eight years ago.
“We opened a shop here in the summer of 2008 just to try it out and see how things went. It went well enough that in 2009 we moved to a larger shop, and then finally to our current location a year later. We love Hudson, there’s such a concentration of good dealers with unusual merchandise that turns over on a regular basis. You come back six weeks later and there’s new stuff to see. It’s a fun place to have a business, even for the vendors.”
In the area of what is called, perhaps only here, “retail” (ie “new stuff,” as opposed to old) there’s nothing like Melinda Slover’s Lili and Loo, the closest equivalent to a department store in the town. Inside the two-floor, 5,500-square-foot space, with eight rooms of various sizes on the top and six large rooms at the bottom, are Slover’s assortment of contemporary home furnishings, clothing, eyewear, and stylish paper products: cards, stamp pads, stationary, notepads, and Moleskin journals (which run the huge gamut from $1.25 to $18), along with Japanese-made face towels ($22 each). One room alone contains 50 ready-made drape panels in linen, dupioni silk, velvet, and cotton. (Prices range from $58 to $225 per panel.)
Slover has had her shop since 2001. “I came to Hudson because the town felt possible to me. I didn’t come from retail; I was in the graphic design trade in New York City and left that, knowing that I liked objects and styling in general — creating a mood. I like things that look old. Everything I sell is a reproduction but has a vintage look, like it has a story, been places. It all comes down to price point: things that look expensive but aren’t. When you walk in the store, it feels like a home environment.” —Scott Baldinger
Verso Fine Arts
530 Warren Street
Regan and Smith Antiques
601 Warren Street
Lili and Loo
259 Warren Street