Tag Archives: thomas obrien

an excerpt

March 1, 2012

“I recently received a fine printed catalog from one of my favorite antique silver dealers, SJ Shrubsole, located on 57th Street here in New York. In the introduction, the proprietor, Eric Shrubsole, tells a charming story about his parents. His mother would visit his father’s shop in London on occasion, and “from her perch of serene ignorance” she would claim surprise that he still had this or that old thing, orphaned and unsold. His father would answer in exasperation that yes, he still had this thing, and that thing, and that thing, and if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have a business anymore. Many decades later their son concludes, “My point is that inventory is the proof of a great dealer. We buy what we love; we wait for someone to love it as much as we do.””

this little excerpt is from a post by thomas o’brien on his areo studio website. In his post he discusses his feelings about the current importance placed upon social media for/by small(er) businesses. I like that he has stopped, and asked his reader to stop, and take a moment to consider what impact this has upon a store built around objects with a history… 

but the above excerpt struck a particular cord. I feel just as this old silver shop keeper must have and joke with friends that I foster vintage pieces until they can find the right home …. because we- treasure hunters & finders of beautiful things- we buy what we love; we wait for someone to love it as much as we do …. 

American Modern

October 17, 2011

i have been spending a lot of time with Thomas O’Brien‘s “American Modern“. I know the book has been out for a while and you are probably familiar with it by now, but I just cant seem to get it out of my system now that its in my house. 

I am particularly drawn the the two houses that O’Brien has designed for himself – a 1930’s era apartment in Manhattan and a stunning federal colonial estate upstate that was once a boys school. There is so much to look at in each of the spaces (in fact he shows both incarnations of his city apartment so its really like seeing three houses). I admire his ability to be true to each of the spaces with such strict editing that they look as undersigned and unworked as you would want them to be. This I think is a skill which takes much practice and strictness. 

I love how we can see his progression as a designer through these three spaces. His first incarnation of the 1930’s apartment is very strict indeed, beautiful and effortless but you can visibly see how restrained he was in this first apartment. I love this. Its like getting a glimpse into the studio paintings of a great master, that timeline of inspiration to change fascinates me in every medium. 

It seems that in his Academy (the name of his upstate house) project he lets his strictness (but not his keen editing eye nor his mastery of textiles and mixing of periods) relax a bit and I just cant get over the results. It feels so personal but I could easily see myself living there as well.  I especially love how all of his spaces feel so gender neutral, the perfect balance. 


If you havent spent time with this book I highly reccomend it. I keep finding myself thinking about an image or phrase from the pages and going back to flip through and find what I’ve been thinking about.