Beauty is out there, all over the place. So why is it so hard to find? Locating the right finishing touches for your new living salon, bedroom or bath can be quite a pain in the neck, a fishing expedition in a great big sea: You travel far and wide, buck the swells and rush-hour traffic, and then you end up throwing a lot of them back. Too big, too little, too purple...you know the drill. Meanwhile, your posh condo (or bohemian, inner-city lair) lies fallow and naked and characterless, waiting for direction. And you're a nervous wreck.
Interior-design entrepreneur Susan Hildebrand recognized the problem, and The Collection, a new phenomenon at 899 Broadway, was her solution. Opened earlier this fall, the venue -- what Hildebrand calls an interior marketplace -- brings together an eclectic range of tasteful displays maintained by some of Denver's more discriminating dealers. It's Hildebrand's hope -- pardon her airs -- that The Collection bears little or no resemblance to an antique mall. Instead, similar markets such as The Stalls in Atlanta and The Mews in Dallas, vignetted showrooms amassing antiques and accessories collected by a whole stable of proprietors, inspired her. And inspired it is: Here's an old-fashioned emporium where you wander and browse peacefully through wares proffered by sixty-odd vendors. It even has an espresso bar.
What might one find between sips? Manager Travis Suiter notes that several vendors here only dealt directly with designers before opening up shop at The Collection, which takes an egalitarian approach that favors neither the public nor private contingents, suiting it well to modern home-design trends. "People are starting to focus on creating a story for themselves," Suiter says. "It's no longer like the eclectic Victorian period, which was really a whole mishmash of motifs. There's a more global and worldly travel turn in interiors; people are using bold colors. We're really freeing up what we're doing in our homes."
To that effect, you can go to whichever corner of the earth you're blown toward. In a single afternoon, you can choose from cheerfully painted folk-motif plate racks at Scandinavian Antiques or a Moroccan metalwork and camel-bone bottle at Le Souk; make yourself at home among vine-wound French countryside furnishings decorated with arte priveraornamentation at Deux Soeurs; moon over the red-lacquered Chinese wedding baskets at Asian Treasures; or plan a room around Cree Studio's hand-carved, painted furniture and custom architectural details. If it's light you seek, Boulder's Fonto Lumo offers unique patinaed, faux-finished or brushed-metal bases topped with natural-hued, leaf-stenciled shades, and A Classic Design shows sweet artichoke or teapot lamps and candles encircled by stamped-metal holders. For the dining room, the Siena Collection of Italian majolica pottery features fabulous Duruta platters splashed with rich blue, yellow and orange hues in intricate patterns, while stall-mate Joyce Pashel shows more free-form hand-painted ceramics, from oversized metallic-on-white plate chargers to full-sized black-and-white wall figures holding vases or platters you can fill yourself with fresh flowers or fruit.
In the holiday spirit, Suiter also suggests The Collection as a gift-buying destination that's anything but run-of-the-mill. "For that someone on your list who already has everything, this is one place you can come and really find something they don't have," he notes. And it's true: The aisles are scented throughout by distinctive candles and soaps and laced with a tangle of one-of-a-kind accents. Seven Swans has African mudcloth pillows with cowry shell details, the Antique Linens and Lace booth is draped with tatted tea towels and the like, and Li'l Bloomers has plush moose stools and appliquéd bootie socks for elite toddlers. There is hand-painted stemware galore, and the antique iron mantelpiece at McCloskey-Scott would make quite a splash (or dent?) under the tree. Suiter says there's almost more original artwork there than at any gallery in the city, in styles to suit any taste, and there are plenty of frames to appropriately dress up a piece. "Any taste" is the key here, after all, with a demographic that's turning out to be evenly divided between designers and upscale private buyers.
"We're definitely getting the right crowd," Suiter says. "We've got the exclusive clientele -- now we want to focus on getting everyone else in here." So hang that shopping basket over your arm and come on down. The moving van you can leave parked outside.
The Denver area is full of great nooks and crannies for consumers. In "Talking Shop," dedicated shopper Susan Froyd packages up some of the town's best places to drop by...and buy.