Wednesday, April 2, 2014

One Man’s Folly

4:00 PM. Photo: Jeffrey Hirsch.
Wednesday, April 3, 2014.  It was a beautiful Sunny Spring day again in New York with temperatures hitting the low 60s. A preview only because don’t forget April is the month of “showers that bring May flowers,” and we know it sometimes even snows in April. Although thankfully the snow doesn’t stick around.

Last night John Rosselli and Bunny Williams held a reception for their friend and John’s one-time business partner Furlow Gatewood from Americus, Georgia who has just published a book on his life as a furniture and arts collector and would-be interior (and exterior) designer, “One Man’s Folly; The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood” with Foreward by Julia Reed and Afterword by Bunny Williams. Mr. Gatewood was present of course, as was Julia Reed up from New Orleans for the occasion.
The crowd last night at a reception hosted by John Rosselli and Bunny Williams for Furlow Gatewood's “One Man’s Folly; The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood."
Although NYSD covers much of the work and many of the activities and creators of the New York (as well as American/International) design community, my personal interest doesn’t stray far from being that of an observer. I have neither the funds nor even the personal interest in collecting or decorating, but I do have a great respect and wonder at what is accomplished, and achieved, and why and how. It is a very important industry in New York.

It’s a very hard working community belied by the “glamour” factor it produces. And it is not an “easy” living or business. The late Mark Hampton (whose wife Duane was at the event last night), once the remarked that you never hear of interior designers getting rich from their business -- although there are some exceptions -- and it is true. Aside from everything else, it is a labor of love and devotion for the greater lot of them.
Furlow Gatewood and Bunny Williams. Furlow talking with an admirer of his work and his new book. Click to order.
John Rosselli and Sheila Kotur in deep conversation ... And then they look up and who should be taking their picture ...?
Ward and Judith Landrigan (I must have said something funny). Herself, Miss Julia Reed from way down yonder ... up in the Big Apple for her friend whose book she wrote the Foreward to.
Mr. Gatewood, whom I had never heard of until John Rosselli called and asked me to the reception, is actually a legend in the business. This was reflected in the very large crowd which was there last night to fete him and to buy his book.

Now in his 94th year, a boy from Americus, who after serving in the Second World War and a brief foray with a flower shop in his hometown, came to New York to make his way and opened an antique shop on Second Avenue. It was not far from where John Rosselli, already a legend in the business for his superior taste and style, had a shop. The two men became very close friends and eventually partners in business.
Furlow's famous cheese straws, which he always brings with him for friends, on his trips to New York and elsewhere.
The man in his kitchen making the cheese straws.
Rosselli, who was impressed by Gatewood’s inventory soon suggested that they combine inventories, giving Rosselli the time to travel to Europe -- which in those days was a cornucopia of available (and often cheap) fantastic antiques and objets -- while Gatewood watched over the business.

The man had an eye that had been honed since boyhood for beautiful things, particularly in the antique class. His first acquisition was made when he was 8 or 9, with his earnings from his paper route, when he bought a pair of milk glass chickens from his great-aunt Nanie Lou, his grandmother’s sister.
Young Furlow in a Cord convertible, circa 1940.
It was when he was in New York that he really began collecting, as well as buying for the business, visiting every sale, every old house and turning up at every country auction. He also began making runs between New York and Georgia. Eventually returning to Americus, he took over the property that belonged to his parents, mainly to rehabilitate it, beginning with the house he grew up in.

The property now has four houses, including the Barn – which was the original barn but re-designed and built (adding rooms to accommodate his acquisitions as he went along) as well as three other houses he acquired and moved to the property – Cuthbert House, Peacock and Lumpkin House – all very old houses that were derelict or almost when he bought them for the style they possessed. All of these houses are the story of this wonderful book about one’s man way of life and journey.
The Barn, the first of his "follies" that began as a rescue mission and became a labor of love. Those are real birds on the second level. And a view of the "glass room" off the dining room.
The man's bedroom; originally his mother's four-poster; and a guest room.
Cuthbert House, a mid-19th century Gothic Revival dwelling originally located in nearby Cuthbert, Georgia. In 2007, Furlow learned it was about to be demolished to make way for a local church parking lot. He bought it and moved it 65 miles to his property where he renovated, refurbished and turned it into another jewel in his real estate crown.
The statue of Diana, goddess of the hunt, who was said to be able to talk to and control animals just like the statue's possessor. And the spacious back porch, added to the house, featuring louvered shutters between latticework columns. An Indian dhurrie rug, and John Robshaw red-and-white pillow fabric.
A peacock sits on the gate before the Peacock House which began its life as a winter plant repository with dirt floors and was transformed specifically to make use of three fabulous sets of French doors (found years earlier at New York's Pier Antiques Show).
The front room of the Peacock House.
Mr. Gatewood loves animals too. Dogs, lots of dogs, including many that were strays or abandoned, as well as some rarer breeds that he took a fancy to. He loves birds too, and there are several peacocks in happy residence on the property. “One Man’s Folly” is the story captured in this beautiful book. With their Foreward and Afterword, his friends Julia Reed and Bunny Williams set the stage and lead you into what can only be called A Great Life and a magnificent obsession.
The man and his friends.
His pals, always waiting, always wondering when he's not there.
Making themselves at home.

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