A truth: Not all objects in our homes are created equal. Some things we love disproportionately. We stroke their slick surfaces or settle into their cushy comfort, admire them secretly, know their stories by heart.
It begs the question: What is the ONE thing (house rules—one only) you couldn’t live without? Which item inspires you? Delights you? Best reflects who you are? That’s the object that matters. It tips the balance from house to home.
Local caterer, artist, thinker
Ric Lum likes things elegantly minimal. No frivolous decoration. No fussy food. No culinary tricks. Come to think of it, no “k” on the end of his first name, either: not necessary.
In his cooking, his artwork, his personal style—everything, it seems, except his office—Lum goes for minimal.
“I’m drawn to things that are simple,” he says, simply. “That’s why I don’t like postmodern design. A pediment on top of a skyscraper? Why? For what reason?”
In the kitchen, his minimalist philosophy translates to menus and meals that are rigorously considered, as Lum edits away anything that he feels is not true to the dish. “I’m trying to find the essence of the food and let it speak for itself.”
His Object A graceful, spirited Noguchi lamp that Lum bought in San Francisco’s Japan Town with the $75 he won by scratching a gas-station lottery ticket on his birthday.
“Overall, it’s something I find very beautiful and simple. There’s nothing extraneous in Noguchi’s lamps. They’re just rice paper, some wire, and a light bulb. You turn it on, and that’s it. Ultimately, that strikes me as the essence of art: just being—no narrative, no social commentary. It’s a lamp! And you know what? That’s enough.”
Ah, but then again, it’s also a sculpture. Translucent as an onion, papery as a wasp nest, lunar, lightweight, lit from within. Currently Lum’s favored Noguchi lamp resides in a corner of his office, where it illuminates—with great grace and steadfast simplicity—the chaos on his desk.
Architect, artist, honorer of ancestors
Funny thing, family history—the older we get, the more fascinating it becomes. That is true, at least, for Curtis Kemp. He grew up hearing wild, woolly tales of Great-Great-Grandpa Downie, and read bits and pieces of Downie’s journals in high school. But it’s only now, at the age of 60 and living in the harshness and beauty of the West, that Kemp can identify with the character and courage of his ancestor.
“My mind wanders to what it must have been like to have everything you owned in a saddlebag,” he says. “To spend winters mapping out unknown territory in British Columbia, to trade with Indians . . . to live in a time when life and death were much more closely bound.”
His Object His great-great-grandfather’s cloth-bound diary, written in longhand, clasped with metal, and handed down to Kemp from his mother, who kept the family stories alive.
In the diary, Downie chronicles the time he spent exploring British Columbia in the mid 19th century, searching for a route from the Pacific Coast through the formidable coastal mountain range to the British Columbia interior. He’d been hired for the job based on skills first honed as a teenager sailing around Cape Horn in the late 1830s and refined in the westward rush for gold in America.
From Major William Downie, born in 1819 in a tavern in Glasgow, Scotland, to Curtis Kemp sitting in his kitchen in the shadow of Della Mountain, it’s a journey of many miles and many years. The diary is a point of connection. >>>
Owner of Sister, lifelong collector, eclectic extremist
Annette Frehling has settled on a saint. It hasn’t been easy. When you live your life surrounded by carefully collected objects—fabulous objects, narrowing it down to one is a perplexing assignment.
Every surface of her log home is covered with treasures. The walls are paved with 19th-century photographs; exquisite Venetian art glass shimmers overhead and in the windowsills. There’s a basket of antique dolls’ heads on a bench, an amber necklace arranged over one carved wooden figure, an authentic metal chastity belt in the powder room, and a 16th-century Italian puppet upstairs. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of things reveal themselves in layers throughout the rooms. You could spend days trying to take it all in.
“I’ve been collecting things since I was a kid,” she says. “It’s kind of a compulsion, and my tastes are very eclectic. If there’s one commonality here, though, I’d say that it’s quality. I’m looking for authentic objects of art.”
Her Object A 17th-century saint, with a body made of straw and a face made of sorrow, purchased in a flea market in Florence. There was no other choice but to possess it—immediately—and carry it home wrapped in the protection of her coat.
The golden Florentine figure is only one from Frehling’s rare saint collection. In her home there are carved wooden saints, nude saints, saints under glass, saints by the stairs . . .
They’ve come from faraway churches in the Old World, from tombs in Italy and alcoves in Brazil. Smudged by centuries of devotional smoke, they have stood beatifically over petitioners’ sorrows and joys before making the long pilgrimage to Idaho, to live with Annette.
Purveyor of French antiques, owner of Trésors du Passé
Claudie Goldstein is held a willing captive of impulse. Following her instincts and visions, this eccentric, passionate collector circles the globe.
“When I love, I love. When I see something I like—that’s it!—I know it instantly. I’m very impulsive. I say, ‘I love this door. I will find someplace to put it.’”
The door in this case—a 400-year-old stable door from Normandy—is now her front door. It opens onto the magical central room of the little French ferme (farmhouse) that she and Bob, her husband and business partner, recently built around their collection of magnificent French antiques. Look up, and you’ll see huge 400-year-old oak beams bolstering the ceiling. Look down, and there are floors laid with old terra-cotta tiles, some imprinted with leaves, one with the tiny paw of a cat. And, front and center . . .
Her Object An 800-year-old Gothic limestone fireplace, discovered in a stone yard in the south of France, originally from a nearby abbey.
Before it became the anchor of the Goldsteins’ new home, the fireplace was a sketch drawn by Claudie in her Dream Journal. In precise detail, she had imagined an enormous old stone fireplace, complete with architectural crest—a decorative element outlawed after the French Revolution.
So the moment of recognition was instantaneous. There, standing in the stone yard’s garden, softened by age, blackened by centuries of daily cooking and warming of the friars’ quarters, was the very object she’d envisioned—her fireplace!—as if she had willed it into being. (Never underestimate the gravitational pull of a beautiful French woman on the hunt for something exquisite and unique.)
Writer Pamela Mason Davey lives in Hailey but works mainly in Seattle and San Francisco, thanks to the magic of technology. She writes for corporate clients including Holland America, Nordstrom, Starbucks, and Hewlett-Packard on projects ranging from corporate branding to brochures, product naming to package design. This is her first magazine article.