House Stuff offers affordable secondhand furniture and chalk paints. Photo by Missy Wilkinson
Something interesting is going on IN the furniture scene within a 1-mile footprint in Mid-City. While other showrooms turn out glittering displays of expensive, trend-specific merchandise, three Mid-City furniture stores honor secondhand and salvaged pieces.
From the Art Deco doorknobs at Ricca's Architectural Sales to the rescued hotel minibar cabinets at Canal Furniture Liquidators, the stores offer a tremendous range of products. Individually, they're repositories of good bargains. Together, they make an argument for the value of durable goods.
A visit to one of these stores is like being reunited with our half-remembered dressers and lamps. While those pieces belong to history, there are vanities, bookcases and armoires waiting to furnish our futures.
Ricca's Architectural Sales
511 N. Solomon St., (504) 488-5524; www.riccasarchitectural.com
Julie Ricca, manager at Ricca's Architectural Sales, says her family's store feels like a museum.
"A lot of people bring their kids here. ... We still see people who came in when my grandfather started," she says. "They want to show [the kids] the way things were."
The company's warehouse is a vast collection of early 20th-century artifacts. Chandeliers from various periods crowd the ceiling like a brass and crystal arboretum, while works of stained glass suggest Vincent Van Gogh might have spent a few years moonlighting as a glazier. The more quotidian pieces are almost more striking: from wall sconces to door hinges, each immaculately preserved item reveals the history of American craftsmanship.
Ricca's grandfather Peter founded the company more than 50 years ago to collect and re-sell elements from buildings that were demolished when Poydras Street was widened. Today, the store deals in antique items like cypress shutters, doors and facades. It also creates high-end reproductions of architectural components, like hardware, that have become scarce.
"[When we make reproductions], we use 60 years of architectural experience," Ricca says. "We're using modern technology to improve the product."
3939 Toulouse St., (504) 638-7732; www.facebook.com/housestuffnola
"[At House Stuff], we don't want to compete with Magazine Street," says co-owner Allen Schulkens. He describes the store as a place for "meat and potatoes" pieces for couples setting up starter homes or students furnishing their apartments.
Schulken's modest description downplays the curiosities found in its collection of furnishings and decorative items. Reasonably priced decorative items include Andrew Wyeth posters and Japanese-inspired prints. Furniture ranges from industrial file cabinets to higher-end mid-century modern end tables and dressers. Much of this furniture isn't old enough to be considered antique, but still carries the sleek retro lines of the Mad Men era. These period items are prized by local filmmakers, who snap them up to furnish movie sets.
Schulkens owns the three-year-old business with his wife, Flora, whose family has sold furniture in New Orleans for several decades. Flora helped her family's company transition into heavy furniture sales. Today she serves as the buyer for House Stuff, sourcing items from hotels being redecorated, military bases and estate sales.
This eclectic provenance means a rapidly changing inventory that sometimes surprises Schulkens.
"[The] art collection comes and goes, and once in a while we'll even find and sell appliances," he says. "There's something new every day."
Canal Furniture Liquidators
3534 Toulouse St., (504) 482-6851; www.canalfurnitureliquidators.com
On the two floors of merchandise at Canal Furniture Liquidators, the furnishings of our collective childhoods are on display. In one corner, a giant sectional sofa provides an audience for a 1980s-era keyboard, while in another, an antique maroon loveseat would be at home in any self-respecting grandmother's parlor.
This comfortable bricolage comes from estate and hotel liquidations, the latter yielding a variety of high-quality pieces and matched sets.
"We have really cool stuff from the [remodeling of] the Royal Sonesta Suites right now," co-owner Holis Hannan says. "Hotel furniture is sturdy and it's built to last."
Hannan and her partners purchased the business two years ago. Though the store kept its location and its original name, a redesign refreshed the sales floor and created more space for shoppers and an ever-changing array of goods. Recent acquisitions range from the elegant to the utilitarian, like a collection of deep-fryer baskets and kitchen items from a liquidation of Loubat's restaurant supply company.
Hannan says the store has something for every kind of house, including pieds-a-terre.
"It might be controversial, but Airbnb has kind of blown up lately," she says. "We even have everything for that, from minifridges to sofa beds."