Venetian tables, French mirrors, Scandinavian chests, old Roman maps, Aubusson tapestries and… a Scarlet Ibis named Ignatius consort at Nufangle Fine Antiques & Whimsy
The massive bronze lion sculpture created by a 20th-century Brutalist artist, more charming than menacing as it stalks in the window of Nufangle, is your first hint that this is not your garden-variety antiques shop. Like this character-laden piece, its mistress is equally quirky and eager to share the colorful stories of her pieces. Since Trish Headley opened her shop on the antiques-lined block at 45th Street and State Line Road six years ago, she has traded in an array of intriguing objects that began with classic American antiques and folk art. However, the shop soon evolved with inventory that reflects her current tastes — a continental mix of Italian, French, Spanish and Scandinavian antiques — with devotional objects thrown in for good measure and scads of glimmering antique mirrors and chandeliers. Headley shrugs at the giant lion in her window, stating, “Well, if you have the word ‘whimsy’ in your shop name, you have to deliver some!”
This lion came from an estate in Rome but was purchased in Naples. And Naples was also the source of the unrelated but equally large-scale animal in Headley’s second shop space, just a few doors down. There, a 19th-century copper elephant that once cavorted in a Roman garden enjoys pride of place as part of her mini menagerie. “You need to have some scale and drama,” says Headley, who was in the process of unpacking her latest 40-foot container of treasures purchased from Europe. She takes several buying trips a year to France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Scandinavia to source the objects in her store, preferring to “kick the wood” herself rather than rely on buyers.
At the moment, she is especially enamored of the craftsmanship, art and architecture of Italy. Likewise, her shop spaces are crammed with Italian antiques: a pair of early 18th-century Venetian console tables with their original sky-blue paint; a handsome and very long refectory table from a monasterium; a pair of twisty and one-of-a-kind gilt-wood candelabras; a small Florentine chest, and original 19th-century blueprints, signed and sealed, of a bridge meant to replace the famed ancient Ponte Rotto “broken bridge” of Rome, spanning the Tiber River. However, this latter find will be gone by the time this story goes to press — the blueprints have already been promised to a collector in L.A. It is this kind of object that Headley revels in with her academic lust for interesting pieces (she thoroughly researches her artists, pieces and periods) and eye for fine detail.
Interestingly, Headley was once a successful option trader for a hedge fund, but a joint university degree in economics and library sciences points at her right- and left-brain proclivities. It is not such a vast leap from stock market to antiques market when you grow up in Houston, as Headley did, with a mother who was an avid antiques collector and dealer. “Our family trips were arranged around antique shows, fairs and shops. And when I went away to college, every year I would return home to a different decor, from Victorian to High Country to something else,” she says. The precocious Headley learned fast and trained her eye. A hunt for the value stock becomes a hunt for the valued object. “I tell my friends to buy antiques because if you change your mind later, you can always get your money back out of them. They don’t depreciate like cars and other things,” she says.
Headley gravitates to unique things with a patina or a story to tell and, like her shop, she prefers interiors that mix objects, styles and periods for a “collected look.” She explains, “Antique chandeliers and mirrors cut the coldness of a modern decor, while contemporary art cuts the saccharine quality of antiques.” She and her husband are currently remodeling a traditional red-brick Georgian that, naturally, she does not plan to fill with matching English or American 18th-century antiques, but instead a mélange of objects from primarily Italy and Scandinavia. A very rare 16th-century, Italian wooden column with carved putti at the base, now in her shop, may become a statement piece in her new home. “I tell my customers to buy things you love and that have distinct personas and then they will all go together.”
Her shop, filled with European furnishings with provenance, the glamour of crystal chandeliers, religious statuary, old maps, a Grand Tour souvenir of a miniature Indian palace, a wooden children’s carousel horse, altar sticks and antique architectural drafting instruments is evidence of her eclectic design philosophy. Of the latter objects, Headley states, sometimes you aren’t looking for things, but they find you. Somehow I ended up with several compasses from the 16th to 19th centuries. One is not that interesting, but five is a collection!”
Just don’t get attached to the taxidermied Scarlet Ibis, purchased from a New York library with a curiosity-cabinet décor and named Ignatius by its prior owner — because he has already been sold. But chances are there’s another container of one-of-a-kind finds set to arrive at Nufangle at any moment. When I liken the Ibis to a pink flamingo in its color, Headley exclaims, “Oh, I actually saw a pink flamingo that I would love to buy, but I can’t get it through customs…”
Nufangle Fine Antiques & Whimsy is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1707 W. 45th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 931-0021, nufangleantiques.com