23 May 2009

Merci and Memorial Antiques & Interiors

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Blogs reacquaint people. I should know: when I once wrote about my brother-in-law’s ranch, I received a tentative email from someone wanting to know if I was related to her ex-husband. I was. After almost 30 years, my blog brought me back in touch with a former sister-in-law who is now a great friend. And even better – we discovered we are a lot alike – share many interests (besides the Webb boys) and would have made great sister-in-laws, though probably dangerous together around credit cards. Then there was this other long lost friend (another Webb boys fan!) who reconnected with me from reading Cote de Texas. I’m sure there are other anonymous readers out there who knew me in my former life. Which brings me to today’s subject. After I once showed a picture of my mother, the famous Betty-Rae, on the blog, I received an incredulous email from a reader when she recognized my mom - “I didn’t know that YOU were Cote de Texas!” she said. Yep, tis me, believe it or not. This latest reader to recognize me was actually my pledge leader in my high-school sorority (only in Texas) – but since she is three years older than me, we weren’t really close friends. Today though – those three years might as well be as meaningful as three days. Bonnie, my former pledge leader, excitedly told me she had been reading the blog for a while and had no clue that I was writing it until she recognized my mother’s picture. We started exchanging emails and discovered, of course, that we share a love of design and antiques – and made tentative plans to get together which never materialized. Until the other day, when Bonnie “kidnapped” me – an adult and more mature version of our high-school sorority high-jinks. I was told only what day to meet her, not where, and she said to be sure to bring my camera. We were to meet early enough to take care of business and still have time for lunch afterwards.

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I have said it before and people find it hard to believe, but the truth of the matter is I am an extremely shy person who spent the first ten years of my life hiding behind my mother’s skirts – literally and figuratively. It’s a type of personality flaw that I have worked very hard at overcoming and like to pretend that I have, to some extent. But spending three hours, making witty small talk with someone I never really knew all that well to begin with, is enough to send me running back behind those comforting skirts. As it turned out on my “kidnapping” day – like it always does – my shyness was never an issue. Bonnie is so outgoing, warm and gracious, that I need not have worried about keeping up my side of the conversation – she’s a natural at making people feel comfortable and she worked her magic on me. Naturally, I had a great time. So, where did she kidnap me to?

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The night before our date, I was told to meet her at Memorial Antiques and Interiors, a relatively new upscale antique mall – that is all the buzz with both dealers and customers. Bonnie knew, of course, that I had been there before, but what she wanted to personally show me was her own newly opened booth, Merci. Bonnie Likover and her partners, Tami Saragusa and Marci Alvis have jumped feet first into the antique business and Bonnie was anxious to show it off and I don’t blame her! Their booth certainly stands out: antique gates surround the front, replicating the feel of a small cottage instead of sterile mall space. Fortuny-styled curtains from Groves Brothers break up the shop into different rooms. Given the name Merci – the atmosphere is definitely French – even their logo is a Fleur de Lis. The standout of the booth is an antique bombe chest repurposed into a sink, complete with gorgeous Sherle Wagner hardware. The chest is surrounded by pink silk curtains and a needlepoint rug – anyone in the market for a ready made powder room, need look no further!

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The Merci trio has plans to periodically change the main vignette around – from the powder room to, perhaps, a boudoir. And what a great idea that is to distinguish themselves from their neighbors – evolving “rooms.” After we toured Merci, Bonnie walked me around the very busy and bustling MAI (absolutely no recession here!) and introduced to me to everyone there – you would have thought I was Arianna Huffington, or more accurate, Erma Bombeck, the way Bonnie was carrying on. But it was so much fun meeting people there, especially those who read the blog. More than once, I actually caught a shopper shoot me a glance when she recognized me. THAT was a very humbling experience, to say the least. But MAI is exactly the place that readers of Cote de Texas would be lurking about. Take me to Monster Trucks and Motorcycles, Inc. and I don’t think the reception would be quite the same.

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While Bonnie and I were walking around, I noticed that there are new dealers everywhere, but not new faces. These dealers are all well known to shoppers – they’ve just jumped shipped from their various previous locations and landed here, the hottest antique mall in Houston. Dodson and Culp – has a booth here now. The Two Lucy’s are here now too – and boy does their booth look fantastic! After the tour of MAI, Bonnie treated me to lunch next door – where our middle aged hormones got the best of us. I was so hot I was worried I was going to spontaneously combust right in the booth. We caught up on thirty plus years of gossip and made plans to meet up again soon. All in all – it was a great day, great fun, great antiques, and great company! Thank you so much Bonnie.

P.S. If you are reading Cote de Texas and you knew me from when I was just plain Joni Cohen, or Frizzball/and or Bozo, and not some hotsy-totsy blogger – please, please, please – don’t be shy (like moi!) and send me an email – I’d love to catch up with you, too!!!

Below are some images from the day. Enjoy!

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Welcome to Merci! Look how cute their sign is – made out of antique encaustic tiles from Europe.

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Merci is separated from its neighbors by wonderful antique iron gates.

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The booth is set up like a cozy cottage. The living area is first, then past the curtains, is the powder room. Next, there are plans to set up the back vignette like a boudoir. The curtains are Fortuny-inspired Groves Brothers – I love that fabric house!!

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The “powder room” at Merci is ready to take home for some lucky person. Silk pink curtains with green lining hangs over the bombe chest – complete with a gold sink and faucet – all from Sherle Wagner –veddy nice!!!! Even a matching needlepoint rug is available to complete the room.

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Sherle Wagner makes the most gorgeous hardware. Here, pink quartz was used for the lever handles. Just beautiful!

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Bonnie Likover - my newly reacquainted friend - is busy with paperwork at Merci. Isn’t she beautiful? Would you believe her eldest son is 30 years old? I can’t believe it either. After we toured Merci, Bonnie took me around MAI to meet other booth owners:

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This booth greets customers at the front door of MAI. It sets the tone for what is inside –a large mall filled with lots of French antiques, lots of white and bleached woods, a smattering of Swedish and Belgian design, and masses of great looking merchandise.

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If you’ve been at that other antique mall inside the loop in Houston, you may have noticed (who could miss it?) that Dodson and Culp have flown the coop. Thankfully, they’ve landed here at MAI. I almost had an anxiety attack the other day, when I saw that these two veteran antiquarians had shuttered their former location. But, all is well – they’re still in business and going strong with two booths at MAI.

And a note to that “other” antique mall inside the loop. Maybe, just maybe, if you didn’t have that stern sign at the door forbidding taking pictures of ANY kind, you might get more blogger attention. Why would an antique store that caters to designers refuse to let you take pictures? I don’t understand that at all. What if I saw a wonderful armoire and wanted to email a picture of it to a client? There’s a reason why MAI and Antiques & Interiors on Dunlavy (owned by the super friendly Mona Dees, with help by her even more friendlier son) get all the blogger attention. Never once have I been asked not to take pictures in either place. Thank you to both MAI AND Antiques & Interiors on Dunlavy!

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This booth always has great merchandise – I have my eye on that lantern. For some reason, I am obsessed with antique French lanterns these days. The sconces are favorites of mine too.

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This vignette has a Belgian feel. The mirrors are incredible. It really takes a good eye for display to pull all these disparate items together and create something so visually pleasing.

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This lamp was one of my favorite finds of the day. When sweet Paloma blogged about this lamp (here) – there were still two available. The color of the glass is incredible – it’s actually a sort of minty blue and the perfect gold Paris label isn’t too shabby either.

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This booth caught me eye – I’m a sucker for a white slipcover and seagrass.

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Combine Rose Tarlow, French rush seats, and Kenneth Turner candles – and you’ll get my attention. The Two Lucy’s are now selling their European wares at MAI – in a huge space that really shows off all their merchandise to perfection.

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More Lucys: I have never seen a French grape basket this large – it’s fabulous.

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Even more Lucys: The French armoire hiding on the left is beautiful and that long bench would be great at a dining room table.

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And even more Lucys: The largest collection of antique apothecary jars I’ve seen in one spot. I love to use these when I am accessorizing client’s shelves.

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And one last Lucys: Their furniture is really first rate as you can see here with a beautiful wine tasting table, casually paired with a French cabinet, and a wonderful day bed. That blue door would be great to use inside at a bar or a butler’s pantry.

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Le creme de le creme of MAI: Liz Spradling’s booths. Spradling’s array of merchandise certainly is large enough to open her own antique store, but she prefers to show out of MAI. Her antiques are superb - the finest quality. Mostly French, with some English, I’m a little prejudiced about Spradling - you can’t help but fall in love with each piece here. Notice the rare antique stair model placed on the chair’s seat. Bill Blass collected these models and I certainly can understand why. What I would give to have a few of these (well, I know what I would give, but I just don’t have it to give!) Even her wine bottles are special – I adore the golden labels with the Roman numerals written on them. Spradling’s eye is impeccable and it shows in every piece in her booth.

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Another staircase model. An notice how beautiful this table is, how graceful the legs and bonnet is.

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A wonderful collection of intaglios hang on the walls. Notice the graceful proportion of the back of the sofa – just beautiful. And, to the right – gorgeous library stairs are not to be missed.

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The screen hanging on the wall is as rare as it is beautiful. And yet another set of library stairs!! I only wish I had the library to go with these – I would buy these in a heartbeat (if I won the lotto, that is.)

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There’s something at every price point – wonderful white vases let you take home a piece of Spradling if you can’t afford the bigger items.

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And last – these antique French wing chairs with brown and white checks ala Ginger Barber really appeal to me. Notice too the beautiful table between the chairs – perfection! Spradling carries a large variety of iron sconces with European shades.

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One final goodie – something that Bonnie and I just went crazy for – Embellishments is a main presence at MAI, famous mostly for their pillows and other soft goods. But this piece is really special. They take your collection of treasured baby clothes and make a quilt out of them!!!! Isn’t this the most fabulous idea? I do have to confess, that thanks to her grandmothers Betty Rae and Mary, my Elisabeth was the best dressed baby, maybe ever to have lived. Seriously. She was one spoiled granddaughter. When I saw this I could have kicked myself for not saving her beautiful smocked and monogrammed dresses!!!!! You should have seen her first Hanukkah dress I had custom made for her – in black cotton velvet and ecru Alençon lace. If I happened to have given you that dress – would you please return it, anyone????? Where IS that dress????? ha-ha!!!

To visit Merci and all the other shops at Memorial Antiques and Interiors, please find all the vital information here.

53 comments:

  1. Joni - This was really sweet and your gracious nature just shines right through your words.

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  2. Hi Joni...how neat to find a long lost acquaintance again! Love all the pics and I really liked those brown and white wingbacks!
    Susan

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  3. JONI!
    I've missed you --sorry I've been away having a baby! But, your day sounds perfectly wonderful!! I am in love with the staircases. If I'm ever in Houston I will have to check this place out it looks awesome!

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  4. isn't it amazing how our blogs connect us to people in ways we never could have imagined, when we started writing them? and isn't being recognized a hoot? while walking my dog the other day, a complete stranger asked "you write a blog, don't you?"- kinda surreal.

    thanks for the sweet story.

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  5. * It's kind of "EMBARRASSING" to always want to say "your best/most interesting/most fabulous ever", etc... EVERYTIME I come here, but it's so true!!!

    My heart was SMILING at the thought of your warm, endearing "reunion", and my checkbook started WILTING as I gave it that HOPEFUL STARE after seeing everything "available", & wanting to "start over"!!!

    Thanks as ALLLLWAYS, Joni~~~
    Warmly,
    Linda in AZ *

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  6. Dear Joni,
    This antique centre is incredible - i would find it hard to contain myself amongst all those beautiful objects. That double wicker basket....I would adore that and have been looking here for ages for one. (I don't think I am up early enough to compete with the dealers!)
    it sounds like a happy day meeting Bonnie - the joys of the blog world. Gorgeous post as always, xv.

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  7. I could do a lot of credit card damage in a place like that... Good thing it's several states and hundreds of miles away!

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  8. Love this post Joni! How fun to meet up with old friends because of the blog! What a fabulous antiques market! Makes me what to go unpack more boxes as I see some of my pretties in the photos! Poo on the shop that won't let you take photos...what are they thinking?!

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  9. First of all it is hard to imagine you as shy because you are so open and witty on Cote de Texas! Sounds like Bonnie picked the perfect way for the two of you to reacquaint. Thanks so much for sharing all the details with us. Gorgeous.

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  10. Joni!
    So much fun to meet up with a person from the past that will surely be one of your special friends! This store has so many goodies, I can tell it would be a place that I would love to hang out.

    Don't be shy...you silly goose. You are lots of fun (as far as I can tell from here!). One day, just one day, I am going to surprise you and come for a visit. I have not found or heard of anything like this in Atlanta...maybe someone out in bloggyland could enlighten me!

    Blessings....
    xo

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  11. Humanity and fantastic antiques--all in one post! That's why I enjoy your blog so much. It's hard to believe you are shy after following your blog for a few years. I ran into a former college classmate last night and it brought back such great memories. It reminded me that although life get's busy for everyone, I need to do better at keeping in touch with friends near and far. Deborah

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  12. "Shy Joni"

    Caught you in the mirror of the Spradling booth taking a picture of the exhibit - "peut-etre" it is good to be shy if one can write such inviting prose that captivates an audience such as you now have. Thanks for your marvelous ability in keeping me interested in all that is happening in the design world.

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  13. fun, fun, fun, that is my kind of day... I just wish we had a place like that anywhere in this one horse town to shop...you are a luck girl.

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  14. Joni,
    What a day! I can't believe the selection you all have in Houston. It is amazing! So lucky. Once again thanks for the great tour and so glad your blog has added such amazing surprises to your life!

    angela

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  15. How fun for you to hang out with a former class mate! What a fabulous mall! Next time I'm in Houston...
    Thanks for the great post.

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  16. Love that you met an old friend...such fun! The place has me drooling...just don't have those type venues in coastal N.C.!!!

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  17. Lately I have found it is Two Degrees of Separation not Six! I would love that periwinkle and yellow throw with the trim from Miss Merci's shop, I wonder if it is still available?

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  18. This was such a great post! I wish we had the client base in Los Angeles to support such a gorgeous collective (mid-century is still really "in")--as a long-time dealer, I lust over so many of those photos--at the same time they leave me so inspired. Merci.

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  19. How special to get reacquainted with a former friend. Such a fabulous shop. Just lovely. Hugs, Marty

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  20. What a nice story of finding lost friends. And what a beautiful place in which to hold a reunion!! All that French loveliness in one building?!?! I would go into serious sensory overload. Thanks for giving me something else to add to my "Texas trip" itinerary!

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  21. Joni - as always it's such a pleasure to read one of your posts. How lovely that you had a reunion with Bonnie. This mall in Houston is beckoning me from Dallas....

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  22. Ohh..looks like such a fun time, so many beautiful things! I'm glad you reconnected with a friend :0) That's always fun lol... "hotsy totsy" that's so funny haha, Thanks for sharing all your wonderful pics..I just love coming here!

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  23. I am so jealous! I hate to feel like I am betraying my my hometown, but I think maybe I should live in Houston!

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  24. What a treat. I love the chocolate and white checked chairs too! What is up with not allowing photos. My sister and I wondered about that the entire time we were in Round Top. Are we going to copy the antiques? hmmmm. But we did notice that the higher-end places didn't care as much as the lower-end (warrentown). It's a mystery. I am glad you had a fun day.
    Bethany

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  25. What a great thing these blog's ....you meet and are reintroduced to people who you have a conection with! A wonderful way to connect people while sharing a love of home & family!
    Have a good weekend, & the antique mall seems like a Houston must do!
    Leslie

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  26. you are so lucky...you have such great shop/venders available to you.

    houston shoppers must be incredibly sophisticated.

    xx

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  27. Joni takes fabulous pictures, writes beautifully and is so much fun to shop with. We had so much fun exploring MAI together. She has an incredible skill for scanning at lightning speed and finding the most delicious thing.
    If any of you covet something you saw in the blog, please get in touch by private email and I'll see if I can help.bonlike@swbell.net
    While we were shopping, one girl even stopped Joni to see her fabulous snakeskin boots...

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  28. What a fun shopping/browsing trip, Joni. How fun to connect with an old acquaintance and renew a friendship.

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  29. Great mall stroll , Joni :
    so good to see the recession hasn't
    hit the shoppers in Houston -

    Jjjj

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  30. ooooh lala! I'm just dying here! this is EXACTLY what i've been looking for. I can't seem to find just the "right" lamps lately and i think i see a pair in one of the first photos! thanks for sharing and i must confess that i visit your blog almost daily. it feels like a spontaneous excursion to europe! you are the BEST! I'm off to find this place now!

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  31. Joni, what a great story and what a wonderful shop! Thanks for sharing. I wish this was close to me! I'd love to shop at a place like this!

    XO,

    Sheila :-)

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  32. PrettyPrettyPretty

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  33. I loved your tour of MAI, Joni! You have some serious photography skills now. Did you use your new wide angle lens? The pictures are beautiful. It looks like I may have to pay MAI a visit again soon. Several of the booths look different from when I visited just a few weeks ago.

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  34. Shy? I would have never guessed that - but how sweet of you to share such a heart warming story.
    You touch many with your love for treasures.
    Wishing you well and many more wonderful connections via your blog.
    pve

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  35. How fun to connect with old friends! I love it when that happens on facebook too!

    Did you buy that Paris lamp Joni? It certainly was a shop full of wonderful treasures, thanks for the tour!

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  36. How fun! What an amazing thing to reconnect with a friend and to find out you have so much in common! Thanks for beautiful post. I heart Merci.

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  37. Yikes. This made me want to go shopping! Those library stairs!! Lust!

    I don't think I know you from an earlier time, but I do think we could probably kidnap each other and have a gloriously fun day!!

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  40. gallianhome.com said...
    Thanks Joni for the blog on MAI. We are so glad that Bonnie, Tami, Marci, Kathy, Dodson and Culp are all at MAI with their beautiful things. We love all of the customers and designers that shop at MAI and we all have a great time working together to make MAI the place to shop for beautiful antiques. Photos are a must. Being a designer myself, I say click away. Katie

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  41. Just to let you know...I recently discovered we were separated at birth and I am moving to Houston to live with you...so I can enjoy all the beautiful things you have there!!!

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  42. What a fun story! Loved hearing how you were reunited with yet another friend from the past. This antique mall is amazing - not your typical "dish mall" for sure!! One day I am going to make it to Houston and visit all these incredible shops you have!!

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  43. I love the booth with the seagrass and white slipcover and charcoal drawings. You are so lucky to have so much at your disposal.

    What a fun meeting, too! I'm sort of afraid who'll find me so I stay rather incognito. ;-)

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  44. Wonderful story about our MAI!

    We are loving the new dealers that have joined us this month....the shop really is like a mini trip across the pond. We've a terrific mix of goodies! Hope to see you again soon, Deborah, Faded Rose Antiques @ MAI.

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  45. great to hear this story !
    thanks for sharing these beautiful spots with us.

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  46. I would love to find a place like that here in the D/FW area. I know there are some amazing french antique stores in Dallas but, I never seem to make it over there. Now I am motivated to get out there! Loved the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

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