Savoring So Cal Style: A Conversation with Collector Anne Gilchrist

For Southern California-based collector Anne Gilchrist, the hunt to find the perfect pieces for her own home led her on a design journey that has honed her eye, introduced her to beloved friends, and gave her vision and creativity a super chic outlet.

“You can create a personal atmosphere almost anywhere.  With a stamp of your own personality your house won’t be a carbon copy of any other in the world” – Billy Baldwin

Anne Gilchrist got her start collecting in the most organic way possible – designing her own home. “I started when I was newly married and decided I wanted to create an interesting home.  I have always loved moving items around, studying design, roaming the stores and historic homes. I dabbled in design for a short time but found more joy in simply collecting and creating vignettes at home or helping a few others.”

Learning which elements of the design process resonated with her and spoke to her strengths was an important part of her journey and introduced her to some inspiring people along the way. “Looking at fabrics seemed to induce headaches!  It was not for me, but I do love roaming antique stores. The late, legendary Gep Durenberger was a go-to person in San Juan Capistrano – you never knew who you would meet there. Gep was quite the talented, wonderful gentleman. I happily have some of his chic pieces. Once Bill Blass was there and we had a fun chat.”

With a love of design and a natural talent for creating stunning rooms, Anne took her personal collecting to the next level by joining forces with designers to form an antique/decorative arts partnership which led to her creation of “The Decorative Arts Studio” in Southern California.

“Once in La Jolla I met a fun designer (formerly from San Francisco), and we decided to join forces and an antique/decorative arts partnership began.  We had such fun on antiquing excursions…sometimes purchasing items together, sometimes not. It was a wonderful time. We rented our space in a lovely collective, then were asked to branch off with a small group.  We started “The Decorative Arts Studio” and would have gatherings and showings whenever we wished. Designers and collectors, of course, were our target group. Later, we were part of another small collective that was very well followed.  That sadly closed.  We sold at “C’est La Vie” a wonderful provincial shop in Encinitas for several years.  What wonderful times those were! A few of us also participated in several antique shows, one of which was the well-regarded CALM Show in Santa Barbara.  It was hard work, but I must say our area was quite smashing, and fun to be so well-received!”

In her own home, Anne embraces classic design elements while avoiding drab colors. “I love symmetry, classic design, and mixing things. Antiques with contemporary art are not only the latest look but a good one, at that!  Pairs of lamps and wall sconces always sold at our places. I steer away from “brown furniture” unless it’s wonderful with good lines and patina. I am loving Gustavian pieces or the look (with the help of talented faux artists), and Chinoiserie makes my heart skip a beat – be it black or red.  One of my favorite pieces is a pair of Coromandel screens I have.  One is (I believe) a large 19th Century in brown in my living room behind a French settee, and another is a very old red one in our entry hall behind a wonderful painted chest.  The two painted items work well together.”

Her love of a classic look extends to the architecture of a home itself as well as the design elements contained inside. “I am, I guess, old-fashioned and still love ROOMS…not open spaces. I love homes with center halls, high ceilings, moldings and French doors. Edith Wharton’s “Decoration of Houses” has great details even now, for how to create a beautiful home.”

For those looking to add antiques and vintage pieces into the home, she offers this sage advice. “Find one or two significant pieces and go from there. Buy what you love, and love what you buy.  If you make a mistake, sell it, donate it, hide it!” Once the pieces are in the home, she suggests “I found that grouping pieces  together makes them seem more important: like colors, like materials.  I have a grouping of silver object on a black lacquer sewing box on a stand, that looks great, then another grouping of black chinoiserie lacquerware boxes, objects on opposite round table covered with draped cloth.” For Anne, some of her ideal shopping destinations for vintage and antiques include, “auctions, estate sales, shows, antiques stores/malls, and of course The Local Vault!”

Seasonality is another element to keep in mind when designing one’s home. “I love editing around  throughout the year.  Summer brings a lighter look, more white objects with ferns instead of flowers. Sisal rugs replace Oriental, a change in pillows also helps give a refreshed look.  Give some pieces a “rest”  for a while..switch it up, so to speak.  Even art can move around!”

Creating a warm and inviting environment for entertaining is also kept in mind when considering design and décor in her space. “My favorite part is setting the table- creating a different look each time with collections gathered around the house to place down the table amidst plants, or flowers in bud vases. I have a large collection of blue and white Chinese Export ware…I often use some of those pieces since they pair well with the Canton arranged on the walls.  It makes a lovely cohesive look. Sometimes I use fruit or vegetable instead of flowers, whenever the mood strikes. Porcelain birds are a favorite.  Just have fun with it…and please, make sure not to block your guest’s view across or down the table.  Nothing higher than your elbow on the table is my rule and abundant candlelight.  Dim the artificial lighting, create your personal touch.”

Three Questions with Collector Anne Gilchrist

TLV: Favorite travel destinations for design?

AG: In America, I have spent a lot of time in New England…staying in Marblehead Ma. with my mother (she lived there in her teens), and my antique dealer sister.  We would drive up the coast through so many states and shop in our favorite antique stores and haunts.  The thrill of the hunt was always on the day’s agenda.  One of the items used to be collecting tole trays.  Those that had a good chippendale shape, but bad painting would be turned into fabulous pieces by my faux painters.

New Orleans has great antiquing, Charleston a favorite especially Drayton Hall Plantation, Santa Barbara, namely Carty and Carty in Montecito, William Laman for antiques and newer chic items and Country House Antiques for their incredible painted furniture and accessories.

New York: Love the Frick Collection and the Met.

TLV: Some all-time favorite designers?

AG: Billy Baldwin, Axel Vervoordt,  Jeffrey Allan Marks (When I chaired The Historical Showcase house with my partner, we asked him to design the living room…quite a talent).  Charlotte Moss, Suzanne Rheinstein to mention a few.

TLV: Go to Hostess gift?

AG: I try not to give scented candles…I receive so many…most of which I don’t use.  One’s home fragrance is a very personal taste.  A good bottle of wine, something edible, attractive notepaper, etc.  Consumables seem to be the best.  And please, no flowers upon arrival! Also, Hudson Grace has fun cocktail napkins and other interesting items for the home.


Click here to shop from Anne’s personal collection, exclusively on TLV.

Thanks, Anne!

Text by Liana Hayles Newton / Photos Courtesy of Anne Gilchrist

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