BY Lisa Lindblad

October 17, 2015

Must be getting old…In 1969 I moved to SoHo, a neighborhood inhabited by artists and (still) factory workers.  I was married to a painter, and we moved in to a loft on Broome Street that was so cold, in spite of its space heater, that we wore coats indoors.  For me it was an experiment in living, guided by a man I loved — a creative genius who wrote and filmed and painted.  We dragged into our windowed, tin-ceilinged space, tongue and groove wooden crates from Chinatown, window frames and police barrier planks off the curb.  These, scavenged late night, were repurposed as side tables, interior space dividers, and a wonderful circular dining table that hosted our uptown friends.  My guy painted canvases with lions and panthers and monkeys for window shades.

I was studying anthropology at Columbia University, and set myself up in a loft space above the living area, accessed with a nautical rope ladder. My typewriter – an old Corona that had only upper case capability – was all I could afford.  We were cold, but we were happy.

SoHo in those days was special. Dean & Deluca came in at some point as a deli; Carcanagues, Zona and others came later..each an addition in aesthetic or convenience to those of us who were pioneers.  Each was loved and they, of course, became their own pioneers.

None of that is left.

To have a sense of what it was like for another, please read below.  I rarely repost but I loved this piece and, even though it records an era that was 20 years after mine (yes!), it is fun.


Me, Linds and Dad, Chor Bazaar Bombay, 1979

One person’s collection can be the inspiration.

Two shops that thrived in SoHo New York in the ’90s – Sarajo and Jacques Carcanagues – were mine.

As a youngster starting out in the Asian/world antiques business (pre- Indigo & Ochre Design, before even Circa Trade), Sarajo and Jacques Carcanagues  were the reigning stars in my self-defined field – collector/curator-driven shops I aspired to, and haunted a little.

Back Story:
In the late 90’s I quit my interior design job and went traveling. In Vietnam – my first touchdown in SE Asia – I began buying. Some of those purchases I sent home in hand-sewn bundles with stamps and wax seals, other I tucked in corners of my luggage and we traveled home together.

On home turf, I went shop to shop in SoHo with my Burmese lacquerware and Chinese hat boxes in LL Bean duffels.

me in cochin with baskets

A few kind/receptive souls purchased my wares for their stores (thank you to Distant Origin and now defunct Coconut Company) but I was too intimidated by the (to me) hallowed portals of Sarajo and Jacques Carcanagues to peddle my wares there. There, I gawked.

(This was also the wonderful era of ABC Home as blessed-mess of container loads of randomly priced Indian and Asian antique furniture, where there were still finds to be found. No doubt ABC Home makes more money now, and has a snappier inventory system, but ABC of then was a boon to the bottom feeders.)

jacques_carcanagues_Greene St by Shop Ikon

Sarajo’s founder/owner/buyer Yosi Barzilai and Jacques Carcanagues (himself) had been buying since – it seemed to me – my own infancy. Their collections and breadth were the museums I wanted to visit –  gorgeously exhibited and sometimes seemed more geared to the eager browser than the buyer.

But there must have been buyers (of course) and it was New York and SOHO in the 80’s and 90’s so they found takers. Sarajo’s thing was textiles; Carcanague’s was the larger statement piece, though his collection of lacquerware and fine Chinese furniture was reason aplenty for an extended browse.

While I was utterly cowed by both shops, I was also emboldened. It wasn’t mad to shop for Lao Backpack Baskets, south Indian stone fishing weights, Indonesian royal puppets or textiles that weren’t bedcovers.  Seriously. I was attracted to the same stuff (albeit less provenanced and at a lower price point), as these guys and these guys had massive store fronts in SoHo. And assistants! And cool business cards!

Sarajo in Portland Me - suzani, standing buddha and curiosities cabinet

Sarajo in Portland ME - Antique Indian rosewood bed, Lao frog drum and lovely thing all about

Even as (my) Soho’s glory days of the 90’s waned (for others I realize it was Soho of the 70’s, or the good old 80’s – we each have our era. Probably there’s some soul out there who can’t get enough of Soho circa 2012), the Zona‘s and Pastec‘s shuttered, Sarajo and Jacques Carcanagues held on for a little longer.

In 2007 Sarajo boldly up and moved itself to Portland Me and the beautiful space above. I haven’t been but visit virtually and receive their newsletters blooming with the gorgeousness of their inventory.

(If you have time for a good read about Sarajo and the glory days of shopping in SoHo, this piece from World of Interior’s back page by Alistair McAlpine is wonderful…)

And Carcanagues (profiled in the NY Times about end-of-an-era etc.) moved his inventory onto 1stDibs, eventually shuttering his Greene Street storefront.

So – where does this leave us? Wherefore inspirations?

Where’s the individual eye and collector’s collector gone?

De Vera Crosby Interior by Time Out NY

de_vera_from shop ikon

One contender is De Vera, Federico De Vera’s eponymous shop is an institution in its own right and his collection of Philippine santos stops me in my tracks. De Vera – smart man – appears to have made a real business out of his passions and impeccable eye.

de_vera_from shop ikon

He also makes exquisite jewelry which may be another income stream when the santos are slow to sell? Anyway – he’s a real beacon/inspiration.

Which leaves the independent antique stores, the thrilling (but this year, cancelled for NY – you’ll need to travel to San Francisco) Tribal and Textiles Show and Arts of Pacific Asia Show, the estate auctions of great collectors past.

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Urban Zen Promotes Shopping With A Purpose