James Campbell bought, sold and restored 19th-century furniture for many years.
After having taught woodworking at a private school, he became a
furniture restorer, often working miracles on dilapidated furniture. In the course of his career, he saw some real disasters, like the clock that had taken a tumble down the stairs or the piece of furniture that had been in an attic for 40 years. "Every piece was there but it had completely fallen apart. It was like a jigsaw puzzle putting it back together again," James says, laughing at the memory.
He and his wife lived in "a big, old farmhouse" in Huntington, Long Island, which was filled with 19th-century furnishings, four-poster beds and the like. But when their children left home, the Campbells sold the 1860 farmhouse, opting for a small cottage, which needed "gut renovation."
Working with architect Peter Lynch, the couple went in a new direction with the cottage, creating a more contemporary aesthetic. The Campbells now happily live in a modern environment interspersed with only a handful of their more treasured antiques.
James' booth, which has been a go-to staple at Hiden for ten years, has undergone a similar transformation. Once filled with 19th-century pieces, today the booth features a mix "moving more toward a retro, international style," James explains.
"I still occasionally buy a piece of 19th-century furniture but the customer base is just not as broad as it once was."
With an MFA in ceramics from Pratt Institute, James brings an artist's eye for shape, form and color to his booth complemented by his Quaker appreciation for functionality. Bold black-and-white tile floors set off electric yellow walls, from which hang an assortment of artwork from the fine to the ephemeral.
A c 1800 engraving after a painting by John Copley of George John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, bordered with a hand-lined mat hangs near an original World War I poster illustrated by Gil Spear for the United War Work Campaign, November 11 to 18. The poster exhorts WORKERS to LEND YOUR STRENGTH TO THE RED TRIANGLE (better known as the YMCA).
With edited eclectism, the booth also features an early 20th-century burnt bamboo shelf with brass finials, which is all original, including the unusual finish; a vintage Art Deco frosted glass swan centerpiece and two mid-century modern metal alloy ice buckets -- one (a West Bend) features a band of embossed marching penguins.
Other finds include: a small teak hanging cabinet with tambour doors; a newly-upholstered, Charles Eastlake walnut corner chair, c1880; and a trio of classic "Hall" type ball pitchers now sitting on a retro, black-topped dinette table with a chrome base evocative of Deco.
"Last month I had some mid-century modern cabinets, which sold right away. The mid-century goes quickly," James says. "People say that I price furniture very well. I price it to sell."
His is a booth that requires a second and a third look because you never know what you'll stumble upon. "I like the eclectism because I think it offers the customers an element of surprise," James says. When asked how to describe his goods, the long-time dealer says, "I try to find things that are just interesting, either of a period or evocative of a period. Everything here is real, as represented, and everything is in good condition -- either nice original condition or nice restored condition."
James Campbell, Hiden dealer #702