Find inspiring home office decor at intimate River Oaks emporium

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The tedious evolutionary nature of design trends is something with which we are all too familiar. Seasonal sprucing allows for a refreshing boost with the addition of certain accessories or the swapping of cushions, but there are some spaces that require a feeling of reassuring consistency: consider the home office. Creativity and productivity are key goals when building a space from which to work, actually work.

With the immediate need for home office spaces literally thrust upon so many a few years ago, the majority of first time home office workers grasped at any one-click purchase that became available — that’s no way to create a pensive atmosphere.

Home offices have recently reentered the conversation when it comes to how people think about their homes. Those who now work from home permanently have decided that the hastily-bought, color-blocked bundles that filled their bookcases in a pinch, just aren’t cutting it any longer. Same goes for the ready made gallery wall art — it’s time to say au revoir.

Nestled only two doors down from Brasserie 19 in the River Oaks Shopping Center, The Antiquarium has numerous options to add authentic, historical pieces that will add character to any home office. Lovers of cartography will rejoice in the rare maps, atlases, and antique globes on offer, but there is so much more.

Specializing in works on paper from 1500-1900, early and first edition books of all sorts mingle amongst framed architectural plans, botanical sketches, and engraved works— like the 1865 illustration of The Inferno made by artist Gustave Doré that my mother picked up one afternoon, destined to become a favorite. There is truly something for everyone, whether a collector or novice.

The shop radiates a sense of warm curiosity that encourages patrons to thoroughly peruse the stacks to see what treasures one may find — no need for expeditiousness here, looky-loos are encouraged. Going on 35 years in business, proprietor Ed Grusnis, along with his son Ian, have solidified The Antiquarium as a true Houston institution. With merely a handful of similar businesses in the country, Grusnis refers to himself and his peers as “The Casanovas of the art world — always hunting for the next treasure.”

When asked about the wave of home office updates (generously referred to as “edits” by Grusnis) trending at the moment, he made an excellent point about what to consider when choosing art and decor for a work space. “You should love it. Because if you love something it will give you inspiration every day. That’s the starting point for any acquisition — it really needs to speak to you. It needs to be something that brings light, every day.”

Although many clients of The Antiquarium are second and even third generation collectors, Grusnis says, “Browsers, when they do come in, if we are introducing them to the gallery, generally speaking, there is surprise and awe that these types of images exist and that you can have them in your home. They really serve as an inspiration.”

Curious about what sells the most, Grusnis immediately says: “Conflicts of the 20th century. Because that’s our personal area of interest. My son and I are very fascinated, but especially the WWII era and that generation of people for sure. But our business is much bigger in terms of Texas history and Texas maps — much, much bigger.”

Since the shop also provides framing and appraisals, Grusnis shares a story about a particularly unusual item that someone brought in for evaluation.

“We had someone come in who brought us something that he wasn’t sure had any value, that his wife insisted he put on the curb. It was a large engraving of Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Paul Girardet (French, 1821-1893). I knew it was original just based off of what it looked like, but the condition was pretty rough. I find out that it’s worth anywhere from $15-20,000 dollars,” he says.

“The guy says, ‘Can you hold on, I want to get my wife from the car so you can tell her that.’ She came in and I told her — she was stone-faced, she wasn’t happy to hear that. I’m sure that was sort of a cold, quiet ride home! But we restored it, we framed it for him, and then we wound up buying it back from him. I sold it to one of my active collectors in a minute and a half — it’s a spectacular piece of American history, and that was the third time it was narrowly saved from a dumpster,” he concludes.

It’s worth mentioning that the provenance of that work is extremely interesting, so be sure to ask about it when stopping by. Grusnis is prepared for just about anything that comes in the door.

“We see treasures on a pretty regular basis,” he says. “We will definitely help people understand what it is and the value. We are very happy to do that.”

Choosing artwork is not something to be rushed; whether beginning a collection, or just looking for a single piece — it’s a process, one especially understood by The Antiquarium’s staff. Should anyone be nervous to take a peek at what lies behind the door? Certainly not, Grusnis says.

“We are very accommodating. We are unusual in the landscape because of what we do. We are welcoming and love to share the history of printing with people. The stories behind these pieces are so important, and we love to share that with people. If your first visit is just to get to know us, second visit is just to see things — that’s great, we love it. Come in and spend time with us. You’re invited for sure!”

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