Explore A World of Reimagined and Repurposed Treasures
Antiquities Warehouse owner Louise McDermott celebrates the beauty in yesterday’s objects.
By John Roark | Photography by Carl Schultz
Flip over the business card of Antiquities Warehouse owner Louise McDermott and you will find a quotation by painter Camille Pissarro: “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
The thought defines McDermott and the business she has created. The designer began her career as the owner of a sportswear showroom at Chicago’s apparel mart. At the ongoing urging of a longtime tennis partner, she paid a visit to the Valley. “I thought all I would see would be cacti and snakes, but I loved Arizona immediately,” she recalls. “Before I got back on the plane, I had put a down payment on a golf cottage in Gainey Ranch that wasn’t even built yet. What was I thinking? I was in my 30s. My business was in the Midwest. I was a single mother with three young boys. How did I even think I was going to be able to do this? It was probably the smartest dumb thing I ever did.”
After years of shuttling back and forth, McDermott settled permanently in the Southwest. “There was never a plan,” she insists, “It all just sort of happened. I started buying, gutting and renovating older homes in Paradise Valley. I’ve always loved art and antiques. When a house was ready to sell, I’d stage it with things I had found or made and realized that people wanted to buy the decor, not necessarily the houses.”
Upon completing her 33rd renovation, McDermott was ready for a new chapter. “I had filled a small warehouse with items I’d collected over the decades. I had accumulated so much, it made sense to open up shop.”
Five years ago, Antiquities Warehouse was born. Housed in a sprawling 35,000-square-foot building southwest of Sky Harbor International Airport, the business has grown quickly thanks to a vast inventory curated by McDermott and managed by a staff of eight. From rusted machinery components to carvings culled from demolished New York City skyscrapers, relics spanning decades and continents crowd the floor and are suspended from the rafters above.
“I’m on the lookout everywhere I go,” McDermott says, “I also have sources all over the country who keep an eye out for me. The people who have the coolest things call us now. If I see something really unique, I’ll take it.”
McDermott’s gift lies in her ability to see objects not as they are, but as they could be. She enjoys not only the thrill of the hunt but also bringing new life to the cast-off, overlooked and mundane. Under her direction, a slab of reclaimed wood paired with a piece of oxidized machinery becomes a stylish, functional, one-of-a-kind table. A battered industrial cart is retrofitted with an antique butcher block top and transformed into a kitchen island. A public library card catalog finds unconventional purpose as a bathroom vanity. The possibilities are unlimited.
“For Louise everything is instinctual,” says business manager Robert Pargmann. “Sometimes a shipment will arrive and I’ll cock my head as we’re unloading, thinking, ‘What in the world are we going to do with all of this?’ But her vision is spot-on. I don’t second-guess her ideas on repurposing anything.”
Plantscape designer and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Craig Pearson agrees. “Louise puts things together that I would never think of, and the results are always surprising and awesome,” he says. “She’s a bold person to step out of the comfort zone and create things that are unusual and totally different. What she’s creating is great, unforgettable style.”
SHOW ME THE DOOR
Of the thousands of items comprising the Antiquities Warehouse inventory, doors are the No. 1 seller, says the store’s owner, Louise McDermott. With countless choices in every conceivable style and configuration, from elevator to barn to carriage, portals are popular.
“I think people have grown tired of standard-issue doors. Replacing them with something unique and unexpected can bring character, personality, warmth and romance to your home,” McDermott says. “Even when antiques have been refurbished and installed, they still have a patina and feeling that you can’t manufacture. Why settle for ordinary when you can have artwork?”
When it comes to choosing, McDermott stresses that there are no rules. “Don’t worry about everything matching, and don’t feel constrained by the architecture of your home. Today we are less concerned about themed, defined styles. Eclectic is good, and it transcends labels and time.”