When Brad Conard bought his home in Carrollton’s Leonidas neighborhood a dozen years ago, it had languished on the city’s blighted list for a long time.
Weatherboards were nearly bare, the front porch had been enclosed, and the last two rooms — where the kitchen and bath had been located — had collapsed into the dirt. Conard has spent more than a decade repairing, refurbishing and renewing it into the colorful and artfully idiosyncratic place it is today.
And now he’s walking away, headed to Mexico and a new kind of life.
But before he does, all of his mid-century modern furniture, art deco Chinese rugs, paintings, books, 1960s lamps and carefully curated possessions will be offered at a tag sale today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the home, 8518 Spruce St., and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rain or Shine Estate sales will begin assigning numbers at 8 am.
Conard’s penchant for collecting — art, furniture, rugs, silver or books — found expression early on, when he was still in high school outside of Boston.
“The painting over the bed in the bedroom is the first piece I ever bought, when I was a teenager,” he said. Surrounded by an ornate gold frame, it depicts a young woman musing over a book. “My mother had the brass plaque made for it.”
From that point onward, Conard has educated himself about artists and designers, eagerly consuming every book he could lay his hands on.
One figure who piqued his interest was William Spratling, the one-time Tulane architectural drawing instructor who reintroduced silver making to Taxco and other Mexican towns in the 1920s and 1930s. “Spratling never had any money, and he saw that reinvigorating the silver making tradition in Taxco could become a big business,” Conard said. “He made a lot of money doing it, and then he lost a lot of money. I think he always needed friends to loan him money.”
Conard’s Spratling pieces are collected on a tray for display in the living room, but they are not the only objects by well-known names to be included in the offerings. The best known is likely Clementine Hunter, who painted the picture over the sofa in the living room.
“After Hurricane Katrina, I really wanted a work by Clementine Hunter, but I was concerned about being able to authenticate one. Buying the painting led me to read more and more about her, and one day I found a description of it in a book by Francois Mignon called ‘Plantation Memo,’” Conard said. “It was wonderful to sit in the same room as the painting as I was reading the description. Everything came full circle.”
Those who follow mid-century modern design will find plenty to feast their eyes upon in Conard’s home.
“The china cabinet is Haywood Wakefield, and there are pieces by Gilbert Rohde, Norman Bel Geddes and Paul Frankl,” he said.
Rug collectors will recognize the name Nichols — for Walter Nichols — who popularized the colorful, floral wool rugs made in China in the 1920s. Every room of Conard’s four-room-deep shotgun has at least one of them covering the floor, adding pattern and a range of hues to the composition.
There is little doubt that Conard feels color is essential to making the home uniquely his.
Walls in the living room are painted “acid green” (as he calls it) with wainscoting in a brownish-plum color. Doors to the immense screened porch he built on the side of the house are “rosa Mexicana,” a particularly appealing and deep shade of pink that Conard says is present everywhere in Mexico. The pink and plum paint pick up colors from the Nichols rug in the living room, uniting the color scheme.
The wall, wainscoting, floor and ceiling colors, however, are not the only elements of the house that are nontraditional.
“Because the kitchen and bath had fallen off when I bought the place, I had the freedom of putting them back wherever I wanted them to be,” Conard said. “One friend, Ron Petty, said I should put the kitchen in the front room of the house, in the space that was a closed in porch. It’ll make bringing in groceries easier and you can watch what’s going on in the street while you’re cooking, he said. So the kitchen is in the front room.”
Following Petty’s suggestions, Conard located the bedroom and bath in the rear. Then Karen Gadbois, Conard’s friend and another New Orleanian who has lived full- or part-time in Mexico, gave him advice about the configuration of the bath.
“She said to keep it all open,” Conard explained. “So the clawfoot bathtub is in the middle of the bedroom floor and there is a pedestal sink against one wall. The toilet is in a closet and the shower is outside. The outdoor shower is great — except in the dead of winter. Then a tub bath has to suffice.”
Conard said he has been visiting Mexico since his parents took him there as a child, and has lived in san Miguel de Allende for a period of time. But he has always returned to the states. Now, he will live full-time in Mexico City, where he has an apartment, or perhaps Acapulco.
“There is nothing sad in leaving and selling everything,” he said. “Life is fluid and there is always something new on the horizon.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at rstephanie firstname.lastname@example.org.