by Kathryn Boughton
Designer and antiques dealer Michael Trapp traces his current career to his early family experience.
"My parents couldn't let me take art in high school," he said. "It was a pent-up frustration that exploded in all directions."
Those directions include interior, landscape and architectural design, dealing in antiques and an architectural salvage business. "It's all basically the same kind of thing," he said, "except that I do both inside and outside design, which most people don't do."
His direction in life started early. His military family moved frequently before eventually settling in Ohio where he studied landscape architecture and design. His family was living in Nancy, France, though, when his mother demonstrated her interest in antiques. "There was no money for babysitters," he quipped, "so she would take me along. It was my first exposure to antiques."
It came at a good time. "During that time period, antiques dealers were more connoisseurs of what they selling and they shared the histories of what they had. Today, a lot of dealers are just brokering items and don't know the history behind what they have. Sometimes they are not even interested, which is kind of depressing."
And some buyers are the same. "They are just looking for something to fill a space—but who am I to judge," he said. "Everyone is different."
His job is to make sure that the items he offers for sale—or the items he installs if he is designing the room—are perfect for the spot. Trapp, who began collecting while still living in Ohio, travels the world looking for his treasures. For four months each year, he shuts his West Cornwall shop and goes on his odysseys—to Southeast Asia, India, Turkey, North Africa and Europe where he frequents the large antique markets in Avignon, France.
Today his West Cornwall showroom is packed with elements that can transform any room into a stunning presentation. "I buy things from all over the world and from different time periods," he said. "I love beautiful things—they don't have to be valuable, they just have to be beautiful."
He buys for specific projects or just because the item is appealing to him and his inventory ranges from jewelry to case furniture and everything in between. In the hands of the master, these items can be converted into elegant statements.
For years now, the common wisdom in the antiques trade has been that "brown is down." Young buyers are not interested in vintage furniture. But it is not an insurmountable obstacle for the dealer/designer.
"I think classic antiques are out of favor, but everything constantly recycles," said Trapp. "it's been an interesting summer—we've had a lot of young couples buying houses and buying odd and curious things for them. They seem to be more curious and not completely locked into a mid-century look. They are honestly interested and seem to be enjoying the experience."
He noted that items from different periods and sources can be melded together to create a new harmonious whole—he calls it juxtaposing "old with older to create a timeless environment." Greek pottery and ancient pottery from Turkey might cozy up with a collection of bones. Butterflies and insects can be displayed in antique frames, and vases beg to be filled with tall colorful coral.
Trapp takes on projects as on both sides of the Atlantic—he spent last week working in France and is leaving this week to oversee an installation in Delaware—but the majority of his work is done in the Hudson River valley, Berkshires and the greater New York area.
This cosmopolitan man maintains his headquarters in West Cornwall, while warehousing stock in Sharon, because of his marked preference for country living. "I've only lived in one city, Columbus" he said. "Cities are interesting and fun, but I don't what to live in one."
His shop, located at 7 River Road in West Cornwall, is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11AM to 5PM and during the week by appointment. Phone 860-672-6098 or visit this link www.michaeltrapp.com