At FOF Catherine Del Spina’s Westchester, N.Y., “Apple Hill” residence, the basement is where the magic happens. Furniture, relics and other treasures arrive tattered and worn but leave in pristine condition.
“Here is my latest project,” Catherine says, pointing to an assortment of freshly-painted white chairs and tables.
“I found them at a fire department tag sale. The table looked like crap, the chairs were filthy and broken. One was marked 1909,” she says. “But they were asking $250 for six chairs, a Duncan Phyfe two-leaf dining room table, two wool hooked rugs, two cocktail tables with burl inlay and a large mirror. I said to them ‘It’s not enough, I have to pay you more… so I paid $350.’”
Catherine relishes most what other people have given up on. In her career, her home and her personal life she succeeds because of her ability to see things with different eyes than everyone else. “The Marketing Optometrist,” she calls herself, because during the week she consults with companies like Whole Foods and Walmart helping them obtain “better marketing through sharper vision.”
Then she spends her weekends using that same sharp eye to troll estate sales, world bazaars, markets and antique stores for new treasures to adorn her home.
“How do I find this stuff? I look at it and say ‘Okay, I can fix that!’” Last year, Catherine recovered two “junky, creepy” chairs from a tag sale. “I thought they had good bones,” she says. “I fixed them up and instead of $2,000 per chair I spent a total of $500.”
Even the house itself, built in 1850 and purchased in 1995, is one of Catherine’s rescue missions. “When we bought it, it was completely run-down. There was nothing to it,” she says. Fifteen years and multiple renovations later the house is 2,000 sq. ft. larger than when it was purchased (totaling over 5,000 sq. ft.) and on the market for $2.2 million.
“It’s too big for two people and so much to upkeep,” says Catherine. She’s not sure yet where her next home will be, but says she may start from scratch decorating her new digs.
“I love to do it. But it’s hard… it’s all a part of me,” she says.
Images by Katherine McPherson for FabOverFifty.com