The New York Times Magazine Profiles Fuller + Roberts

The Long Good Buy

Photographs by Michael Elins

Show room Items from Robert Trachtenberg’s office in the window of Fuller & Roberts Company in Los Angeles.
After 24 years in the same rent-controlled apartment that I had used as my office (but absolutely not as a mortuary or dental practice, which everyone knows is against code, if you’re reading this, L.A. Housing Department), I got the heave-ho when the owners informed me that they needed the place for family. Having been in this one spot for so long, I actually began to look forward to moving, exploring a new part of town, and even gave some mild thought to deaccessioning some pieces I had collected over the years. On my first day of packing, however, I found a New Yorker cartoon that helped me make up my mind. It showed an old man lying on his deathbed. Looking up at a visitor, he says, “I should have bought more crap.”

The sentiment touched me deeply, so I called my friend Scott Roberts of Fuller & Roberts Company, an antiques shop in West Hollywood. I had thought it through logically: I love his taste, he’s got to love mine; he’ll sell what I’m not going to miss; and I’ll be able to buy more new old stuff. When he arrived to look at my things, though, I was struck with remorse over breaking up what I thought was a very cool assortment of urbane furniture and accessories. Half-jokingly, I told him, “You should just recreate my office in your window.” Oddly, he immediately agreed to do just that.

Move on Before vacating his office, Trachtenberg put his feet up one last time.
So for a little while longer, if I drive up and down La Cienega Boulevard, I get to see the desk I bought off a security guard when I was photographing Minnie Driver at a deserted meatpacking warehouse. Or the lamp someone was clever enough to create from a beautiful pearl gray cathode ray tube. Or the gold crown I always worried was not really early 19th century but early Universal Studios prop department. Luckily on that one Jeffrey Smith, vice president of furniture and decorative arts at Bonhams auction house, confirmed that it was in fact, “a wonderful example of a gilt wood baldachin from the 19th century in the form of a ducal coronet harking back to medieval times.” Whew.

The mirror framed by delicately carved wood feathers came from an old lady who had lived next door to my mother. She had decided to have an estate sale but not let anyone in the apartment except Mom. This was before camera cellphones, so my mother described a few pieces, and I chose wisely, but phonetically. For some reason, I ended up with two identical limited-edition Fornasetti plates and an Hermès scarf no woman I knew was either willing or able to use properly.

Now, I could bang on about how we don’t really own anything, we just borrow it for a time, and how freeing it all feels, but in truth this was just a lot easier than selling on eBay or Craigslist, especially since Scott sent a truck. I didn’t mention it to many people, wondering if they’d notice. And sure enough, a friend called from his car: “You said you wouldn’t mind moving to a storefront office, but don’t you think you went too far?”

 ROBERT TRACHTENBERG | OCTOBER 31, 2011, 10:46 AM

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