Friday, September 24, 2010

Bobby, Dorothy, and the little 19th c. Italian Writing Desk

Once upon a time there was a lovely little Italian Writing desk. It had the perfect, chippy patina of gold paint and midnight blue. It had curves, it had hand carvings, it had....well, you can see for yourself.

Enter Dorothy Blum Cooper -- the talented and successful Southern photographer from Louisiana who relocated to Louisburg, North Carolina, post-Hurricane Katrina. If you are not familiar with Dorothy's work, I invite you to take a look at her website. Her photos are works of art that capture the human spirit. In her words:

Dorothy is truly one of the most talented artists I've met and her support and inspiration (and pep talks!) have been a guiding light to me ever since I started my design business. She was one of the very first people who saw my work and validated it. For me, her support has been invaluable. Here is some of Dorothy's work which leave me breathless each time I see them:

Dorothy has also a wonderful photo series on New Orleans, before the storm, aptly entitled "Calm Before the Storm." She felt, after Katrina, that rather than to capture the destruction, she should show the beauty of the city as it was before the storm. Her photos are truly exception and bring a tear to all those who knew New Orleans, pre-Katrina.
Dorothy is a follower of this blog and one time, I posted some photos of new inventory I had at the shop. She emailed me right away about the little Italian desk she had spotted in one of the photographs. I admit, it was one of my very favorite pieces ever, but it was not for everyone. It was a desk that called for a special owner -- a woman who saw beauty in things that most others do not, a woman who would sit at this desk and handwrite letters to friends and family while looking out to the garden and daydreaming of a beautiful life. Dorothy loved that desk from first sight but simply could not bring herself to buy it. She and her family had moved to North Carolina after Katrina despite their love for their home State of Louisiana where both she and her husband lived all their lives. They moved to North Carolina for their son's medical needs and decided to make their home in Louisburg, purchasing a Victorian house that needed someone to completely restore it to its former glory.
Dorothy and her husband have been renovating their home down to the studs for a couple of years now, living in odd areas of the house while their bedrooms, kitchen, and rooms are restored. So, with all their finances being consumed by the house (a true love of theirs), Dorothy could not bring herself to spend anything on herself. But she wrote to me about her love for the desk and I was humbled that she felt about a piece of mine the way I feel about them. She saw the beauty in its imperfections as I did and that touched me like nothing else.

I knew (and told her so) that this desk would ultimately belong to her. It was a feeling I had that somehow, someway, this desk was meant for Dorothy. Still, the months went by and Dorothy would confess that she would look at it every day on my 1stdibs storefront to see if it was still there.

Enter Bobby Cooper -- Dorothy's handsome husband who also happens to be a talented painter and Dorothy's love of her life. Bobby called me one day and explained to me that it was killing him seeing Dorothy stare at the desk on her computer every night. He knew her love affair with that desk. He also knew that Dorothy would never splurge on herself while the house was being built. So he and I arranged a surprise for Dorothy. A week after Bobby and I talked, I marked the desk "sold" on 1stdibs. I restrained myself from emailing Dorothy on a weekly basis as we normally do. You can only imagine Dorothy's disappointment when she logged on to 1stdibs only to see her desk "sold." Little did she know that the little desk was on its way to its rightful owner. When it arrived, Bobby presented Dorothy with the desk. Dorothy and the little Italian desk could not be happier and I could not be happier that I could bring them together. This is what makes my work so enjoyable. This is what makes my life so fulfilling.

Meet Dorothy and Bobby.....

And their family....

And their beautiful, soon-to-be completely restored, Barrow House. Their home is 120 years old this month. They were fortunate enough to receive copies of letters written by the man who built their home as he was working on it for his fiancé. The few copies they have are wonderful as he tells his fiancé everything that is being done to the house. One letter in particular states “the house is complete”. It’s dated September, 1890.

Work in progress, but (wow!) look at how gorgeous it already looks!

Those pressed tin ceilings tiles are to die for!
And here is the little 19th c. Italian writing desk in its new home (well, as Dorothy tells me, temporary home as it is the only corner right now that is not surrounded by paint cans or other construction debris).


  1. That is a lovely story, Karina! The desk will be loved and adored in its new home.


  2. Thank you, Claudia. I know it is loved already.

    Thanks for leaving a comment! Love getting them.


  3. Dear Karina .... that story is beautiful. You are so right ... that Italian writing desk did belong to Dorothy! I can picture her sitting at it right now. You have an innate abilitiy to know when a piece belongs to someone. You don't just sell antiques you find the right owner .... as they are a part of you. I do believe you have a gift and knew that my pieces were right for me and that I would take care of them. I would love to meet Dorothy as well and her house is gorgeous ... I adore Victorian architecture and the pressed metal ceilings are stunning! I love hearing these stories ... it is like little miracles happening and how wonderful that you and Bobby could give Dorothy somehting so special! Have a gorgeous day!
    hugs Frances
    ps Dorothy's photography is fantastic ... it has a haunting depth to it I believe.

  4. Dearest Karina, there is something about your work that transmits more than a piece of furniture. Your elements are treasures with a soul. Reproductions that have been 'distressed' to mimic the past, simply do not convey the heart of a true relic genuinely from the past. That's what makes your furnishings and accessories so unique. They are genuine and true...much like the shop's owner.

    I feel this way regarding film photography to digital. The end result, the final product and how those who view it are affected. I just don't think that anything else compares to the richness of an image, burned in through the darkroom process. To me, it's sheer magic! That's why I still work exclusively with black and white film.

    With technology today that allows us to merely "click" our way to almost any destination in the world, it sometimes removes a personal touch or feeling that one can only find walking through the doors such as those to your gorgeous shop on Magazine Street. While I love all that is traditional and things that are reminiscent of the past...I couldn't be happier that the one click from Paris Apartment's blog, brought me back home to Louisiana and right in to the doors of disegno Karina Gentinetta.

    I guess that I should have simply said that we are humbled, flattered and honored that you took your precious time to reflect on our family, our home and our work...all of which we take great pride in. However, those few words can never convey the appreciation for all you do, your talent and the friend you have become to us.

    From us to you...we send our heartfelt thanks and wishes for many, many years of future success. I can't imagine anything less but that!

    Bobby & Dorothy Cooper~

  5. This is a very beautiful story and I love Dorothy and Bobby's home. Wow! it is simply beautiful and that wonderful desk fits perfectly.

  6. This desk is gorgeous . Love the story

  7. I can completely see why she fell for that little is absolutely sublime! I adore the unique color and amazing patina...nothing breathes life into a space like a treasure like that which bears all the wonderful marks of its age and past. And what a wonderful husband!!

    Hope Ava


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