Filling hearts and homes with collectibles
Rayanne Kleiner with the evening handbags she has collected over the years.
Photos by Rana Faure
It starts so innocently, perhaps with a purchase of a particularly captivating cookie jar, a clever set of salt and pepper shakers, or maybe a vintage Lionel train car. You display it, admire it, and find yourself drawn to others like it. You buy a second, then a third. Friends and family notice and start adding to your collection on every gift-giving occasion. Before you know it, you’re building a special display shelf or bookcase or even devoting entire rooms to the objects of your affection. Let’s face it. You’re hooked.
Case in point: John Farr, head honcho behind the Bedford Playhouse rebirth and founder of Best Movies by Farr, has a screening room in his basement that he describes as “everything movies.” There’s a flashing neon Bates Motel vacancy sign, a statue of Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, and a marionette of Charlie Chaplin as The Little Tramp. Autographed photos of virtually every major actor line the walls. Farr’s passion for movies started when he was about seven years old. “After school, I wasn’t out throwing footballs in the park, but home watching the 4:30 movie on Channel 7,” he recalls. His fascination never waned and collecting movie memorabilia was a natural progression. “I started with autographs because having someone’s signature was like having a piece of them. I could visualize what they were doing when they signed it.”
He hesitates to call the room a shrine but admits that is exactly what it is. “Everytime I go down there, I am happy. Just like when you go into Sardi’s and feel like you are in the world of theater, when I go into my basement, I am in the world of Hollywood—wanting to be transported. I am so passionate about movies and collecting is such a joyous thing—although when I started, my wife thought I had lost my mind. She was afraid I wouldn’t stop.”
So, has he stopped? “There are still things I’d like to have,” he concedes. “But I’m out of wall space. You don’t want to over-collect and have things just stacked in piles—you want them to be seen, to be enjoyed.” Hmm. Perhaps there will be some open wall space in that new theater in Bedford.
Some collectors don’t limit themselves to just one room—or even one genre.
Ken Marsolais’s entire Katonah home is a testament to his many varied interests: masks from travels around the world, theater posters from his Broadway days, a wall of Marcel Gromaire woodcuts depicting Macbeth, and loads and loads of Western art and artifacts. “I am really a cowboy at heart,” he explains, a statement affirmed by the stack of Cowboys & Indians magazines on his coffee table, the saddles serving as barstools at the breakfast bar, and his dedicated “cowboy room” filled with Native American paintings, sculptures, pottery, blankets, baskets, and more. Not surprisingly, he comes from a like-minded family. “I inherited my aunt’s collection of hundreds of miniature shoes, dating back to 1915. I have no idea what they might be worth, but the cabinet I had to buy to store them in cost $2,500!”
On the flip side of the collectors spectrum are those focusing on one specific theme. In Rayanne Kleiner’s case, that interest is handbags, sparked by a gift from a friend 50 years ago. “ She gave me a beautiful silk evening clutch decorated with seed pearls, gold threads, and green stones. I’ve cherished and used it all these years!” Today the Pound Ridge resident has a collection of scores of handbags from all over the world. “The most memorable pieces are the ones inscribed with the initials or names and addresses of the previous owners. I often wonder about these ladies: who were they, who gave them the purse, and for what occasion?”
Much of her collection was discovered online. “Curiosity does curious things,” she says. “The Internet makes it so easy to wander through information, which is exactly what I did while learning about different styles and designs of handbags, the intricate metal, bead, and glass work, as well as the remarkable engineering that went into creating these beautiful pieces of art.” Functional art, too. Kleiner still uses pieces from her collection to accent an evening gown or for everyday occasions.