Lou and Scott Segner remember the chair that started it all. “We found a Limbert chair at the Army & Navy Thrift Store in Arlington, Virginia, in 1989,” Scott recalls. “It cost $75.” That chair was the first piece of what became an extraordinary collection of Arts & Crafts-period furniture—and pottery, lighting, linens, metalware, and posters.
“We have always been interested in design,” Lou says. “In the past, I had collected antique purses and quilts. But when our eyes were opened to the beauty of Arts & Crafts-era furnishings, we knew we’d found our passion. “We searched flea markets, yard sales, antiques stores; and we developed relationships with pickers,” she continues. “We went to the annual Arts & Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, to educate ourselves. We found a lot of things in western Virginia. In fact, all of our best pieces came from within 200 miles of home.”
“For me, it was about learning to see great finishes,” her husband adds. “An original finish with its patina: I have not seen anyone able to truly replicate that.” The couple collected steadily, and after they retired from careers in Washington, D.C., they found an ideal home for themselves and for their collections.
“The Oregon-based architect Michael Barclay designed this contemporary Prairie-influenced house, built by local contractor Jim Henry in 2008,” Scott says. The 4,000-square-foot house, purchased by the couple in 2013, is one of a development of bungalows and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired houses in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“It has an open floor plan and corner windows, just like a Frank Lloyd Wright design,” Lou says. “The quality and level of detail are great. When we found this house, we knew it would be a good backdrop for our furnishings.”
An especially welcome feature of their retirement home is the spacious, lower-level game room, where they keep one of their most cherished pieces, a 1924 Brunswick Balke oak pool table. Measuring nine feet by four feet, it has mother-of-pearl inlay and a rosewood rail.
“We found it in 2006, just when we were thinking how nice it was that we didn’t need any more furniture,” Scott says. “But when I saw this thing, I thought it was the most beautiful piece of furniture I had ever seen. We had to squeeze it into our previous home, but here we have the space for it.”
Lou and Scott searched for a vintage cue-stick rack of the period, but found that a Gustav Stckley umbrella stand does the job just as well while looking appropriate beside the pool table. In the game room they also keep an L. & J.G. Stickley checkers set and a collection of 1960s psychedelic photos.
Although the bulk of the furniture is antique, a few new pieces augment the collection. “In the sitting room, we have a new Prairie settle and a contemporary coffee table—because they didn’t make coffee tables during the Arts & Crafts era,” Lou explains. Collectibles of the recent Arts & Crafts revival include art tiles by Motawi, framed prints from Dard Hunter, and a mica-shade copper lamp by Michael Adams.
The couple is fond of Art Deco-era posters by the French artist who became known as Cassandre. They are colorful, graphic backdrops for the furniture and ceramics in the living room and sitting room. Lighting includes several Handel lamps, several by Bradley and Hubbard, and one by Tiffany. When the Segners were in their prime collecting years, Lou maintained a small antiques shop: “You can’t keep buying things without selling something,” she laughs.
Thirty years after finding that Limbert chair, they have filled the rooms of their home with its companion pieces. Although they don’t need anything more, they are still collecting. Should something rare and beautiful cross their paths, they’ll find room for it.
Collecting Arts & Crafts Pottery
Lou is especially fond of her pottery, which she displays on bookcases, tabletops, and the fireplace mantel. She likes to group pieces by color and maker. In the dining room, for example, an L. & J. G. Stickley stand holds an assortment of Weller Woodcraft pots. “The pots are three-dimensional and most of them depict animals,” she says. “When you buy pottery, you want to make sure that there are no nicks or cracks. For me, besides condition, size matters. I like big pieces.”
The living room’s mantel is the place of pride where her choice pieces by Moorcroft, Grueby, Marblehead, and others line up. Lou also favors the work of British ceramicist Clarice Cliff, and she collects American Indian pottery, much of it displayed in a 1901 Gustav Stickley bookcase the couple found in Rehoboth, Delaware.
Old Furnishings, New Carpets
For Scott and Lou Segner, rugs presented a dilemma until they discovered The Persian Carpet company on one of their visits to the annual Arts & Crafts Conference at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn. “It was there that we bought our first rug, the one that’s in the sitting room,” Scott says.
The light blue-and-cream-color design was so successful, they wondered whether they would ever find other rugs as suitable. “Then we learned that the company is, almost literally, in our own backyard” —in the Durham–Chapel Hill metro area, just a few miles from the Segners’ home. Established by Nelda Lay in 1976, the company offers antique and new rugs in Arts & Crafts, tribal, Persian, Southwestern, and transitional styles, sold through dealers nationwide. “Now we have their rugs throughout the house.”