Pick a spot, any spot, and stand for 10 minutes in the small garden in Crestwood. It’s like standing in your favorite gallery. You won’t run out of treasures to admire.
For Christopher Filley and Rich Hoffman, the great outdoors is an extension of their home. The owners of Christopher Filley Antiques, an eclectic shop tucked in with a cluster of other antiques shops on West 45th Street, have an eye for classic beauty.
Hoffman bought the house 25 years ago, and the two spent 10 years bringing it back to a state of grace. A small garden in front of the house and a larger space in the back offer areas to sit and contemplate, as well as to gather with friends around tables.
We spent some time in their sun-dappled gardens on a cool late-summer morning discussing everything from how to find treasures to tips for gardening in a small space:
Where do you find your treasures, both for your shop and your home?
Filley: Everywhere and anywhere in the world.
Hoffman: We used to do quite a lot of traveling, so we’d buy in Rome, France, Tonganoxie — really all over. We’ve slowed down on travel lately, though. We find a lot of this art in Kansas City, occasionally in auction houses or from other dealers.
Are you both drawn to particular styles?
Hoffman: We’re all over the board in artwork. We like contemporary, Old World. It’s an eclectic collection.
Do you ever decide to sell some of the treasures in your home or garden?
Filley: If it makes it into the house or garden, it’s exceptional if it ever leaves. It’s here to stay.
Your gardens are filled with fountains, statues and artwork. What are some of your favorite pieces?
Filley: Ninety percent of our stuff is cut stone or marble. We found European marble fountains from the 1920s at an estate sale here. That sculpture by Bernadette Esperanza Torres is one of my favorites. (He points to a rotund nude on her stomach, arched back, as if looking toward the sun). Bernadette used to live behind the shop, and I had a cabinet she wanted. She paid me some for it, but because we were fair, she made this for us.
Have you both always been in the antiques business?
Hoffman: I was a flight attendant or crew manager for years, which gave me the chance to see so much of the world. Christopher has always been in the business.
Filley: I’ve been interested since I was a child. I’d walk in the countryside when I was a child, and I’d look at an old empty house with an old lilac bush and old pots, and I’d bring those pots back to the house and plant in them. And my uncle had a little antiques shop in Cameron, and he found a lot of treasures in the country. That also inspired me.
Your gardens are a treasure trove of sculpture, hidden spaces and lovely splashes of color. Any advice for those lacking a green thumb?
Filley: Get the basics down. Rich put money into buying the house, I put the money into the basics inside the house, like the electric French doors, refinishing the floors and replacing the doors. With the garden we had to start from scratch. If you’re working with small spaces, don’t be afraid to use mirrors to make it look bigger.
Did you have areas where you each put your own touch in out here?
Filley: Trees like hornbeams and boxwoods are perfect for hedging and shaping a garden. White pine will also work. We wanted privacy. Also, set your garden up so there are lots of small spaces for people to gather. We had an event recently with more than 40 people, and they scattered all over the space.
Do you entertain a lot in this house?
Filley: We’ve been on garden tours, and done a big black-tie thing for the Nelson-Atkins (Museum of Art), and we’ve done events for Powell Gardens, along with AIDS benefits.
Hoffman: We use this great outdoor space whenever we can. We love to gather with our friends. Inside and out, this is a perfect place to entertain.