MDS INTERVIEWS- PART 1

JAMES SANSUM

i think it was a few years ago, not exactly sure, that i discovered someone new on instagram, it was james sansum. he curated the most beautiful images, a mix of beautiful objects, awes of nature, inspiring moments, and amazing places….

i started following him, then after more discovery i came to find out he was an antique dealer….then i figured out that his partner was designer markham roberts, whose design work i’ve adored for years. they have to be the most stylish couple, two gentlemen (and i mean gentlemen, rare these day, just lovely beyond words) who both have a wonderful understanding of beauty and everything it provides.

over the last few years i’ve gotten to know james. his taste is impeccable, like from another time, and truly i’ve never met someone so warm and kind. when i was planning my kips bay room a few months ago and was at times completely at a loss of where to go and where to find things, james on more than several occasions helped…..

…there was a day when i dropped by markham’s and james’ office during this time looking for something frantically i’m sure…..it was in the middle of the day, i know they were busy, however they both came out and we sat and ended up talking for a few hours…in hindsight, it was exactly what i needed, a few moments to unwind, have a nice conversation and for a brief moment take my mind off of things….this meant a lot to me.

i’m so honored to feature james in the latest MDS Interviews, not just because he is the best dealer, a studied collector and a brilliant curator, but mostly because he i a really warm, kind and humble person. i think you will be able to see this through his thoughtful and compelling answers. i was moved, i know you will be too. enjoy!

follow james on instagram here.

Sansum in Nantucket (1)

 


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MDS INTERVIEWS

JAMES SANSUM

MDS- How would you define your style?

JS- I never really thought that I had a distinct style … just an ability to meld cultures and periods … But, with that said, I have definitely been influenced by a few people in my life, all of whom have informed my sense of style … beginning with my mother’s father, who possessed an understated, self-deprecating sense of humor that often left strangers bemused … An excellent card player, a world traveler, who hated planes, preferring trains and boats, whenever possible, he worked in the sugar business, and I definitely inherited my sweet tooth from him … Most influential has been Markham Roberts, my partner of 15 years, who possesses an easy, confident, American style, taking the best from the world of art and architecture and synthesizing it.

Ernest Lee Sansum and Janet Sanford Sansum

Ernest Lee Sansum and Janet Sanford Sansum

Passport Photo Age 3

Passport Photo Age 3

Palo Alto

Palo Alto

 

 

MDS- Where did you grow up and how do you think that influences your work?

JS- I grew up in Palo Alto … before it became utterly subsumed by the tech industry… It still had the vestiges of Old California and Hippie California, seamlessly intertwined … It was beautiful and sort of sleepy … We’d ski and hike and go to the beach … It was a childhood spent outdoors … We lived in a free form, open plan, mid century house with walls of windows and a hodge podge of modern furniture, family antiques and objects from around the world … When my father decided to sort of check out in the early 70s, we lived outside of Salzburg for a couple of years in an old timbered house on the edge of a forest … And, during this period, we traveled extensively … I think that I’ve seen every cathedral in Europe … Upon our return, my parents bought a summer place in Port Townsend, Washington, on the Puget Sound, and I was in heaven … A late nineteenth century sea captain’s cottage on a bluff overlooking the shipping lanes of the Admiralty Inlet with the San Juan Islands and the snow capped peaks of Mount Baker, a dormant volcano, and the Cascades in the distance … The exposure to all of these places and visits to my mother’s family in Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast fully informed my sense of how a house should be.

Port Townsend

Port Townsend

Port Townsend

Port Townsend

Pass Christian

Pass Christian

Pass Christian

Pass Christian

 

 

MDS- If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

JS- Honestly, I would love to start a magazine … a sort of World of Interiors for America … House & Garden in the 80s with a bit of Nest mixed in … new projects beside well worn family houses, historic and just plain run down, odd pieces of architecture, and gardens, lots of gardens … less about the conspicuous display of money and less about product placement … not very commercial, clearly … but, all beautifully photographed … Mr. Newhouse, give me a ring … Equally unlikely, I would love to write a brilliant, earth-shattering novel … And, hopefully, my sloppy answers to your questionnaire will not permanently kill that dream … My mother was a poet, and there are several generations of writers in my family … some quite good … others, lost to the ages.

House & Garden

House & Garden

Nest

Nest

MDS- Who or what is inspiring you right now?

JS- Now and always … this beautiful Earth … and the patterns in nature that run through everything … microscopic to universal … which have inspired man in every creative iteration. What I really love about my job is bringing disparate things from wide ranging periods and cultures and having them interact with one another … That interplay heightens the beauty of each and informs the eye in an unexpected but pleasing way … if it is done right, that is.

Devil's Tower Wyoming

Devil’s Tower Wyoming

Nevada

Nevada

 

 

MDS- What is the favorite room in your home?

JS- It’s a toss up … In Port Townsend, the sun porch is a magical room, still painted the same shades of green that it has always been, filled with old wicker and bamboo, potted geraniums and random shells … as perfect a place to read, watch sail boats go by and take a nap during the day as it is to have friends over for drinks and play backgammon under the glow of old kerosene lantern light during the late summer hours of dusk … While, in Clinton Corners, New York, my study has an entirely different mood … a snuggery … with patterned walls, blood red painted trim, a tattered old Anatolian kilim, ebonized shelves with my favorite architecture books, all surrounded by oddities and absurdities … mineral specimens, tiny ivory binoculars with views of the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, a small deer antler that my father had treasured as a child, old portrait miniatures of the most handsome and the ugliest members of my strange family, a tiny gold-mounted-hard-stone box containing hair from our dearly departed dog, Choppy, and naïve nineteenth century watercolors of fay Englishmen visiting ruins.

Port Townsend Sun Porch

Port Townsend Sun Porch

ort Townsend Sun Porch

Port Townsend Sun Porch

Port Townsend Sun Porch

Port Townsend Sun Porch

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

Clinton Corners Study

 

 

MDS- Is there anything you obsessively collect?

JS- Well, collecting is my job, I suppose … though, at times, shopaholics anonymous meetings may be in order … So, I have many favorites … Art Nouveau flambé glazed and Palissy ware ceramics, Japanese lacquer, Indian Bidriware and Sadeli work boxes, Georgian silver-mounted shell snuff boxes, Native American and Fijian war clubs … But, my heart really does race when I see a good drawing or watercolor … especially those in which the hand of the artist is truly evident.

Art Nouveau Flambe Glazed Vase

Art Nouveau Flambe Glazed Vase

Fijian War Club

Fijian War Club

Still Life Watercolor by Emanuel Steiner

Still Life Watercolor by Emanuel Steiner

 

 

MDS- Fill in the blank: “I could never own too many ____________ .”

JS- Old houses … My dream would be to buy vast tracks of land, to restore the old houses and farm buildings on the land, and to manage it sensibly for the future … Rockefeller sort of had the right idea with Williamsburg … though my neighbors may not be happy dressing up in period costume.

Clinton Corners 1930

Clinton Corners 1930

House Clinton Corners

House- Clinton Corners

Land Clinton Corners

Land- Clinton Corners

MDS- If you could decorate anyone’s house- whose would it be and why?

JS- Having a decorator in the immediate family has its benefits, and so that impulse is largely quelled. But, I must say that I really love helping Markham find interesting pieces for his jobs and seeing them happily situated in their new surroundings. I have this odd feeling that I am, at times, rescuing pieces of furniture, objects and art from a sad fate, from obscurity, from destruction … By researching their history, by restoring them when needed, I am offering them a new life, and that is very gratifying. Material culture, for all of its negative connotations, is our collective tangible history, and that is why I have always been drawn to the field.

Japanese Meiji Bronze Deer, American Deco Crystal Tree, French Neoclassical Cabinet by Jansen,  Mandala Painting by Julia Condon

Japanese Meiji Bronze Deer, American Deco Crystal Tree, French Neoclassical Cabinet by Jansen, Mandala Painting by Julia Condon

Japanese Meiji Flower Basket, Pair of Dutch East Indies Candlesticks, English William and Mary Table, Waves Photograph by Nelson Hancock

Japanese Meiji Flower Basket, Pair of Dutch East Indies Candlesticks, English William and Mary Table, Waves Photograph by Nelson Hancock

 

 

MDS- What do you want to be known for?

JS- Aside from my Booker prize for fiction and my Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for the aforementioned fiction, I hope to be known as a decent and generous person.

Sansum with Markham Roberts

Sansum with Markham Roberts

 

 

MDS- What do you think is chic, stylish and glamorous?

JS- While I respect the Pantheon of rich and stylish tastemakers as much as the next guy, my idea of style … good, bad or otherwise … all started in childhood … I always wanted the sporty blonde tennis mom, who would wave as she drove by in her old Mercedes convertible … But, instead, my mother wore ethnic, hand dyed indigo smocks with jewelry made from found shells, she was there when Ginsburg first read Howl aloud in San Francisco, she befriended radical Feminist Lesbian poets, she translated Czeslaw Milosz, contemplated Rilke on a daily basis, and wandered in nature for hours on end … With her tall, slender figure, good posture and aura of thoughtful kindness, she was chic in a decidedly unglamorous way … and, that I have come to recognize was truly stylish.

Mom and Dad 1958

James parents- 1958

James and his mom- Fallen Leaf Lake

James and his mom- Fallen Leaf Lake


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