Living with Art

An affinity for collecting led Central West End homeowners James Afflixio and Gary Boyson to furnish their condo with treasurers acquired through years of travel.

By Brandi Wills
Photography by Anne Matheis

 

For most people, bringing work home with them is a bad thing. Not so for James Afflixio, co-owner of Maplewood Galleries, a design showroom of art and antiques that opened last spring in downtown Maplewood. The home he shares with his partner, Gary Boyson, in the Cathedral district of the Central West End is filled with treasures from a lifetime of traveling and collecting.

The couple moved to St. Louis in 1993 from New York City, where they built successful careers in the design and retail industries. After owning two homes in the area, they settled three years ago back into their Manhattanite lifestyle with a condo near the Cathedral Basilica. “The condo has its original 1926 floor plan,” says Afflixio. “The layout is almost identical to the apartment we had in New York, so we feel like we're back on the East Side.”

The home is well-appointed, exhibiting the couple’s traditional aesthetic through a continental mix of French, English and Georgian styles. Antiques and collectibles spanning over three centuries make up most of the decor, treasures that were amassed over decades of traveling for business and pleasure. “I’ve done a lot of business in Asia over the years,” says Boyson, “and vacation for us was always about shopping.” Their favorite destinations for finding great pieces? Paris and Italy, specifically Florence, Venice and Rome.

Their purchases evolved into quite an impressive collection, which was given proper display in their previous homes. When Afflixio and Boyson moved to their current condo, they had to edit for space. A serious case of overstock, mixed with their desire to continue treasure-hunting, lent naturally to Afflixio’s art and antiques business. “I spent a lot of time at Louise Harre’s previous shop,” says Afflixio. “We had a great relationship, so when I was looking for a business partner for my own showroom, Louise was at the top of my list.” Through Maplewood Galleries, Afflixio is able to continuously rotate the decor in his home, keeping things fresh and fun.

Which raises the question, with so much great material to work with, and pieces coming and going regularly, how does one keep a room well-curated and avoid an overcrowded or mismatched look? For Afflixio and Boyson, it’s all about knowing their combined aesthetic. By using their shared tastes as a guide, they can explore different design styles or periods while ensuring no one brings home a piece that sticks out like a sore thumb. As far as building a well-balanced room, Boyson says, “You have to let the pieces speak for themselves, and keep the proportion of the furniture in line with the proportions of the space it’s in.” Of course, the couple has a lot of experience to draw on. “I’ve been doing this for many years as a designer,” says Afflixio. “By now it’s second nature.”

And while the couple’s affinity for collecting grew out of their international travels, they agree that there is much exploring to do in their own backyard. “Coming from New York, where art and antiques can be very expensive and at times inaccessible, St. Louis is a hidden gem in terms of collecting,” says Afflixio. “There’s an abundance of treasures here in terms of great art, eclectic antiques and variety of style.” Those treasures play a central part of the life he’s created, both at work and at home.

“Traditional decor can be seen as stuffy,” says Afflixio. “But that’s not how we are in our home. It’s not like you can’t touch that or you can’t sit there. These pieces were created to be part of people’s lives. Art is meant to be lived with.”   

Resources
Tiffany bench restoration: Zollinger Furniture, 314-832-1555

Draperies: Charolette Lindwedel, 636-337-8741

Antique rugs: Asadorian Rugs, 314-382-6605

Paintings cleaning: Szelig Conversation, 314-427-3006

Electric: John Galanti, 314-724-2320