Christine Lester...Gold Digger. From Parisian vintage to her famous all pink boudoir room, Christine
When I say Gold-digger, it’s not a slam, it’s the name of her shop and a clue to her infectious personality.
I’d never have found the shop had I not been with another consignment addict, familiar with the area. My best buddy Michael, who also works with Lowell Home, knows every consignment and thrift shop worth getting out of the car for, from Grand Junction to Aspen.
That’s saying a lot since he navigates a snazzy silver Jaguar like a space ship banking through the dwarfing mountains, ascending into the pastoral valleys and dive-bombing above the rolling hills dotted with livestock and church steeples and villages that look like electric train miniatures.
I will soon discover that Michael's "portico-friendly" vehicle is in good company as we pull up along side BMW’s, Range Rovers and other such vehicles obviously owned by designers looking for treasures too.
No question about it, the stigma of ‘Thrift” has been lifted. as well turned out customers with obvious 'means' make their way through the cavernous warehouses of places like Habitat for Humanitie's Restores. You can tell that judgmental designer stance as curators feel wood, pat pillows and look under vases for markings. God forbid the word “used” is so much as uttered. If you must, the word Pre-owned is preferred.
From stop to stop we groove to Michael's killer-eclectic playlist while sharing a bag of gas station donuts and coffee as the spectacular scenery whizzes by. “So, this next place you’re going Love,” he tells me as we pull off the main route and zigzag through the quaint Victorian buildings that line the riverbanks.
We pull up to Golddigger's. You can see a few rusted urns and intricate iron headboards scattered here and there with a few boxes of Christmas ornaments ready for load-in...and a pumpkin left over from Thanks Giving.
To say the exterior is nothing special is an understatement…in fact one would expect a Pit Bull snarling just beyond a chain link fence. I have come to learn, however, that the fancier the exterior the higher the price…so this not-so-much warehouse front is a good thing!
As more and more consignment shops pop up, it’s quite clear that they have become the new retailer on the block who’ll give the cookie-cutter mass-market furniture dealers some intense competition. For the basics they’ll always be essential stores, but if you what stuff that allows you to truly brand your spaces with uber personality, IKEA ain’t it.
The first small room you enter is tiny but crammed full of Asian inspired stuff like a massive cloisonné chest with a tableaux of green books and a French clock adorning the top. The art of stylish tableaux is something that repeats itself over and over again as you enter the next space with it’s massive warehouse ceiling. You begin to weave your way through the maze of furniture clusters, which pull you deeper and deeper into Christine’s world…well into her head really. It’s like mindreading as her flair for the decorative arts, nostalgia and pure ‘camp’ visually stimulate and imbibes all the senses. While some curators display according to conventional store “departments,” Miss Lester tells stories like a confident designer, using color and texture to create one unique moment after another to bridge often decades of influences together. Like a sort of a visual roadmap, out of the chaos she’s somehow forcing you to see everything AND actually remember it.
Then you meet HER. Tall, with an open smile and quick to hug--hair casually drawn up in a French knot held in place by an elaborate jeweled clip. She’s the kind of women other women hope to be—aged like fine wine.
Christine instantly reminds you of a movie star you think you remember. She embodies “timelessness” just like the things she’s gathered around her. You could easily imagine her in a late 70s Rom-com opposite Ryan O’Neal, or just as easily in black and white opposite Fred Astaire or William Holden, with the approachable elegance of an Audrey Hepburn. If you’d found out she was once the editor of French Vogue, you’d believe it. In my first meeting with her we get into the whole RightSIZE UP book I’m just finishing and how consignment is the next big thing. She’s immediately captivated and fully engages. She’s beyond easy to talk to because by the time you’ve climbed through her warehouse you feel you know her in the most intimate way. She’s invited you into her visual dreams, aesthetic impulses and behind her artist’s lens, getting you to gasp and laugh, sigh wistfully and even envy all at the same time.
She is very politically astute and as pissed off as I am about the state of affairs but she says because of...well, him, business is up because people are stepping away from the fray, curating their own information and beginning to find their own sense of style. In their own little worlds, in their individual ways (now that past lifestyle conventions have been tossed aside) they've learned to curate stuff too, as an extension of personal expression. I ask her if it’s like “personal branding” and she clasps her hands together and says THAT’S IT!
She tells me that people are hungry again for well made objects, real materials (verses digital laminates, composite woods and junk metal) and she wholeheartedly agrees that as Americans finally begin to purge those billions of square feet of self storage and endless supply of new treasures will flood the market. “We feel history through these objects,” she says. “In a world where we can feel so isolated, we’re reminded that many have come before us and we feel them in the objects they leave behind.” In a voice like Willy Wonka beckoning you into his chocolate factory dream she exclaims, “It’s all here. Some of these objects defy time and space.” Maybe it’s the vintage sleek Lucite purse collection or the art deco drop lamp or the 1800’s Asian rod puppet slumped next to a breathtaking array of glass and crystal. --All at half the price and double the quality of anything on Rodeo Drive.
When I ask her what her criteria is for purchasing she says, “It’s easy. I buy what I love, what I like and what I want around me and I just hope to God someone else likes it too ---but it’s not point.”
There in that single sentence is why these magical new worlds of consignment are speaking to a whole new generation.
We get back into the Jag. Michael twinkles with an “I told you so smile.”
As we make our way back through craggy mountains new with winter frosting, winding our way back to Grand Junction, I feel like I’m coming home from Narnia. I’ve absorbed impressions from people I’ve never met. Seen artifacts from cultures I’ve always wondered about and, lo and behold, personally met the wizaredess of OZ!
I take a look at her business card. Under the kitsch 1950’s illustration of a woman showing off her new ring, and the words Gold Digger it says “Like a hooker…just smarter.” We both burst into laughter.