By Tricia Neal, on assignment for CentralKentuckyAntiques.com
Copyright 2010 – Kimberly Clay
When a lover of antiques finds a special piece, a place for it in the home just seems to appear, no matter how many other pieces are already there.
The same seems to apply to Ann Greely’s shop on Lexington’s Main Street. The old Victorian house which serves as the headquarters for Ann Greely Interiors and Antiques is filled with antiques from far-away locales – yet Ann has found that there’s always room for one more special piece.
“If it is something I love, I can always find a place for it in one of our settings,” she says. “And, hopefully, someone else will walk in and fall in love with it too.”
Customers who step into the 19th century structure might feel as if they’ve entered Ann’s home. Ann uses her talents in interior design to create a realistic environment in her store.
“With the combination of interior design and antiques, people can come in and get ideas for their own homes,” Ann says. “We don’t have antiques stacked up or placed randomly in a room, but it is like a home setting. You could actually live here.”
Ann Greely has been in the interior design business for nearly 40 years – yet, surprisingly, she never obtained a degree in the field.
“When I was a student at the University of Kentucky, the design department was in the School of Home Economics, and you had to study things like cooking, which did not interest me in the least,” she explains. “So I opted for journalism and French.”
In the early 1970s, Ann was teaching French at Midway College – but her heart wasn’t in it.
“I had always loved everything to do with houses, from the design phase to the furnishing,” she says.
When an offer came to open a design studio with a partner in Midway, she knew it was time to follow her heart. Within a year, Ann was able to quit her teaching job and become a full time designer.
The move into the antique business came naturally, Ann says.
“We were often asked to find pieces for our clients,” she says. “So we eventually began to stock a few antiques as space allowed.”
Ann and her business partner quickly outgrew their tiny, second-floor business, so they purchased a distillery’s grain storage warehouse – complete with a hand-operated elevator, metal shutters, a sliding barn door … and no plumbing – and converted it into a design studio and antique shop.
“Grain sifted down from the second floor for years whenever we moved heavy furniture,” Ann recalls.
The business continued to grow.
“We purchased the building next door, and cut an opening between the two buildings,” she says. “The new building, which housed most of the antiques, was called ‘The Bird Cage.’”
In 1980, Ann received an offer which would ultimately expand the realm of her business. She was hired to complete a design project in Ireland – and there, she was exposed to a new market of antiques, not only in Ireland, but also in England and France.
Ann was originally browsing the European shops for items for her clients in Ireland, but soon she began importing the antiques to her shop in Midway. The designer herself also began to fall in love with country French antiques.
“Country French has so much variety,” she says. “For me, the fun of buying antiques is the search for the unique. … I think that the uniqueness of the pieces that I have brought back from my travels, not only to Europe, but around the United States and to Bali, have distinguished us from some other dealers over the years. I always search for things that will give an individual look to the homes of my clients.”
Ann remained in business with her partner until the 1990s until her daughter, Shannon Totty, also a designer, left her career in Washington, D.C., to work with her.
“In 1996, we jumped at the opportunity to move the business to a historic Queen Anne Victorian house built about 1890 on Main Street in Lexington,” Ann says.
“With the addition of a new area in the back, we have ten rooms to display our ever-changing collection of French, English and American antiques in room settings. Our room settings are constantly changing, and that keeps people interested in coming in to see what we have found.”
While Ann’s antique business has been a great success, she hasn’t forgotten her interior design roots. Ann and Shannon have designed and decorated homes in several states in the U.S., as well as in Europe and the Bahamas. Ann says her goal as an interior designer is to create an environment which reflects the personality of her client.
Ann Greely Interiors and Antiques is located at 497 East Main Street in Lexington. Store hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays by appointment. For more information, visit www.anngreelyinteriors.com.
(Tricia Neal is an award-winning journalist/photographer based in Somerset, Ky.)