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Keeping it in the Family

When Laura G. O’Brien moved from an apartment in Brooklyn to a cottage in Greenport three odd years ago, her first concern was her antiques. Would they fit? O’Brien, a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design, is an inveterate collector. She especially loves Americana and classic American furniture, but she’s also into funky quirky pieces from other lands. In addition, she’d inherited all manner of heirlooms which she longed to display. In short, O’Brien was burdened with the happy problem of owning more beautiful things than she knew what to do with. Earlier this year, she solved the first part of her dilemma by taking over a miniscule storefront in Southold, and that’s how the vintage furniture and soft furnishings shop Fez & Ivy was born. This tiny spot is a revolving showcase for the items O’Brien finds at estate sales and auctions, many of them local. On any given day, the stock might include an 18th-century oak cupboard, an English blanket chest, or etched glassware alongside new wool throws from Scotland, batik pillows, and Persian rugs. Once O’Brien had found an outlet for her collectibles, there was room to spare in her cottage for the heirlooms. Here are the five pieces from which she’ll never part.

1. Freestanding corner cupboard. “A maternal aunt gave me this pine cupboard, which she used to store china and vintage glassware. She bought it at a shop in Greenwich, Connecticut. When I got it home, I discovered a note in my aunt’s handwriting inside. It read, “This is the first piece I refinished. Didn’t know to re-sand between coats. Paid $500 — very old.”
2. Square table with leaves. “When I was growing up, this was our kitchen table,” says O’Brien. “I love its turned legs and compact size. Not everyone has room for a massive farmhouse table. A piece like this can also work in a breakfast room.” For customers who live in small spaces, she always keeps an eye out for antique drop-leaf tables.
3. Marble-topped coffee table. O’Brien fell in love with the clean lines of this coffee table, which sits on a cast iron base and hails from her great-grandmother’s home in Portsmouth, Virginia. “It has the most wonderful patina,” she says. “Marble-topped coffee tables can work with all sorts of design schemes — modern or traditional. They look great everywhere.”
4. Pie safe in the master bedroom. “This wooden pie safe also came from my great grandmother’s home in Portsmouth, Virginia,” says O’Brien. “It was handed on to my mother who kept dry goods in it. I’m the first in the family who’s ever used it to store clothes!”
5. Brass door knocker. For years, this objet was on the front door of O’Brien’s maternal grandparents’ house in Westhampton Beach. The fact that this traditional sign of welcome now graces her own front door in Greenport confers it with symbolic importance. “When I moved to my cottage, the door knocker was one of the first things I put up,” she recalls. “When I saw the brass against the peach-colored door, I felt I’d come home.”