Thank you to Cisley Thummel and the good folks at 435 South Magazine for including me in your September issue! What didn't make it in this issue is the breaking news that Prize will be opening a holiday location and a whole new concept on the Kansas City Country Club Plaza. More on that later!
Words By: Cisley Thummel
Local interior design devotees who’ve decided there’s nothing new under the sun might want to take a second look, just over the Kansas City skyline and a bit to the west.
The creative stars have aligned, and finally they’re not just twinkling over L.A. or New York City. Beauty and sophistication are shining a bright, new light over our beloved not-so-cow town. Leading the way is Steve Rogers, owner of Prize Antiques, co-developer of the new monthly Bottoms Up Antiques event and procurer of darn good stuff for house and home.
Although he’d tell you he’s simply a shopkeeper, Rogers has been shaking up the Kansas City interior design scene for several years now. Sprint marketing guru by day, collector of vintage treasures by nights and weekends, Rogers’ polite Midwestern sensibility might lead him to downplay the fact that he’s beginning to draw attention from design lovers on both coasts. His signature style is impossible to miss yet delightfully difficult to pigeonhole; walk through his new 3,000-square-foot showroom in the West Bottoms and you’ll feel transported through time and place, transformed by seeing old things used in newly exquisite ways.
“I’ve always been moved by things that are old—especially handmade things that haven’t been retouched since they were created,” says Rogers, who revels most in objects that connect us to history and each other. “I love taking things that were created for one purpose long ago and using them for an entirely different one that fits our lifestyle today.”
Perpetually stocked with a juxtaposition of pieces mixing European with primitive and refined with industrial, Prize Antiques seems simultaneously to set and transcend trend.
Long before Restoration Hardware was mass-producing coffee tables from reclaimed wood, Rogers was fashioning lamps from vintage French bottles paired with concrete finials and creating framed art from collages of mid-19th century ledgers and bank notes. He imports antique lecterns with school-worn patina from Scandinavia to use as desks or display pieces, and he retrofits scrolling ironwork from European churches with wall mirrors. He upholsters furniture and creates table runners with the natural fibers from old Belgian grain sacks.
And although his style is green-friendly, the end products of Rogers’ work seem too aesthetically pleasing to be called recycling. His attitude about buying and selling his goods is too joyful to call it business.
It’s no wonder that Rogers sees himself as more of a “curator” than collector. Rogers seems to personify the word derived from the Latin “to care,” feeling a responsibility to select items that speak into the lives of his customers rather than just adorn their homes.
“In the end, it’s not just about the possessions,” he says. “It’s about how they help you live your life and share it with others.”
Steve Rogers, owner of Prize Antiques, in his own words:
About his background and inspirations: I grew up in the small town of Sallisaw, Okla., near Tulsa. We had a close family but my upbringing was hardly global. So when I travelled to Paris and London in my early 20s, I was moved by what I saw: objects that were old, unique and made by hand.
But sometimes what people don’t realize is that you don’t have to travel to Europe to find inspiration—it can be anywhere, in shops and even on blogs. My wife and I were just on a trip and stopped at a schoolyard in Bella Vista, Ark., to let our kids play. The architecture on the school building was amazing—what’s fun is finding that unexpected beauty.
His hard-to-describe style: I would say “eclectic,” but it’s a term that’s so overused that it’s lost some of its meaning. I’m not a purist because I love so many different periods—for instance I’ll mix mid-century with refined country. For me it’s about how everything lives together and how handmade objects tell their own stories. Right now I’ve got a strong Belgian influence, but my style is always growing and changing.
What people don’t understand about decorating: I think some people just use their homes to impress others without really giving any thought to what inspires them personally. Think about what moves you: is it a piece of art, a style of furniture, a certain period of time? Don’t just buy anything and then have it end up in next year’s garage sale.
Misconceptions about antiques: They’re not supposed to be stuffy or boring. Antiques really are there to give us a unique point of view. To borrow a phrase from Traditional Home magazine, you can have classic taste with modern living. Antiques aren’t just about your grandma’s Victorian sofa anymore.
Speaking of grandma’s Victorian sofa: I’m not a big believer in what I call “sacred furniture.” Sure, you can pick and choose a few pieces of furniture from a family collection, but be judicious and don’t take it unless you love it. You don’t want to get weighed down by someone else’s life.
Favorite objects right now: I’ve got this old stage light that was used in Hollywood productions. You couldn’t make a knock-off of it even if you wanted to . . . it’s got this great riveted brass and I shine it on artwork. My favorite things at Prize right now are Santos pieces. They’re 18th-century hand-carved Jesus figures made of polychrome wood, and they look great under glass domes. I think a lot of us connect to religious imagery.
Inside his own house: My kids are one, three, and five years old, so it’s not overly-styled. It’s a clean, neutral interior—and no, it’s not just beige—with white slipcovers, plus a lot of sisal and other natural fibers around. I’ve put in custom bookcases and chosen a few big, over-sized pieces instead of a lot of small things.
His customers: I think the folks who are ready for what I offer are the ones who’ve decided they want to curate their homes. You’ve got to really know yourself and what you want out of your lifestyle. In the midst of your busy life, it’s great to invest with purpose in your home. A good way to get there is to look around your house and ask yourself, “If I had to [decorate] over again, what would I really choose?”
What people say about Prize: Some of the adjectives people have used to describe the store are calming, curated and well edited. My favorite comment is “I could move in here.”
Motto: It’s the two-phrase criteria I use for everything I buy and sell: Pleasing to the eye. Joyful to the heart.
Steve Rogers on entertaining:
Think simple: There’s nothing worse than a stressed-out host or hostess who doesn’t get to enjoy their own gathering, so keep it simple. With three children five years old and younger, my wife and I have to do this! We put the kids to bed, invite a few neighbors over, and then do what’s easy: buy some nice cheeses and bread, throw a flank steak on the grill and mix a fallback signature cocktail.
Think fresh: Use whatever foods are in season and you’re sure to please. In the summer we grow a salsa garden with tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro always on hand to make fresh salsa, along with fresh mint for mojitos.
Get creative with décor: I love using old breadboards in place of serving dishes or even as chargers underneath dinner plates. Don’t be afraid to bring ‘inside’ furniture outside—I used a pole to hang an antique chandelier over our eating area.
Lowlight: Use only 25 watt light bulbs; candles or votives can you give all the ambiance you need.
Shop at Bottoms Up
The brainchild of Steve Rogers and Gwen McClure, the monthly Bottoms Up Antique Market offers antique and vintage finds from some of Kansas City’s best dealers.
What: Shop furniture, home décor, jewelry and more in more than 15,000 square feet of warehouse in Kansas City’s historic West Bottoms. Enjoy coffee and goodies from Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott.
When: The first Friday and Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 1200 West 12th Street in Kansas City. From downtown Kansas City, it’s just over the 12th Street Bridge.