Tales of an antiquarian: Island expert marks five years of business on Bainbridge

Even a cursory tour through Pastiche Antiques in the company of Denis Housen is a masterclass in … well, just about everything.

The expert antiquarian and appraiser knows a lot about a lot of things, and there are an awful lot of things in his Ericksen Avenue shop.

Step inside, wave to the chirping birds in ornate cages by the door, nod at the suit of armor standing guard nearby, then pet Sparky (the iconic pooch on the sign out front), maybe sample some tea and just try to keep up.

“Oh, this is interesting,” Housen will say, pointing at this or that, isolating, somehow, one heirloom among the intricately interconnected still lifes that make up each of the many rooms inside his immaculately appointed shop.

And you’re off …

Housen’s been in the biz for about 50 years. He and his wife own a shop in Silverdale as well, and he has been the brain behind the Bainbridge store — originally owned by Sally Lou Fairbank, who died in 2013 — for about five years now. He is the fourth owner.

“I’ve been at it for a long time,” Housen said.

“Everything keeps rolling in. It’s very interesting how people bring in things, and you never know what they’re going to bring. So, it’s a very exciting job.”

Housen’s was a passion that became a profession.

“I’ve always been interested in antiques,” he said. “I saved a great aunt’s estate $32,700, 50 years ago. I knew a Tiffany lamp was worth more than $20. The bank had done the appraisal, and it was just completely bad and I knew that she was quite a grand collector.

“The family was so grateful that they gave my wife and I classes at the University of California called Recognizing Antiques.”

An expert appraiser, Housen is often called by people looking to have their own antiques inspected. He has even taught at Olympic College, but said these days he has taken himself away from the academic side of the business to focus more on running his own shops.

“That’s been very exciting,” he said. “I don’t ever go to sales. I just go to homes when people call me.”

And, of course, he answers his own door, too.

Not knowing what someone might bring in for him to examine is one of his favorite aspects of the job, Housen said, and one he has passed to his employees.

“You never know what’s going to come in,” agreed longtime employee Kevin Kemp. “It’s fun to know the history of things and to be able to explain it to customers, because sometimes they don’t understand: ‘No it’s really old.’”

A former Bainbridge resident, Kemp now lives in Port Orchard and works mainly at Housen’s Silverdale store, though she does chip on Bainbridge from time to time.

“We have a good customer base that’s been built up over the years,” she said. “Denis is so knowledgeable. He has such a passion. What we try to do is have that passion and pass it on to the customers.

“It’s fun to see — or sad to see — customers who came in as kids and then they bring their kids in and you go, ‘Oh, I’ve really been here a long time.’”

Housen jokingly calls Kemp is “second wife,” and she also likens their relationship to a marriage. The guy is fun, she said, but demanding.

“You have to be in this business,” Kemp laughed. “Because details are very important. We have a lot of fun.

“We are what we call a working antique shop. It takes a lot of work to keep it dusted, polished, clean, priced.”

Pastiche (187 Ericksen Ave. NE) boats an especially expansive collection of locally-sourced antiques and collectibles, furniture — American and European — as well as glass, crystal and china, fine furnishings, sculpture, paintings and prints, and even stained glass.

On special display right now are a plethora of antique Halloween cards from the turn of the century (think spooky Christmas cards), and Housen is also excited to display some recently acquired paintings by Alphonse Mucha, a particularly collectible Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist.

“I especially like Art Nouveau,” Housen admits.

Kemp too said some pieces jump out at you more than others, even if you’re in such a relic rich environment regularly.

“I love the age of things,” she said. “The history of things, to be able to hold something that’s from the 1850s, 1860s.”

Pastiche Antiques is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Visit www.facebook.com/Pastiche-Antiques-on-Bainbridge or call 2016-780-6709 to learn more.