Curious Objects: Wade Lege on Mistakes Collectors or Restorers Make

Editorial Staff Curious Objects

An 1840s plantation desk, made of cherry with cypress secondary wood, is the centerpiece of Kismet’s enclosed loggia. Photograph by Richard Sexton.

Benjamin Miller talked to Wade Lege about his restoration of a Mississippi bayou home in the fourth episode of The Magazine ANTIQUES’s podcast Curious Objects. In this excerpt, Lege enumerates the mistakes collectors and restorers make, with “[buying] too much crap” at the top of the list.

Benjamin Miller: What is a mistake that you see other collectors—or people who are involved in this kind of restoration area—what’s one mistake that you see them making that you would caution them against?

Wade Lege: I would say, you know, it’s good to collect and to have an old building you love. You want to make the house for yourself to live in. I would caution against not making it as a Museum as you might have intended to or, I guess, as authentic as you might have intended to. Because, you know, you want things to work, you want to live in it, and you need it . . . you may want to multi-use the building. In other words, you may want to event rental the building, or you may have some other ideas later down the road that you don’t see coming and you may want to allow yourself some room to do that. As far as collecting, too many people buy too much crap . . .

Benjamin Miller: (laughter)

Wade Lege: It’s true. And too many people hoard. Too many collectors have too many things. I have to be around only a few beautiful things and I guess that’s different in everyone’s mind and taste. But I do see a lot of junk amongst a lot of people’s beauty, or, you know, you’ll see some beautiful things and then a lot of junk, and, you know, you’ve got to wonder, you know. So, collecting is, you know . . . I’m a poor man’s, you know, a classical dealer or buyer. You know, this is a poor version of the classics over here. I did not have a great budget to collect, and I’m very fortunate these days that how affordable great American pieces have become. Fifteen years ago it was very different. You know, things had strong value and great things had even stronger value, and the only thing that has maintained its value is the art. Actually, the art has gone up. Regional art has skyrocketed, and art in particular has not fallen. Furniture and other objects of art, decorative arts, people are . . . I mean, candlesticks don’t even sell anymore. I don’t care how nice, how decorated the furniture, you know, it is shocking that many things European will find buyers at auction with what I consider kind of eye-opening prices, and, however, the much more refined, much more elegant, much more beautiful American piece is just sitting there with no interest.

Wade Lege. Photograph by Richard Sexton.

Wade Lege, an independent collector and subject of the fourth installment of Curious Objects & the stories behind them.

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