Crescent Hill Trading Company is a true gem of a store located conveniently in the Crescent Hill neighborhood of Louisville at 2720 Frankfort Avenue, right behind Carmichael’s Bookstore. The shop has been a fixture in the area for years. In 2016, after years of thinking about owning the store, Mark Gaff was finally able to make that dream a reality, putting his personal stamp on the collection of items they carry and the way they approach design.
The moniker ‘trading company’ often evokes visions of riches being discovered in foreign lands and far-off countries in the depths of Asia or Africa. Luckily, Mark has been able to keep his treasure-hunting local, discovering pieces primarily in the Louisville area. His finds are from a variety of places such as estate and antique sales, country homes or from friends who have located a piece he might enjoy.
Mark grew up in Northern Indiana on a farm, and from the time he was a boy, he enjoyed re-arranging the furniture in his parents’ home. And his artistic eye and penchant for home design is clear in his creative collection of home decor finds.
The store is truly a wonder, both inside and out, beckoning passersby to explore its cache of valuables. Driving by on Frankfort, there’s an eye-catching outdoor space filled with wicker tables, iron coat racks, stained glass as well as ceramic plant pots and garden figurines. Inside, there are more treasures than you can imagine. He has Lenox dinner settings, bookcases, lighting fixtures, end tables, chairs, bar sets — even an old Underwood manual typewriter, complete with the original case. The inside space encompasses two levels and the basement, which he fondly calls “the rabbit hole.”
Although the store is certainly the place for anyone searching for that special gift or unique home décor item, Crescent Hill Trading Company sets itself apart from your run-of-the-mill antiques store with its breathtaking repurposed finds and reimagined antiques-turned-masterpieces. This stems from Mark’s interest and belief in keeping the planet sustainable and clean for our future generations by recycling, repurposing and reusing what is available to us already. Instead of throwing outdated heirlooms and tired antiques into landfills, Mark and his creative partners are taking vintage pieces and repurposing them in inventive ways.
“I have always seen the beauty in the design of older pieces and have been creative in reusing items for new purposes,” Mark explains. “A few years ago, I participated in the ‘Green Institute’ that is conducted by the ‘Center for Neighborhoods,’ a local nonprofit that provides education and support to the local area.” This helped him realize what he needed to do, personally, to keep our planet from being burdened with waste.
Mark works with two highly talent artists, Leslie McCarthy and Brenda Wessling, who take old furniture and breathe new life into them. Leslie is the previous owner of “Making Ends Meet,” a home interiors boutique. “She pieces and creates ‘art furniture.’ These are statement pieces for your home,” says Mark. She primarily devises these pieces using multiple fabrics and paints on chairs, ottomans, and chandeliers. Brenda, whom Mark met through mutual friends, takes furniture and paints them to be one-of-a-kind works of art. Mark even has a “studio” space in his store where Brenda will work on pieces for their clients. “I think it’s important that we all have furniture or décor in our homes that doesn’t look like your neighbor’s furniture,” says Mark. “It’s important to have things that are unique to your own style and taste.”
So, what exactly does the store have that’s been repurposed and updated?
“There are so many things,” Mark says. “One beautiful piece we found was a huge stained glass window from a church. A lot of it was broken, unusable, but we were able to take pieces and turn them into wall hangings for your home.”
One of Mark’s favorite creations is indoor wooden benches made from old bed frames, specifically a bench made from a 100-year-old Jenny Lind bed. It’s been repurposed and painted, and is simply gorgeous. He’s proud to say that it was used as a decorative piece in the Homearama Show in Louisville. Two mid-20th Century leather-topped wooden end tables were repurposed by Brenda by painting them gray then dipping the legs in gold paint. And two wing-backed chairs have been given new life by covering them in kelly-green fabric and incorporating applique designs — one with a jockey and another with a horse — just perfect for residents of the Derby City.
Though one wouldn’t think of it, old glass-paned windows can also be reused. “I had one client who came in and purchased a nine-panel glass window. She set it on top of a card table then took place cards that looked like houses, and decorated the window to look like a street scene for her party,” he says. “A bride came in, and instead of using a guest book for her wedding, she put the window out with pens, and the guests signed that. It was the perfect way to preserve her guests’ signatures for her special day.”
If you’d like a piece repurposed, find something to use for a project, or just want to see what lies behind the doors of Crescent Hill Trading Company, Mark has a special knack for helping his clients find or create the perfect piece for them. A visit to this one-of-a-kind shop and its “rabbit hole” inevitably leads to the discovery of treasures that intrigue and delight.
Crescent Hill Trading Company is located behind Carmichael’s Bookstore at 2720 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (502) 896-6110 or visit crescenthilltradingcompany.com.
And thank you to Gretchen Bell of Gretchen Bell Photography for these beautiful photos.
This article is sponsored by Crescent Hill Trading Company.