Talking Stock: Beyond Gorgeosity
Hingham shopkeeper (and antiques-crazed Europhile) Peter Levis reveals how
he came to love modern style.
By Brigid Sweeney
- HOLDING COURT: Levis on a Marco Zanuso chair ($1,949) with dachshund Bonsai at his feet. Photo by Peter Tannenbaum.
Nothing about the South Shore's newest antiques and accessories boutique is quite as it seems. Beyond Gorgeosity may occupy two unassuming storefronts between the Hingham fire station and a Tedeschi's, but its interior resembles nothing so much as Vivienne Westwood's long-lost storage facility. The small space is literally overflowing with ephemera like Chromcraft Star Trek chairs, vintage Hollywood spotlights, and gilded 18th-century mirrors discovered at auctions and estate sales around the world. And then there's its owner: Peter Levis, a former insurance executive who looks like, well, a former insurance executive—but sounds like a bon vivant with a degree in decorative arts.
BOSTON HOME: First things first. What's with the name?
PETER LEVIS: It's a nod to the 11 years I spent in London. The '90s there were like the '80s in New York, and I was the British Jay McInerney. Consumption was conspicuous, champagne flowed freely, the parties were faaabulous, and everything was "beyond gorgeous," in the words of the posh people.
BH: That sounds like a world and a half away from Hingham. What brought you to the South Shore?
PL: Over the past 20 years, I moved from London to Barcelona to San Francisco, where I would forage for vintage pieces to feather my nest. But eventually I decided I'd had enough repatriation trauma, so I decided to come home and pursue my long-held dream of owning an antiques business. Hingham is a gorgeous town—though I do sometimes feel I'm pushing water uphill by trying to sell midcentury modern to a clientele with "olde New England" sensibilities.
BH: How do you define your aesthetic?
PL: I'm a relatively new convert to modernism. I grew up in an old 18-room house in Boston that seemed to have been decorated by the Addams Family. Until recently, my tastes ran more toward the crumbly gilt and tattered opulence of Continental furniture that you might find in the rundown palazzo of disenfranchised European nobility.
But two years ago, when I moved back, I helped a prominent scientist decorate
her Beacon Hill apartment. She showed me a picture of the look she wanted—the
clean, modern lines of the mid-1950s. I went to work sourcing key pieces and
immersed myself in 1stdibs.com, a phenomenal resource for midcentury furniture.
Today, if I could sell only one thing in my store, it would be 1950s Italian
BH: Tell us about some of your favorite pieces.
PL: Lately I've been all about bar carts and serving trolleys. The Italian ones are especially elegant— they make me think of The Talented Mr. Ripley with their sculptural legs and brass wheels. I have one by Aldo Tura, one by Cesare Lacca, two by Ico Parisi, one by Fontana Arte, and one by Mastercraft. I'm also very fond of this 1954 Marco Zanuso chair (pictured, page 24). It's upholstered in an Alexander Henry fabric called Ringo, while the sides and back are done in Kravet black velvet.
BH: You have quite the lighting collection, as well.
PL: My vintage French and Italian sconce collection is officially extensive! Sconces are a delightful way to add pizzazz to any room. I also love this Moon lamp (pictured), one of Verner Panton's earliest creations, dating to 1960. It consists of 10 ring-shape blades that filter light.
BH: As a decorator, how do you feel about designer reproductions?
PL: When I came back to Boston, I worked as a sales rep for a large furniture wholesaler, and most of it was really ghastly repro stuff. Now I only carry reproductions when it makes sense— when they're extremely high-quality, like this sideboard (pictured) in the style of Tommi Parzinger.
BH: What does the future hold for Beyond Gorgeosity?
pl: I hope to eventually find larger premises so my inventory doesn't have to be stacked to the ceiling. Everyone says I should host events to get people into the store, but right now it would be mayhem if more than 10 people showed up!
Aesthetically, I'm striving to be ever more cosmopolitan in what I present— to be less about ubiquitous Knoll sofas, Nelson chests, and Danish credenzas, and more about Ico Parisi consoles and Fontana Arte chandeliers and Stilnovo sconces. It's my hope that I am showing people something they've never seen before, and something they certainly won't see in any of the other antique or vintage shops in New England.
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