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Good deal on something great

Couple's hobby turns into a Revolving Vault of collectibles, from Sinatra paintings to antiques

Photo by Barbara Kuntz
The Revolving Vault, September 2012

What began less than a year ago as a couple’s new hobby together quickly evolved into a full-fledged business: The Revolving Vault, the latest addition to Houston's antiques scene.

Family, friends and interested guests recently toasted the grand opening of the new store, where Tracie and Chad Martin are sharing their passion for everything “antique, curious & collectible."

The shop, located at 1847 W. Alabama St., is filled to the brim with the Martins’ ever-growing inventory, from furniture and fine art to sports and military memorabilia to a room overflowing with pop culture items.

“This all started when Chad and I decided to find a relaxing hobby,” Tracie recalls. “Just something fun for us to do on the weekends.”

The pursuit began with visits to Houston’s auction houses, where Tracie says she and Chad were immediately drawn into the excitement of seeking out - and buying - unusual and one-of-a-kind things.

“We couldn’t believe what people were selling,” Tracie says. “It is so much fun, getting a bidding number, watching the items go up for sale, the energy building.

“And there’s nothing more thrilling than getting a good deal on something great."

The pop culture room at The Revolving Vault

Courtesy of Photo courtesy The Revolving Vault
The Revolving Vault, Marilyn Monroe Glitter by Blake Ballard, September 2012

The couple expanded their haunts by frequenting estate sales to hopping in the car for road trips, including ventures to Round Top Antiques Fair and an 800-mile trek to the Auction Kings' Gallery 63 in Atlanta, Ga. There, they filled a trailer full of goodies to bring back to Houston.

Included in that haul were several "glitter" paintings by artist Blake Ballard. Tracie and Chad were both so thrilled with the artwork, they flew Ballard to Houston to deliver more of his creations.

"We bought Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra in Atlanta," Tracie says, "but we wanted more."

Michael (Jackson), John (Lennon) and Marilyn (Monore) glitter pieces joined the collection and are for sale at The Revolving Vault.

"Marilyn Monroe” by Blake Ballard, $4,500

Courtesy of Photo courtesy The Revolving Vault
The Revolving Vault, chest, urns, oval painting, David Hickman Oval Canvas, Moroccan Door

In the meantime, Tracie and Chad's collection was becoming, well, so massive they had to rent a storage unit to house their purchases. The couple soon needed another unit and then a third as the duo's collection was "bursting at the seams."

The duo decided to consolidate and leased a 4,500-square-foot warehouse as a temporary storage facility. They recently moved everything to a 7,000-square-foot air-conditioned building as a permanent headquarters, complete with offices, just a few miles away from the store location.

Tracie began carefully selecting and arranging items at The Revolving Vault before the granding opening, creating an attractive decor with themed vignettes artistically displaying the wares. In fact, the entire store, though heavily stocked with once-dusty pieces, is fresh and inviting.

A vignette near the entrance, with hand-painted Duncan Phyfe dresser, $1,425; cast iron urns, $125 each; Moroccan door/screen, $3,200; and signed David Hickman oval acrylic painting on canvas, $7,800

Photo by Barbara Kuntz
The Revolving Vault, September 2012

Visitors feel welcome to wander about the shop, with tiled flooring softened by intermittent area rugs underfoot. Aisles are wide enough to step back and study the artwork, display cabinets are not overloaded and, most importantly, the offerings are truly interesting.

"We want to show people we have a lot of very nice things," Tracie says. "We don't - and can't - bring out everything, so the store gives people an idea of what we do have."

At the store's main counter, guests may write down their "wish list" thoughts in a sign-in book. The Martins keep the requests in mind on their shopping trips.

In the foreground, coffee bag ottomans, $225 each, sit neatlly in a row under a table in the front room. Against the wall at left is a hand-painted demilune dresser on sale for $1,200. At right, a vintage display case holds choice jewelry.

Courtesy of Photo courtesy The Revolving Vault
The Revolving Vault, turqooise mosaic steer skulls, September 2012

The back room at The Revolving Vault continues to exude a roomy feel. One large glass-topped cabinet showcases antique swords and guns, while another is a treasure trove for militaria-lovers.

Find black powder flasks and "trench art,"  artillery shells reworked into candle holders and vases, as well as nods to Native American history and to Texas. Thousands of coins will delight savvy collectors, as will the very eclectic assortment of accessory and decorative pieces.

Turquoise steer skulls, $1,600 each; painted European desk, $4,200; 3-by-5-foot Moroccan rug, $450

Courtesy of Photo courtesy The Revolving Vault
The Revolving Vault, industrial table with stools, September 2012

"We have lots of industrial pieces," Tracie says. "It's such a popular style, so we're prepared to meet that demand."

Industrial bar top table with cushioned stools, $1,900

Courtesy of Photo courtesy The Revolving Vault
The Revolving Vault, Brody Neuenschwander, original, painting, September 2012

Prints and original artwork abound, such as this Brody Neuenschwander creation.

"When we were at Round Top, we stayed right next door to June Levy's gallery," Tracie explains. "Well, her son is Brody, and she was showcasing his work before she closed her gallery. We bought a lot of items from her."

“City Sunset” by Brody Neuenschwander, 2010, collage of hand-color rice paper and antique papers on rag paper with sumi ink and gold leaf, $2,200

Photo by Barbara Kuntz
The Revolving Vault, September 2012

Elegant "window dressing" at The Revolving Vault lures shoppers inside with a Henry II-style carved oak buffet standing at the back wall and the Marilyn Monroe sparkle painting hanging in full window view (Elvis hangs facing into the store). In the foreground, a clever cushioned-topped stool is actually an authentic champagne tub from a vineyard in France. The seat opens to reveal roomy storage inside.

Buffet, $1,400; "Elvis" by Blake Ballard, $4,500; champagne tub stool, $675 each

Courtesy of Photo courtesy The Revolving Vault
The Revolving Vault, large ship light, September 2012

"This is what my husband calls 'The Bat Light,'" Tracie says with a laugh, pointing out a huge ship light. "Chad found this at Round Top and wants to wire it to send a 'Bat Signal' above the store."

Courtesy of Photo courtesy The Revolving Vault
The Revolving Vault, Chad Martin, Tracie Martin, September 2012

"My husband is the visionary in all this," Tracie continues, further revealing, "Our long-term goal together is to own our own auction house.

"And we can do this as we grow old together."

Chad and Tracie Martin at the grand opening of The Revolving Vault