Story by Libby Allen
Photos courtesy of JStephenYoung.com
While all three aspects of Appartique are necessary and valuable to make the concept work as a whole, the art is perhaps the most stunning characteristic of the store. Given a year to plan out what style of art to create for the store, Horton’s work on canvas is the perfect bridge between the classical antiques and high-end apparel displayed in the shop.
Walking into the space occupied by Appartique, a small store on Magazine Street, the smells of tobacco and crème brûlée scented candles inundate you. The shop sells a mixture of exactly what its name suggests: art, apparel, and antiques. A large concept to take in as a three part store, the idea flows well with other shops on Magazine Street, most likely because it brings together the three elements of retail sold around the area, and because it’s such an original business model. Not many boutique stores can incorporate clothing, art, and furniture in a way that appeals to shoppers, but Appartique has pioneered the idea well.
“All the other locations we looked at just weren’t quite financially feasible, and the store’s concept is a perfect fit for New Orleans,” Jason Horton, artist and co-owner of Appartique said.
Horton, John Grafe of Antiques & Interior Design, and Henry Torrence of Bespoke Tailor, owned separate stores in Jackson, Mississippi, all coinciding with their individual areas of expertise: art, high-end suits and apparel, and antique furniture.
“We were always in each other’s stores. So, last year, after a few bourbon-and-cokes at a Christmas party, we were sitting in a restaurant and came up with the concept,” Horton said.
Horton, Grafe, and Torrence not only created an intriguing and sophis-ticated idea for their store, but a successful one as well. The store is intentionally reminiscent of a man’s bedroom: tall, dark, wooden dresser cabinets, a vintage bar with all the trimmings and original art that pairs perfectly with its surroundings. The suits, shoes, and other apparel in the shop are dabbled around on tables, small clothes racks in corners, and on the tops of wardrobes placed in various spots on the floor.
While all three aspects of the store are necessary and valuable to make the concept work as a whole, the art is perhaps the most stunning characteristic of Appartique. Given a year to plan out what style of art to create for the store, Horton’s work on canvas is the perfect bridge between the classical antiques and high-end apparel displayed in the shop. Largely focused on the natural world, Horton’s art is finished with a high-glossed seal, reflecting a bright glimmer on top of neutral colors. This classical, yet modern style emulates the ambiance of Appartique’s unique, boutique-style gallery. Nearly all of the antique furniture in the store is European; ranging in selection from French, Italian, English, and some German furniture from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.
“I had a year to plan out and create the art that would work with the furniture. I did a series of nineteenth-century Prussian soldiers and a horse that was kind of the same theme and series. I did a portrait of Prince Albert, stuff like that. You know it’s going to work with where it will be sitting, and what it will be next to. It’s about color, form, and size. It’s about what’s existing and where it will fit.”
Though he never received formal training, Horton was inculcated at a young age with artistically minded friends and family.
“My father was a cartoon illustrator for UGA. His work is much different than mine - very realistically detailed, much like Albrecht Dürer. And my mother is a still life painter - her style is much more classical. She quit painting when I was born, but has been taking classes again for the last ten years. So it’s in the blood.”
Horton’s talent began to take shape while working in Atlanta with Deljou Art Group - at the time, one of the largest fine arts publishing companies in the U.S.
“I moved here, to New Orleans when I was 17, then moved to Atlanta a few years later, where I got a job at a frame shop. That was in 1999 for Deljou Art Group, and that was college for me. I started in the frame shop and learned the ropes, and I pretty much took the techniques that I was learning, like blending oil paint over silver leaf, which you have to do very gracefully or it looks globular, and I started doing sheer oil paintings,” Horton said.
In 2004 Horton took the training and technique learned from his time spent with Deljou Art Group and began making landscapes on gilt, which are typically somber, moody sunsets over water. Eventually, the artist began his current style of idealism: large, bold subjects with minimal backgrounds on board.
While Horton’s art is classical, like much of the furniture that Appartique sells, it is painted with a stimulating combination of idealism, realism, and naturalism, with detailed undertones. Horton credits his eclectic technique to an almost packrat-type personality, and a love for aged, vintage styles.
Arriving at the store around 7:30 every day to paint and work before the doors open for the day, Horton gives himself plenty of time every morning to allow his creativity to sink in.
“Some paintings you have to fight with, you have to manipulate to get the way that you want them - like the flowers that I’m painting right now. Other times the ideas and concepts just flow perfectly.
Between the intricate visions and entrepreneurship of Horton, Grafe, and Torrence, success as a business model is inevitable. Horton’s artistic abilities are a stimulating and refreshing grasp on the interlocking of art, antiques, design, and apparel.