Most think residents of Preston Tower favor mid-century modern, but Tim Brown has packed his two-bedroom condominium with art, furniture and collectibles fitting of a museum.
A social worker, Brown works for Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System, where he supervises 173 social workers and six programs. He’s lived in Preston Tower for three years with his two parakeets. His mother resides on the 16th floor.
“I’ve always liked older things and been drawn to art,” says Brown, who studied professional painting in junior high and high school. “Home is important to me because social work can be challenging. I like to think of myself as a caretaker to these pieces of art so I can share them with the next generation.”
The living room boasts an 18th-century French bibliotheque, a pair of 18th century Japanese panels and two 19th century carved temple foo dogs. His paintings range from a sketch painting of Joseph Delattre, a French painter of the Rouen school, a 19th century still life by British artist William H. Smith and the 18th-century portrait of Sir Horatio Nelson to an allegorical painting of the English defeating the Ottoman Empire. There’s a 19th century French Empire rams head chandelier in the dining room, a 19th-century Chinese jade bowl, an 18th century carved Buddha and a French Art Nuevo Gilt mirror.
Brown’s great-grandmother and great-aunt were artists. “My great-grandmother always said, ‘Save your nickels, pennies and dimes. Buy the best you can, and you will cherish it the rest of your life.’ I’ve always been careful with my money, and I’ll watch for opportunities.”
Brown has amassed his collection during travels. He found the foo dogs during a 2006 trip to Taiwan for an international orchid conference. On tour, he visited a Buddhist temple where he spoke with monks about restoration work there. Since they were replacing them with new pieces, the monks agreed to accept a donation to the temple in exchange for the pieces.
A French Empire mahogany bed was acquired in Atlanta and resized. He found a Federal Giltwood convex mirror with eagle crest at an estate sale in Palm Beach, Florida. It was missing an eye, and Brown found a replacement in a gem store in Santa Fe. He monitored a German grandfather clock in San Antonio for five years. It was owned by an Our Lady of Lake chemistry professor, whose hobby was collecting clocks.
At an auction, Brown was determined to acquire a hunting trophy painting of pheasant and other game birds by a Belgian artist. He and a dealer bid back and forth repeatedly, and he finally relented. A month later, he was still thinking about the painting. He wrote the auctioneer asking for the shop owner who’d acquired the piece to contact him. A week later, a woman with a Southern accent called and said, “I understand you’re interested in my painting.” Brown said, “Yes ma’am.” She said, “I have some good news and some bad news.” Brown thought, “She’s going to stick it to me.” The woman said, “The bad news is that the painting sold, but the good news is, her husband hated it.” Brown drove to East Texas to pick it up.
Brown’s favorite piece, a still life by French painter Prosper Gabrielle Audran, is in the dining room. Born in 1744, Audran was a student of his uncle Benoit II, but abandoned art and became a Hebrew teacher in the College de France in Paris. “You’re seeing the beauty of life, the finality of life and the circle of life all in one painting.”
Brown thrills in the search. He’s had his eye on a French still life for 20 years that has been at several galleries in Dallas and now is at Forestwood Antiques Mall.
His guilty pleasure is watching “Antique Roadshow,” of course. “When it’s on, I’m like, ‘Leave me alone. Don’t call me. I’m not meeting with anybody.’”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.