There’s much to be said for furniture or décor items that come with their own rich history, especially those distinctive pieces in the once-neglected but now much in-demand classic modern category.
It’s that design narrative, plus the joy of hunting down the very best specimens of not-soancient furniture and decorative art, that has made Dallas-based 20cdesign one of America’s leading purveyors of 20thcentury artifacts.
Partners Barry Gream and Ryan Rucker’s showroom has been dazzling design enthusiasts for almost seven years, but insiders know the real gold is in the duo’s nearby warehouse—a veritable treasure trove of original, well-maintained pieces from across the country.
“We both started as collectors, and we’d amassed such large private collections that it inevitably evolved into us becoming dealers,” explains Rucker. “As a collector, I was always looking to upgrade my collection—the discovery of the unknown was what fueled the pursuit.”
Rucker’s own fascination with the distinctive style and ethos of mid-century design began when he started selling vintage clothing as a successful teenage entrepreneur, and eventually became interested in completely outfitting his apartment in the evocative furniture he saw in 1970s flicks, like Super Fly and Coffy.
“I was so intrigued by all that sexy Italian ’70s furniture and thought, ‘These pieces still have to be out there, somewhere,’” he says. “In the beginning, I would pound the pavement searching any and every place you could find used furniture. I remember walking in to Barry’s shop when it first opened in the mid-90s and thinking, ‘This is the epicenter of everything I was looking for!’”
The pair instantly developed a personal chemistry for finding the very best in desirable mid-century artifacts, and they have a detective’s sense of devotion to sourcing what are often entire personal collections of original, highly valuable pieces. 20cdesign was originally a by appointment only web-based company, which afforded them the time to travel the country participating in the top modernism exhibitions in the nation. The duo were continually committed to raising the bar on the content and presentation of the inventory they represented, which in turn helped to elevate the standard for many of the shows. “It felt like the doors of the universe would just open for us,” says Rucker “We’re kind of an unstoppable force—we tend to synergize and complement each other in a way that is best understood by viewing our collections.”
In its previous form on the local Dallas scene the company was something of an enigma. “On one hand, we provided rentals for numerous major motion pictures, such as Iron Man and Spiderman, and Showtime and HBO originals, amongst others. We also regularly provided pieces to some of the city’s top photo stylists for shoots involving Neiman Marcus, Stanley Korshak and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra,” Gream says. “We had a very exclusive international clientele; we sold pieces to numerous celebrities, such as Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage and Jennifer Aniston, but on the other hand, locally, nobody knew what to think of us.”
Rucker adds: “For many years we felt like Dallas was not quite ready to support the type of gallery we had envisioned. We just didn’t want to offer the same predictable inventory that is commonly found in stores of this nature. Over the last decade we really sensed the tide beginning to turn, especially with the renovations to the Arts District. So, in 2007 we saw our vision become a reality by opening our first brick-andmortar location in the heart of the Dallas Design District.”
Vast as it is, 20cdesign’s flexible studio space displays less than 20 percent of the duo’s ever-changing stock. But it’s flexible enough to allow opening parties and musical events to showcase the remarkable range and scope of classic modern pieces they’ve found—some bizarre, others strikingly beautiful in their timeless design.
Andy Stonehouse is a writer and editor based in Greeley, Colorado, specializing in automotive, recreation and shelter stories. He can be reached at email@example.com.