Nestled on one of the Upper East Side’s loveliest streets is Creel & Gow, a spectacular grand-scale cabinet of curiosities that I recently happened upon as I was rushing madly – as you do – about Manhattan. The tree-lined block of East 70th Street feels a bit like Paris – pretty, calm, with rows of historic brownstones – and this new retail addition also has a Gallic feel, thanks in large part to co-owner Jamie Creel, who is based in the City of Light. Together with Christopher Gow, formerly of Sotheby’s, he has created a beautiful oasis bursting with “fascinating and exquisite objects from around the globe”.
I was transported as I entered the former stables of an immense townhouse, now filled with fantastic collections of minerals, coral, shells, taxidermy and other objets d’art. Each room features theatrically lit display cases that make the shop feel like a jewel box of a gallery, or a bijou museum of natural history. I was struck by the array of unique finds, categorised as Oceanic, Mineral, Natural History, Library and Décor. What first caught my eye, however, was a regal stuffed crowned crane (second picture, $3,500) in the store’s front window – and it was one delightful discovery after another from the threshold forward.
Creel & Gow’s serene space is divided into rooms ranging from stark white to ruby red, and all are peppered with specimen cases and tables that show off the forms to great effect. Most stunning is a room with floor-to-ceiling shelves (third picture) that hold everything from a deconstructed lobster encased in glass ($10,500) to enormous geodes ($1,750). I loved the black and white contrasts throughout – whether in zebra skins and prints, or the juxtaposition of bleached cat’s paw coral ($300) with an eerie jet-black skull ($4,000). I had my eye on the stunning rock-crystal bowls ($4,000-$8,000), delicate, sea-themed bell jars ($1,150-$2,800) and endless shells ($40-$1,500) – many partially silvered – which would make perfect pieces of sculpture.
Sea lily fossils ($20,000), snake skeletons ($1,750) and simple bird prints ($400) round out Creel & Gow’s offerings – many of which I still find intriguing. Who, for example, will be the future owner of the model of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion that has been painstakingly crafted from 40,000 matchsticks (fourth picture, $30,000)? Probably not me, but one can dream…