Working in Taos for the past two decades, Patrick and Cybil Dunbar have imported thousands of handmade architectural antiques from exotic locations. Many of the carved doorways, ornate iron gates, sculpted pillars, gateways, intricate cast-iron windows, and other large elements on display at their business are salvaged from colonial estates in India. These elegant pieces gain new life by being incorporated into the homes and lifestyles of Taoseños as well as visitors from afar who appreciate fine artistry.
In contrast to the large items located on the spacious front grounds of Dunbar & Dunbar Antiques, the shop toward the rear of the property displays a phantasmagoria of smaller goods. These gift items and collectibles are hand-picked to enhance their owners’ quality of life. The building itself is a sensual delight with aromatherapy products gently scenting the air, enlivening flamenco or tango music softly playing in the background, and a visual feast that titillates browsers.
In the large front display room, the eyes alight on a wooden santo surrounded by candles and flowers, then move to a sturdy cabinet exhibiting calligraphy materials and perfumed inks, then to the beautiful Oriental carpets on the floor, then to a Hindu stone statue, then to a series of glass knobs, books interspersed between assorted religious curios, then to an assortment of biodynamic skin care products by Dr. Hauschka. The room is filled with an extraordinary mix of delightful treasures, each silently beckoning for a closer examination.
This intriguing potpourri from different epochs and various cultures reflects the personality and personal tastes of co-owner Cybil Dunbar. Vivacious, passionate, and engaging, she extends an open-hearted welcome to all who enter her sanctuary. This connoisseur of beauty always seems eager to discuss the history of individual items in the shoppe or to elucidate the connections between the different cultures and belief systems that they represent.
“My gratitude and love for beauty has made me into an activist for beauty,” Cybil explained. “I want my life to be an artful expression and to share it with others. This shop revolves around the art of living and a generosity of spirit.”
Cybil’s voracious curiosity has been aroused by the salons that women created in 17th-century France. These aristocrats and artists were widely acclaimed for their intellectual abilities, chic attire, and stimulating conversations.
Her research has strongly influenced Cybil’s selections of books, writing accoutrements, candles, lotions, and potions that the shoppe now carries. In several ways, her domain resembles a modern salon where business and fun freely intermix as an ever changing group of new-comers and regulars are encouraged to share their experiences and their wit.
“I’m always in search of affordable luxuries,” Cybil said. “They must be exquisite, yet discreet and somewhat unique as well. I love creating imaginary homelands and childhoods for clients – something to remind them of who they wanted to be, once upon a time. I want to instill a slightly otherworldly quality here, in the hope of awakening my customers’ curiosity and presenting them with a creative space. William Morris suggested that you should only have things in your home that you feel are useful and beautiful. Everything that surrounds me serves a purpose, and as I age, I need fewer things, but I insist on
Inside, the shop’s sensual feminine element casts a glamorous spell and heals the psyche. Yet outside, masculine energy predominates in the form of architectural elements that symbolize protective energy, such as doors and pillars.
Many of these large scale antique pieces are completely functional while exuding museum quality artistry and craftsmanship. The impressive selection of doors and gateways is especially enchanting, many with appealing surface textures and embellishments that were hand-carved from teak, rosewood, jackwood, and other traditional Indian hardwoods.
Cybil often advises prospective customers to return home to ponder if a particular architectural element is the right choice for them. She counsels that if they dream about it, then it will be theirs. Some of her customers use their imaginative creativity to transform these enchanting relics into tables, benches, headboards, and mantels to mesh well with their lives and personal vision.
An online inventory permits prospective buyers to view hundreds of finely crafted antiques, including architectural elements and enhancements, armoires, benches, chests, columns, desks, doors, gates, chairs, tables, windows, and a collection of fine art. Since the Dunbars negotiate directly with their Indian suppliers, buyers are assured of the quality and authenticity of their purchases.
A large sale tent contains a varied selection of discounted sturdy wooden furniture, carvings, and books. This perpetual sale area ensures that the visitor can always find a treasure at a bargain price.
At the end of September, a major new modern art gallery will open on the grounds. Cybil and Patrick look forward to the infusion of creative energy that proprietors Jerry Warman and Clint Hulse will bring by way of world-class exhibitions.
“I don’t remember when I’ve ever felt so divinely guided and inspired,” Cybil shared. “I am walking in between the worlds, but about to turn a cosmic corner.”
“It is a great time of transition, a time of becoming, a time of refining and re-defining. I’m ready for a new season, a new look. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Today is a magical day if we choose to make it so.”
At a glance
Dunbar & Dunbar Antiques
222 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Summer hours: 10 a.m. To 5 p.m. daily
Phone: (505) 758-2511
Fax: (505) 758-0276
Web site: www.patrickdunbar.com