Wherein an escape from corporate drudgery evolves into a strange and wonderful journey of design exploration.
Shoulders squared, Dave Allen walks out of a perfectly good Silicon Valley managerial career exchanging his pathetically cheerful neckties for Patagonia stand-up shorts.
Cashing out his laughable 401K, he travels to Charleston, SC, renting a 24-foot Penske box truck, and proceeds to fill it with architectural antiques. Returning to his Menlo Park home 3,400 miles later, he holds his first private yard sale. More than thirty cross-country truck drives will follow.
Summer. On the road again, Dave fashions first Yard Sale Postcard at a Kinko’s in Buffalo, NY. Hand addressing them from his dingy motel room, Dave races home, just ahead of the sale date and a flurry of floating checks.
Sleuthing from coast to coast, Dave cultivates an extensive network of sources. Buoyed by increasing sales, he lets fly a series of increasingly bizarre postcards and the quest for a showroom begins.
Dave lays claim to a cavernous grain warehouse in San Jose and begins “moving a few things around..."
The paint is barely dry when the showroom is named Best Independent Retail Store Design in the US by Visual Merchandising and Store Design magazine. Dave haggles in Europe and Turkey and returns with something he didn’t bargain for — a rapidly evolving design aesthetic.
An intriguing invitation culminates in the move to a new showroom at Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma. Undeterred by a tanking dollar, Dave opens his wallet in Italy, Belgium and Holland.
Christmas: Dave creates the controversial yet deeply moving “300 Snowmen” installation, and a Sonoma tradition is born. In the showroom, modern design and highly ornamented architecturals commingle. Uma chooses Artefact as her new home.
Dave dives into European design and begins tracking decorative objects to their true source of manufacture in Asia. He ventures into India and China. Back home, he spends the year reading about the environmental degradation of the planet. He despises packaging waste, and for a time refuses to provide showroom customers with bags or wrappings of any sort. This strategy proves unpopular, and is soon abandoned.
Attending Maison et Objet in Paris, Dave discovers organic tropical vine-forms presented as art. He is transfixed. In a fit of counter-intuitive environmentalism, he battles the urge to drop everything and head to the jungle with an ax.
Dave drops everything and heads to the jungle with an ax. He traipses across Borneo, Java, Bali and parts of Malaysia and the Philippines filling his coffers with wondrous new objects. He is intrigued by the economy of village-level production.
Dave develops relationships and products with remote Indonesian villages. Containers smelling of the jungle arrive in Sonoma. An unlikely series of events culminates in a Cirque du Soleil benefit performance in big top behind the showroom. Dave manages to insinuate himself into the performance, and ticks a big one off the bucket list.
Asia continues to hold Dave’s attention. Innovative Las Vegas restaurant project with Roger Thomas sends him deep into the jungle. Flashy new website suffers from neglect. Axel joins the team and begins rigorous training toward official mascot certification.
2011 - 2013
Too many buddhas in the showroom convince Dave to revisit his Rust Belt roots. He renews old contacts and salvages on the East Coast. Dave’s second public art installation “Flotsam” debuts at Fort Mason to decidedly mixed reviews.
Having adamantly said no to any and all "interior design" invitations over the years (believing that even the smallest remodel would be riddled with unacceptable compromises and scrutiny of his largely solitary design pursuits), Dave says yes to a comically large commercial design project, and his trial by fire begins as the amazing 1440 Multiversity begins construction in Scotts Valley, with Dave in charge of all 150,000 square feet of interiors.
Ownership change at Cornerstone Gardens and a hefty dose of new investment take the showroom environs to an exciting new level. Hard lessons are learned in Scott's Valley; Dave soon suspects that commercial construction in California is a fool's errand. Nonetheless, progress on the massive project is made.
Sunset Magazine moves their show gardens and test kitchens to Cornerstone Gardens and Artefact begins to work with their dynamic team. Dave's secret plan is to leverage his usefulness to the editorial team in such a way as to see Axel appear on the cover of the magazine in the coming year. Stay tuned. And don't tell anybody.