Born and raised in New Orleans, Allain Bush’s love for collecting began at a young age. Allain shares, “I would go out on our gravel road and search for fossils for hours and never tire.” Her love of the “hunt” is something that served Allain well in her decades at the helm of Bush Antiques, a unique shop that melded the distinct style of its owner with New Orleans and European flair.
In 1969, Margie Bush, Allain’s mother, opened Bush Antiques on upper Magazine Street. While now a thriving commercial corridor, at the time it was a far cry from the endless blocks of stylish interior design studios, antique shops, clothing boutiques and cafes that now line the street.
Allain traveled and explored a variety of different jobs after completing college, but ultimately joined her mother in the antique business in 1979. Allain and Margie purchased a two-story building in the heart of the historic “Magazine Row”, a two-block area known for its many art and antique shops. Almost immediately after partnering with her mother, Allain began taking buying trips to France and Belgium to expand the shop’s offerings and client base.
Bush Antiques became known nationally for its sumptuous selection of antique furniture, mirrors, religious art, ironworks, lamps, chandeliers, textiles, decorative accessories and more. Allain transformed the shop into a unique and eclectic mix of fine and decorative pieces picked for their originality or beauty and reflecting Allain’s own taste for the slightly imperfect.
In 1989, Allain purchased the adjacent building and opened “Beds Au Reve”, a division specializing in antique beds. A variety of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century beds were incorporated into the showroom, allowing for twelve rooms and a lush courtyard of must-see vignettes designed to highlight each item. The success of the shop was just as much about Allain’s eye for selecting pieces as her ability to style them.
Visitors from around the world, including countless celebrities, made sure to stop by Bush Antiques while in New Orleans. The shop even made an appearance in two seasons of Treme, a popular HBO series, as the location for Davis Rogan’s mother’s antique shop.
Allain, her home and shop were featured and mentioned in numerous books, newspapers and magazines over the years, including Veranda, Southern Accents, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Magazine Antiques.
An article in Art & Antiques remarked, “As you enter Bush Antiques you may be tempted to genuflect.” USA Today described Bush Antiques as “a charming trove of secret places and hidden parts […] artfully laid out so you want all of it”. Lenny Kravitz even referred to Allain as “The Bomb” in a 2002 Vogue interview with Julia Reed – a testament to her magnetic personality and one-of-a-kind shop. Following Allain’s retirement in 2012, Bush Antiques closed its doors and a new chapter began.
A consummate collector herself, Allain’s Garden District carriage house is unsurprisingly filled with a sophisticated mix of European and English antiques along with nods to her family’s Louisiana roots. Built in 1880, the structure once served as the stables for a grand Victorian house, but was later converted to a stand-alone residence. Now distinctly decorated in her own style, the seemingly quaint yellow house is also where Allain spent her childhood. She returned to the house in 1998 after her parents passed away and renovated the interior to fit her eclectic collection of religious artifacts, architectural elements, antique furniture and fine art.
While it took some time for her husband, Gordon, to fall in love with antiques, the thrill of searching for and finding new pieces around the world for their own collection and for the shop became a shared passion. When the two met, Gordon was more drawn to the clean lines of Italian modernism, but his time with Allain and a couple of her close collector friends put him on a path to an appreciation for antiques.
As Allain puts it, “I think the more Gordon was exposed to the amazing warmth of those antiques the more he started to come over to our side.”
As with all lifelong collectors, Allain continues to add to and edit her ever-growing collection. New Orleans Auction Galleries is pleased to offer an impressive mix of European and Southern antiques, paintings and decorative objects from the collection of Allain Bush, including pieces from her mother’s estate.