Six Questions with Anne Riker Powell

Anne Riker Powell. Photo by Katherine Jianas

Virginia native Anne Riker Powell has been interested in decorative arts from a young age, which led her to earn her master’s degree in the history of decorative arts at Bard Graduate Center. She launched her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and moved to Kansas City in 2012 following her marriage. Powell recently launched FOLIO, selling vintage and antique objects online and at A Fabulous Find in Mission.

What led you to pursue an advanced degree in decorative art?
I’ve been interested in decorative arts and design from a young age. A childhood trip to the D&D building in New York with my aunt, who is a decorator, made a big impression on me. In middle school, I requested a subscription to Architectural Digest, and in high school and college I found jobs working in furniture stores and for a dealer of 20th-century design.

I studied art history as an undergraduate, and the advanced degree was a way to take those studies further. The program I ended up in was a degree in decorative arts, design, and material culture—the material culture part is important. We studied not just high design and interiors, but everyday objects, too.

What was your first impression of the Kansas City design community?
I loved Kansas City from the moment I moved here and was especially excited that there seemed to be so much emphasis on the arts. The museum collections in Kansas City are absolutely topnotch, and spaces like Kauffman Center are magnificent. There is so much inspiration and creativity all around. I had a lot of fun exploring areas like the West Bottoms and the shops at 45th and State Line as I was getting to know Kansas City better.

How did you find your bearings here professionally?
After having worked for years in museum administration, I wanted to explore something more on the creative side. I was lucky to be hired by Natalie O’Shaughnessy, an interior designer in town, who helped me hone my design eye. FOLIO grew out of a need to immerse myself in the world of objects again and to really find and express my own point of view.

You’ve started selling decorative accessories online through Instagram, Etsy, and Chairish. When did you start and what inspired you to begin selling?
I was already shopping at the estate sales, and I was looking for a way to exercise my creative muscles again. One day, a little over two years ago, I bought a huge pile of antique Wedgwood transferware at an estate sale knowing that I could never keep it all. (You might not be surprised to learn that I still haven’t offered it for sale.) That was when I started buying with the intention to sell.

And, honestly, how much of your finds do you end up keeping for yourself?
Too much! Let’s be honest, I’m a seller by profession but a collector at heart. Often, I get emotionally attached. Most of the time I buy things knowing whether they are “to keep” or “to sell,” but sometimes things worm their way into my heart after sitting around for a bit, especially once I’ve photographed them and spent time getting to know them.

One more—did you go to the Met Ball? And, if yes, what was the best part?
Yes! Well, not so much go, as work. I was usually stationed at check in, where we got a great view of the fashion. But the best part for me was getting to see the décor and the room where dinner would be held before everyone got there. It was always completely over the top and stunning.