“It was my destiny,” Kenyon says, calmly removing a dining table leaf from a camelback sofa so she can offer a visitor a place to sit. “I have observed that people who excel in a specific talent like ice skating or piano, or in my case collecting, seem to express that talent at an extremely early age.”
Kenyon began saving things as a child: Coca-Cola memorabilia, old marbles and antique patent medicine bottles she’d dig for in the sand dunes of Bethany Beach, Del. She interned at the Smithsonian and Winterthur Museum and polished her skills for 14 years cataloguing, appraising and auctioning antiques and fine art at C.G. Sloan & Co., a Washington auction house founded in 1853.
“Looking at objects all day long, you learn what is rare and what is not,” Kenyon says. “I was glad I started when I did because there were still great estates left in Washington, grand mansions full of generations’ worth of treasures.”
In 2003, she and two partners bought C.G. Sloan & Co. Eventually she bought them out. Today she has 25 full-time employees and holds at least five major catalogue auctions a year in her galleries. She also owns the adjoining S&K Consignment Gallery, where some of the city’s best antiques dealers can be spotted sifting through monogrammed silver baby rattles and vintage mirrors. Kenyon is also a senior member of the American Society of Appraisers. She lives in Bethesda, not far from where she grew up, with her husband Alex Beehler and two college-age daughters, Alexandra and Abigail.
She spoke with us recently about the business of identifying and selling mountains of stuff and how that’s influenced her personal style.
Your home: We have a 1930s house we reworked and remodeled. Each room is painted a different color. One of my favorites is the apricot octagonal study: The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Pan for Gold; the back of the built-in bookshelves is Beverly Hills. We have a mix of traditional and contemporary things, all eras, ages and countries of origin. My husband collects antique maps. I don’t collect so much anymore, but I like old tarot cards and handwriting analysis books.
Food: For a quick takeout dinner I get sushi at Yirasai off River Road in Bethesda. I have great green glazed square sauce dishes that I got from an estate that had hundreds of pieces of Japanese porcelain. Praline is a great neighborhood restaurant and bakery and makes the best cookies and macaroons.
Fashion: We are developing a market niche in fashion. I myself bought a flame-orange Laura Biagiotti jacket at one of our auctions. I also got a sensational beaded 1920s flapper dress from an estate, as well as an Elsa Schiaparelli hat from the 1950s. We had a great sale a few months ago: Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Jill Sander clothes and Chanel and Hermes bags, lots of ’80s and ’90s things. Actually, the auction of the purses of the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union a few years ago opened our eyes to this possibility. We are doing another fashion auction in May.