LAKE FOREST — Mary Southworth and Kevin Boksha will be designing the interiors of North Shore homes differently in the future.
After 35 years of operating Samlesbury Hall Ltd. in downtown Lake Forest offering English antiques along with furniture, Southworth plans to close the store by the middle of March to concentrate on her design business with Boksha.
“The time has come,” said Southworth. “I’m not getting any younger and it’s getting a lot harder to keep the store open. Kevin (Boksha) and I are designers and we’ve been doing that all along. I just decided not to carry the store anymore.”
Though Southworth said she expects to close the store by late winter, she and Boksha, who joined the company 23 years ago, said sale traffic has been brisk and she could take action sooner.
“I’m telling people mid-March but if I sell the furniture I may move out before,” said Southworth.
In many ways the furniture has been a laboratory for the interior design business and a way to give customers suggestions where to place antiques in their homes. There is one display in the shop where a coffee table separates a sofa from a pair of chairs.
Between the chairs is what looks like an end table but it is more, according to Southworth. It was made in England in 1820.
“It was an end table for a bedroom,” said Southworth of the multi-drawer table. “One of the drawers was a potty. They used things differently then. This is how Kevin (Boksha) and I show people how to use antiques.”
Among the antiques are china, crystal, lamps and mirrors, according to Southworth. She said they set their tables to show the merchandise off changing with the season for Christmas, Easter and other times of year.
When the store closes, Southworth said she and Boksha will use the basement of her Lake Forest home as a showroom and a place to store items when necessary. For the most part, she said the laboratory will move to where the customers are.
“Most of our work will be done in our customers’ homes,” said Southworth. “We have to put things together and see how they flow.”
Boksha and Southworth will continue to scout furniture at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and make regular tours of the market in High Point, N.C., to stay abreast of trends.
Southworth and her late husband, Bruce Southworth, started the business on Westminster Road in downtown Lake Forest in 1981. One look at the ground level leads one to believe it is a small shop. A walk down to the basement shows a more vast space. She said about 25 percent of the shop is on the ground level and the other 75 percent below.
The major expansion came after one of their antique buying trips in 1982 or 1983, according to Southworth. She said they got some good bargains.
“On one of our buying trips the pound was the equivalent of the dollar and Bruce (Southworth) bought two containers of antiques,” said Southworth. “That’s when we opened the pine shop on North Western Ave.” Not long after that, the basement became available and Samlesbury Hall has occupied it ever since.
There have been more than 80 buying trips to England over the company’s 35-year history. Southworth said she and her husband, who died four years ago, scoured the cities and countryside for antiques.
“I got to know all the back streets and the countryside,” said Southworth.
One of the things Boksha said he is going to miss is Christmastime in the store. He said they give extra care to the decorations and the windows. It is also a busy time.
“It’s when all our old friends come into the store,” said Boksha. “A lot of people come to say high and see the decorations. I’m really going to miss that.”