Tucked into a quiet corner on Yale are the remains of a crumbling old mansion. The owner is a wealthy recluse, a woman of odd and unsettling interests who has filled her opulent abode with the talismans of the dark side. Visitors can enter and explore her macabre collections, but beware—the mistress of the house lives somewhere between this world and the next, and the next addition to her collections may be you.
Okay, none of this is true. But it feels true when you walk into The Wilde Collection, an extravagant oddities and curiosities shop opened this fall by Tyler Zofarette and Lawyer B. Douglas II. If the Addams family opened a shop, this would be it. It's a space that immediately transports you to a world that exists only in fantasy (or perhaps among the gilded haunts of New Orleans), and it deserves a backstory pulled from gothic literature.
It was literature that brought Zofarette and Douglas together—one is a particular fan of Oscar Wilde, the other of Edgar Allen Poe, and in discussing their favorite writers' commonalities (Wilde was a noted fan of Poe's work) that the idea for the Wilde Collection came together.
Douglas says that his family includes women who read fortunes via Loteria cards and practitioners of voodoo, so he's always had a view of the world and of spirituality that includes both the light and the darkness. He used to suffer from nightmares, but several years ago he started turning the monsters from his dreams into assemblage art works that incorporate taxidermy, dolls and all manner of objects that invoke the Victorian, Gothic and machine eras.
In addition to Douglas's art pieces, the store is covered in interesting, unusual and odd objects to explore, as well as large taxidermy animals. Walking in the door, visitors are greeted by a cheetah reclining on a chaise lounge, and there's an entire room dedicated to large beasts that look like they came out of Jumanji, only to be frozen in time, mid-attack. Wilde Collection doesn't actually perform taxidermy, they just collect interesting examples of it, but if you felt overly emotional about the death of Cecil the Lion, this might not be the place for you.
For those that prefer animals that are still alive, head into the other wing of the store, where you'll be greeted by the cries of several black birds (not ravens, which are illegal, but similar-looking Mynah birds) kept just outside. Every surface is covered with objects like Victorian medical equipment and animal specimens in jars—there's even a (fake) severed hand—plus dolls, vintage Ouija boards, skulls and religious statuary from around the world, from Buddhas to the deities of pre-Colombian South America.
But if all of the above is a bit too out-there for your taste, there's also candles, vintage books, jewelry, pillows and other interesting decorative objects that don't require a love of the macabre to imagine taking home, and the prices are surprisingly affordable. As a lover of useless but interesting decor, I was drawn to a vintage wooden bird cage and an hourglass full of black sand. Douglas works as an interior designer and it shows, because the balance between the weird and creepy objects on display and their opulent gothic surroundings is pitch-perfect.
I was worried that the owners created this place only for the Halloween season, but it's a shop that will not only be open for the foreseeable future, they're already planning to expand. Which is good. Houston locals love to talk about how for all Austin's talk, we're the real weird city of Texas, with our Art Cars and our Beer Can House. Now we have a store to reflect it.
The Wilde Collection is located at 1446 Yale St. (at 15th), 713-931-1904, facebook.com/thewildecollection.