What makes a purchase “worth it”? The answer is different for everybody, so we’re asking some of the coolest, most shopping-savvy people we know—from small-business owners to designers, artists, and actors—to tell us the story behind one of their most prized possessions.
Tione Trice is a vintage collector and designer based in Brooklyn, NY. He began collecting vintage items and working with local sellers as a high school student in Atlanta. Inspired by family archives, Black designers like Sheila Bridges, and the HGTV shows he grew up watching, Trice went on to work for companies including Shabby Chic and HomeStories. In 2021, Trice launched his brick-and-mortar design shop Of the Cloth, which features contemporary and antique artisan objects in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Originally conceived as a one-month pop-up space dedicated to Trice’s grandmother, Of the Cloth has become a thriving hub of thoughtfully curated items. “Being African American, I find it’s really challenging to be a minimalist,” Trice says. “Because we’ve carried so much of our story via objects—via [a] quilt, via grandma’s cooking pans, photo albums. So I always feel that as a Black person, I’m an essentialist, because I have what’s essential to me, to the moment, and to my family at that time.”
Trice’s most prized possession is a round lacquered box created in 19th-century China. The box is made of fir wood and can be traced back to the province of Shanxi.
“Atlanta in the early 2000s was filled with vintage dealers,” Trice says. “Everyone was brilliant. And I was trying to figure out how to do this, really trying to build a career out of thin air.” Trice started building his antique collection by connecting with these dealers, trading hours worked for small home decor objects that were later included among Of the Cloth’s offerings. “That’s a fun story for me because it shows the depths I’ve gone to in order to create this collection. It’s not just that I got some money and I bought something. There was a lot of, ‘I designed a space, and they gave me a table,’” he adds.
In 2004, while Trice was trying to launch his design career and working for several vintage dealers in Atlanta, one seller would set up his stall displaying centuries-old antiques each week in front of a local Dairy Queen. The red lacquered box was part of this seller’s collection, and its striking color and painted design immediately drew Trice’s eye. He worked for months to pay for the box. By the end of the season, Trice hadn’t quite put in enough hours at the vintage stall to cover the full cost of the box, but the seller sold it to him anyway. “There were other products put aside that I had actually worked off,” Trice recalls. “One of them was a large pine chest, and inside the chest was the [lacquered] box. And he said, ‘You know I was gonna give you that damn piece.’”
Trice was initially drawn to the box as both an aesthetic and a usable object. “I love anything that had many, many lives before me and can have lives that are functional,” he explains. “A lot of times, in this antique world, we just have to put [things] on a shelf. When I saw [the box] I imagined it being something I could place things in, slide under my bed, put my favorite books in. I’m also drawn to the deep colors, these techniques that have been around forever and how timeless they are.” For Trice, the lacquered box embodies his approach to designing and choosing objects for the home. “The most important aspect of what I do, I’m a collector that shares,” he notes. “Everything I collect is functional.”