Home Living, April, 2000   pp.23-26


Estate sale specialist melds finds into eclectic, highly personal home...

By Mariana Greene



Although her enterprise is only three years old, Ronda Ross Hooks has quickly carved out a niche for herself in the competitive, burgeoning business of estate sales. And while she is willing to travel far afield to organize and conduct an estate sale, even beyond the Texas border, word-of-mouth referrals keep her close to her Park Cities roots.

At the turn of this century, the term "estate sale" has evolved in it's meaning, at least in Park Cities parlance. An event conducted by Mrs. Hooks and her Help Me Ronda Estate Sales is not always due to the death of a homeowner and the dispersal of property. Sometimes it is a moving sale, precipitated by an old house being categorized as a "tear down," where the lot is more valuable than the structure.

Sometimes it is a redecorating sale, where well-to-do homeowners decide to effect a complete change of scenery, from furnishings to floor coverings to light fixtures to decorative accessories.

Despite the back-wrenching work involved in staging an estate sale, Mrs. Hooks loves being in the middle of old things. While she appreciates the pedigree of a fine antique, she rates instant attraction higher. Describing herself as a visual person, Mrs. Hooks says she is drawn to the unique, the different, something she's not likely to encounter again. " I like Victorian, I like Empire. I love English. It has to grab me," she says. "If I like it and it's unique, I buy it and find a place for it that works."

Although she has lived in her University Park duplex only two years, Mrs. Hooks has furnished all the rooms down to the tiniest accessories. When she makes a new acquisition today, it is to upgrade the first generation of furnishings. Except for a stylized Empire sofa from Weir's covered in khaki-colored cotton twill and studded with oversized upholstery tacks, everything in the three-bedroom house came from an estate sale or an antique shop.

She does not consider herself a collector, per se, although there are small collections displayed throughout the house: majolica plates, footstools, carved German bottle corks, Roseville pottery, dog figurines. Mrs. Hooks explains that she has grouped pieces together for their decorative effect and will not continue to add to a grouping with the single-minded zeal of a true collector. " I don't want overkill," she explains.

Besides furniture, paintings, colorful antique rugs and crystal chandeliers, estate sales also have provided Mrs. Hooks with fireplace surrounds, floor tiles, roof tiles, columns and other elements that have been incorporated into a house previously lacking architectural interest inside or out.

Salvaged architectural elements are a special focus of Mrs. Hooks' husband, Brian, a real estate investor. He salvages bits and pieces of structures slated for demolition into properties he refurbishes and rents. From old Highland Park Spanish Colonials to 1960s brick ranch-style houses, Hooks selectively culls elements that still have years of usefulness in them.

"I started noticing that, as I owned and rented properties, if I put an antique mirror in the bathroom (instead of plate glass) or installed an old carved door on the laundry room instead of a cheap, new, hollow-core door, people absolutely love it," Hooks says. For pennies on the dollar, Hooks buys ceiling fans, cedar closets, slate roof tiles, stepping stones, stained glass windows, even shrubbery and ground cover that otherwise would be bulldozed into oblivion.

But, Hooks allows, " Some pieces are so neat and rare that I want them for myself." An antique Steinway piano leg has been turned into a wall sconce in his wife's' bath. A cast-stone fireplace surround replaces a mundane mantel in the living room. Colorful hand-painted Mexican tile outlines a new arched doorway in the dining room. Spiraling cast-concrete columns flank iron gates at a newly designed Spanish-style entry. In the kitchen, an ornately carved wooden awning from a church doorway has new life as a granite-topped bar.

The couple's combined vision and interests have jelled into a unique setting that radiates a stylish presence and a personable identity.