As you might guess, Nufangle Fine Antiques & Whimsy, owner Trish Headley’s Kansas City emporium, isn’t your typical antiques store—and that’s just the point. The shop stands out amid a bevy of beloved, well-established antiques dealerships in Kansas City, not only for its quirky name but, more important, for its Fellini-esque vibe, unique collection of curios, and colorful owner.
Headley has the air of a stylish and intelligent Woody Allen character, with the warmth and good humor of Lily Tomlin thrown in. She’s a seeker of the exquisite and eccentric, happy to regale visitors with stories of her antique-hunting adventures, which makes a visit to Nufangle more like a little journey than a shopping trip.
“I always describe myself as an equal-opportunity offender,” says Headley. “I’ll buy anywhere. To quote the movie The Fugitive, I will look in every doghouse, farmhouse, warehouse, hen house, or outhouse. It isn’t especially important to me where the item comes from, but what does matter is how special the item is.”
The surreal and strange are humorous themes in her shop. A zebra trophy dons a child’s handmade antique Amish straw hat. A looming “Wheat Witch” sculpture looms above Headley’s desk in the shop. Eerie glass eyes from WWII France peer at guests. The effect is charming.
And lest this description sound more like a carnival than “proper” antique shop, note that there’s no shortage of beautiful 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century furniture, art, and accessories here: a quartet of 18th-century French engravings in their original frames; an early 19th-century American classical pier table with swoon-worthy marble top; a 19th-century Swedish commode with a patina only time can create. The whole shop is a collection of vignettes that marry the serendipitous with the sublime.
Headley might have been genetically destined to create this one-of-a-kind shop: Throughout her childhood, her mother collected and sold antiques, planning family vacations around antique fairs and flea markets. During childhood trips to Mexico, Headley fell in love with objects of devotion—Santos statues, retables, and Spanish Colonial imagery—though she’s equally enamored with Continental pieces, such as Italian crystal chandeliers, 19th-century Swedish commodes, and 18th-century French doors.
She also confesses to be a fan of Francis Bacon, the 20th-century British painter famous for his abstract figurative work. “If you’re familiar with Bacon’s work you’re probably scratching your head right now,” she laughs. But the connection is not at all surprising: One of Headley’s current favorite pieces is a wooden African sculpture with an abstract face, a fascinating twin to one of Bacon’s self-portraits. Like Bacon, Headley chronicles the human condition—not with paint, but with a collection of items that revels in the span of human experience: quotidian, extraordinary, beautiful, and at its best, irresistible.
Get a little whimsy of your own at Nufangle’s collection at TheHighBoy.
Photography by Carol Spinski.