John Grafe, a transplant from Moss Point, Mississippi, was brought to the Charlotte area upon the request he bring one thing: his knack for antiques. With successful antique shops in Jackson and New Orleans, Grafe’s expertise was highly sought after by local business owner David Boldman, who was eager to reinvent his own space. Long serving as home to H&S Lumber, the 4,500 square feet building has been completely transformed into one of Charlotte’s largest antique stores filled with carefully curated, timeless antique furniture, decorative accessories, and lighting.
As a direct importer of fine English and Continental pieces with a lifelong passion for collecting and selling antiques, Grafe opened his very first shop as a senior at Ole Miss. It wasn’t until Grafe’s fourth year of medical school at the University of Mississippi that he realized the antique business was his true calling. And in his words, “it is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Grafe’s ability to collect antiques is only a sliver of what truly sets his showroom apart. This isn’t somewhere you’ll have to dig through piles, hoping to happen upon a diamond in the rough. Rather, Grafe has done the hard part for you: He has carefully selected the best of the best, the most well-kept versions of different collections and pieces, restored and cherished so that they could be mistaken for new.
Instead of buying wholesale items or simply anything that’s antique, Grafe fixates on details, in hopes his inventory will inspire a story or evoke a feeling that his customers can identify with. “I try to make the presentation of every item a part of a vignette—like you could see it in your home,” he explains.
When it comes to decorative accessories—such as mother of pearl, tortoise shell, inlaid boxes, and silver—Grafe specializes in curating collections, and for that reason, has become a bit of an industry secret. On any given day, you’ll find interior designers and home industry enthusiasts perusing each one-of-a-kind piece, carefully selected and deliberately displayed. Grafe’s emphasis on quality and uniqueness shines through in his showroom, where every piece has its own niche.
When asked why he chose Charlotte, Grafe names the city’s beauty, cleanliness, and the bountiful greenery. As an outsider, Grafe knew little about Charlotte’s antique market, but he did know the city was full of beautiful homes, and presumably, people in search of beautiful pieces to fill them. Since its initial opening, H&S has been bustling with customers and interior designers eager to peruse Grafe’s exceptional showroom. Not to mention, Grafe spends hours each week in search of specific pieces per request of his customers.
With over 30 years of experience with antiques and interiors, Grafe is happy to assist any customer in the design process. And, perhaps surprisingly, Grafe does not believe every piece in a home necessarily has to be antique, rather he muses over modern pieces combined with select antiques, creating a balance between the eras. He also emphasizes the importance of “feeling” within a home, insisting you should love every piece that you bring into your home since you’re the one spending the most time in its presence.