Standing guard along Buckhead’s winding, wooded and wonderful Habersham Road is Cathleen Smith Bresciani and Buddy Bresciani’s stately neoclassic home where hundreds, no thousands of collectibles are happily harbored and often honored. Cathleen, a former model turned author, socialite and philanthropist has carefully curated her charming and extensive collections and now displays her true loves throughout their beautiful home. “I like things that make me smile and feel good,” says Cathleen, gorgeous with perfect skin, bright eyes and a honed sense of style.
She points out a small painting in the corner of the library bursting with a dozen vignettes featuring African-American folk art, sailor’s valentines, letter openers, candy boxes, dolls and books. “That is the first piece I bought, back in 1986 when I lived in New Orleans, a sweet painting of a mother putting her dear little children to bed. It inspired me to collect the black dolls by Eleanor Todd. They are just full of personality.” Many of her pieces are signed originals and some date back to the 1880s. Each has a special place in her heart and home. “I am constantly walking through rooms, editing as I go,” says Cathleen as she floats like a fairy godmother between the formal and family rooms of the home where she and Buddy have lived for eight years.
At the heart of her collections, and perhaps the center of her life now, are the vintage toy animals and Steiff collectibles that continue to inspire her storytelling. Cathleen’s premiere children’s book features the bespeckled protagonist puppy, Miss Sassafrass Jones and the tiny animals dressed to the nines as characters in the adorable Habersham Forest. (Her friend, B-52s front man Fred Schneider narrates the tale on an audio edition of the book.) Her second book is a collaboration with Rebekah Kaufman, a third-generation and lifelong Steiff enthusiast. “Sassafrass Jones and her Forever Friends ABCs” launches next month in Manhattan in what will surely be a fabulous flourish.
Miss Sassafrass and her friends are (of course) displayed in Cathleen’s home studio where she and set designer Christopher McClellan dressed, accessorized and posed the A to Z Steiff collectibles. The studio adjoins her office, also full of some of her favorite things – vintage stuffed animals, mid-century flea market finds and an extensive caboodle of novelty wicker figural purses. Monkeys with parasols, parading elephants and bears with bowlers sit atop a mirrored mid-century credenza, ready to inspire (or carry a lipstick and comb).
Cathleen finds her gems online (1stDibs.com is a favorite), at the Interiors Market on Bennett Street, Scott Antique Market, Decades Antique and Vintage and Chamblee’s Antique Factory. “And, when I travel I find things, like kooky mid-century pieces in California and amazing finds in New York flea markets,” Cathleen shares. But, good luck catching up with her. She has been carefully collection for more than 35 years to choreograph her pieces. “Everyone here has a friend,” gesturing in Vanna-like grandeur at her animals and figurines. “And, they all make me laugh.”