'Old things have a soul'

NEWPORT BEACH — If home furnishings could speak, newly opened Magnolia Mews Consignments would be a place to tell their stories.

Tucked into what owner Hillary Niblo described as a "small but mighty space" at 314 Old Newport Blvd., the 750-square-foot consignment shop is a stage for paintings, baubles, home decor and furnishings bursting with intimate stories of times gone by.

"I've always felt like old things have a soul," said Niblo, 45, who grew up on Lido Isle and attended Newport Harbor High School. "I'd like to tell their story and be able to bring them to life. This store is something that I've always had in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to do."

In working with about 75 consignors, Niblo has a mix that include modern items, original pieces from local artists, and objects dating back to the 19th century.

From brooches to custom leather furniture, they all have their own hidden narratives, she said.

A white vintage Charles S. Kahn lucite evening bag, $95, was uncovered in an old wedding trunk; it was once the finishing touch to a bridal ensemble and a small upholstered wooden chair, $75, that may have belonged to a child's bedroom set, Niblo said.

Other items include a 19th century Korean chest, $850; an acrylic-on-canvas underwater scene by local artist Leslie Saris, $600; and a vintage ivory pendant, $30. Many of the items come and go weekly.

"I want people to have these [items] in their homes," Niblo said. "I want people to have something with some history, some soul, and I want them to take it home and enjoy it the way that I have."

Prior to opening Magnolia Mews, Niblo worked for two decades in corporate management positions for both profit and nonprofit companies.

However, not fully satisfied with her work, Niblo choose to turn her weekend "treasure hunting" hobby into a full-time career.

"In the first three weeks, I already had so many people coming in here, talking with me and sharing their stories," she said. "It's wonderful. I have relationships with the people who come in here."

The abrupt career change — put into motion one week before Niblo's birthday last year — not only puts the local proprietor into a position where she empathizes with struggling artists, but one where she can do something to help them, too.

"I want to support local artists, whether it's jewelry or artwork or whatever I think is a good fit for the shop, because it taps into my creative side," she said. "I also appreciate that they are following their dream. That's exactly what I'm trying to do, too."


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