For Amanda Winstead, the old adage “if these walls could talk” would fit better with a slight variation: “if this décor could talk.” The fine art appraiser and broker has only lived in her Fairhope home for a year, but the furniture and art has traveled with her through the decades.
From a duplex on Bayou St. John in New Orleans, where she lived after graduate school at Tulane, to a stark 1960s modern abode in Birmingham designed by Fritz Woehle; from a 1910 Mediterranean in New Orleans’ University District to a new-construction home overlooking the 6th green of Lakewood Golf’s Azalea course in Point Clear. Each dwelling could not be more different, and yet the eclectic mix of antiques, mid-century modern pieces and Southern art that Winstead has carefully curated over the years somehow manage to coexist with one another and within the architecture of the moment. A mix that is chic, unexpected and uniquely hers.
Winstead grew up in New Jersey, right outside New York City, to a mother who was an interior designer and collector. Summers were spent rummaging through estate sales in upstate New York, where Winstead undoubtedly began to hone her eye. Her mother collected oak chest of drawers, hooked rugs and pottery jugs — a look that Winstead describes with a laugh as the 1980s summer aesthetic of New Yorkers — to later sell at their antique store located on a farm. “My sisters and I would go to auctions and help her acquire, which is how I got the bug for buying and for understanding what things were.”
When it came time for college, she wanted a city in the South and settled on Tulane. “All my family is from the South, so I don’t consider myself a Yankee. And this may sound silly, but when I stepped onto Tulane’s campus and smelled the sweet olive, I felt like I was home.”
She majored in art history and quickly secured an internship at Neal Auction House, New Orleans’ oldest and most respected auction house, which specializes in Southern paintings, furniture and decorative art. “My career path was pretty obvious,” she says of finding a home in the world of art and antiques. “I never had to scratch my head and think about it. I was lucky that way.”
Despite growing up going to auctions and estate sales with her mother, Neal Auction House opened Winstead’s eyes. “I really had limited knowledge when I got there. You think you know a lot until you are immersed in a rich material environment like an auction house where you are surrounded by thousands of objects that are coming in and going out and need to be cataloged and processed for sale.” Working at Neal, she explains, is how she truly learned the nuts and bolts of appraising and valuing. She was able to combine this experience with a bachelor’s degree in art history and a master’s in business to establish her own fine art appraisals business.
Her husband Teddy’s medical training (he is a gastroenterologist at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope) soon pulled the couple out of New Orleans to Birmingham for a while, which she describes as a blessing. “A year later Katrina happened, and we didn’t have to endure that.” But they soon returned to New Orleans and settled into life as doctor and art appraiser.
Throughout each move, however, her collected pieces traveled along. Her Fairhope dining room prominently features a French Provincial Louis XV onyx top sideboard that she purchased during her last year of graduate school. “It’s not anything that fantastic, but it has so much character. The marquetry inlay and onyx top are really rare.”
In front of it sits a traditional dining table and burgundy upholstered chairs. “Even in my stark modern house in Birmingham, I had that dining table and those chairs,” she remembers. “I love to mix the antiques and the modern. I don’t want things too traditional or too modern — but always with pops of color.”
This description perfectly describes her home office, where she still runs Amanda Winstead Fine Art between Alabama and Louisiana, with its flagrant pink walls and bold graphic rug. The riotous color is offset by an authentic mid-century burled wood and chrome desk — the kind designers are trying to knock off these days. Her office is stacked to the ceiling with art books, auction catalogs and files for work she is researching and appraising. She knows her stuff, and she knows what she likes.
She specializes in the art of the American South, which she says is a very particular niche for appraisers. She is an expert in the art of mid-20th-century New Orleans and especially loves to dig deep into the female artists of that time who have not yet been well-researched or represented.
And on her own walls? Whether its Ida Kolmeyer or Shearly Grode, she says the art has to have enough space around it to breathe. “But also don’t be afraid to put a painting above a painting. Sometimes you need that tension between paintings so they can kind of talk to each other. Ask yourself, how do the colors work together? How do they look across the room from each other?” What takes a deft touch, Winstead makes look incredibly easy.
When asked to boil her aesthetic down to the most essential idea, she simply says, “You always want the art to look good.”
Her art and décor certainly speak volumes. And if these walls could talk, the accent would for sure have a tinge of New Orleans to it.
Amanda’s Pimiento Cheese
A crowd favorite, Winstead has begun keeping this recipe on her laptop ready to email since so many guests ask for it!
8 ounces sharp cheddar
4 ounces jalapeno cheddar or pepperjack
3 cloves garlic
1 (7-ounce) jar pimientos, drained
1/2 cup Duke’s light mayonnaise
Shred cheese in food processor and place in mixing bowl. Put garlic through a press and add to bowl with pimientos and mayonnaise. Combine well. Tastes good right away but is even better after chilling overnight.