The word Kristen Elise Pickell uses to describe her love of the past is anemoia. It’s an invented word, found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and it means “a pang of nostalgia for times you’ve never experienced.” Which is why this 28-year-old high school art teacher living in Kansas City, MO teared up when she toured a 1973 home. The previous owners, Bill and Betty, had worked with an architect on a custom collaboration. Kristen took one look at a home nearly unchanged from its original 1970s conception and rooms filled with stunning vintage pieces, and promptly abandoned her search for a starter home. Bill and Betty were who Kristen imagined herself to be in retirement. Kristen sent a letter to Betty, along with her offer, explaining how special the home was and how much she would cherish it. She was surprised to discover another couple had submitted a nearly identical offer, along with a letter of their own. “It was a matter of a few thousand dollars and somehow they ended up choosing me,” Kristen says. And to think Kristen’s anemoia began years earlier, when she heard the story of her mother and a certain member of the Beatles.
Kristen grew up listening to her mother Sandra tell the story of how she won a radio contest to see the Beatles. It was their first performance in Canada. Her mother described in great detail the rust colored corduroy skirt and jacket with a ruffled bell sleeve top she wore, and the moment Ringo kissed Sandra’s hand, calling her “My lady.” Then, as Kristen was about to enter high school, she discovered a trunk filled with her mother’s belongings. In it were an embroidered top Sandra made, sewing notions, and books on macramé and candle making. Kristen was so taken by her mother’s keepsakes she began seeking out vintage fashion magazines, clothes, and knick-knacks. “I wish so badly that I could have experienced all of these amazing things with her.”
Today, one can see Kristen’s love affair with the past in every room of her home. Weaving together her own finds and family heirlooms with items purchased from previous owners Bill and Betty, Kristen’s home is a vintage wonderland. Kristen was also given the original slides which chronicle the house being built (taken each day of the year-and-a-half building process), records of all items purchased (from large appliances to scouring pads), and binders filled with everything from old wallpaper samples to a catalog from the store where the George Nelson Bubble Lamps were purchased. Oh, and it just so happens Bill and Betty had a cat named Ringo. That’s right, they were Beatles fans, too. “I feel very fortunate to know so much about the original homeowners and the construction and life of my home. I cherish each and every photo, object, and piece of paper they left behind. I’ve now combined my memories and family heirlooms with what was left in the house to start a new story.”
As if all of that weren’t enough to prove Kristen found a home tailor-made for her, Kristen’s art studio even used to be Betty’s studio. Next to a hanging mola, purchased by Betty in Panama, Kristen works as a part-time analog collage artist and weaver. She incorporates vintage and vintage-inspired materials into the prints and collages she sells on Etsy and at Dear Society in Kansas City. Besides working in her studio, Kristen’s other favorite pastime is hanging out at home with her boyfriend Darren and her two rescue cats, Duncan and Pablo. Kristen and Darren tried living together but the cats didn’t get along with Darren’s dog, Charlie. Darren bought a home just down the street, though they haven’t given up hope of living together under one roof. I too hope it works out, because it seems to me Kristen has found a way to turn her nostalgia for a past she’s never experienced into a brick-and-mortar reality. —Liberty