Old Meets New at Lucca Antiques’s Massive Montecito Showroom

It’s easy to see why Susan and Stephen Keeney, owners of Lucca Antiques, were drawn to the Old Firehouse in Montecito’s Upper Village. After all, Lucca specializes in updating antique furniture and objects—and sure enough, the 1931 building feels like a new, improved version of itself, far more appealing than it was as a branch of Union Bank.

After opening their flagship showroom in L.A. 16 years ago, the Keeneys expanded to New York City and San Francisco—only to eventually withdraw. “Our accountant said we were insane to close those stores, but I just didn’t want the stress,” says Susan. Because Lucca adapts old materials rather than create from scratch, the business is difficult to scale. “Everybody wanted custom this or that, and it’s just not what we do.”

Montecito, however, felt like more like an opportunity than a burden. “I’ve been coming up to San Ysidro Ranch since I was 14,” says Susan. “It was always my dream to have a house here. After we got married, Stephen and I would stay at the Ranch and drive around….” Once they bought a house, a local showroom started to make sense. The proximity to L.A. makes the logistics much easier.

Susan emphasizes how important it is to sit in a piece of furniture, to touch a carpet, to try an object in your home before buying it: “It’s an investment, especially at this price point. Our clients aren’t the type to just replace something in a year because only spent X for it.” And the Lucca philosophy is decidedly wabi-sabi, where imperfections and patina are embraced for their beauty, their uniqueness, and the history they represent.

“We’ve put a lot in here—money, time, effort,” says Susan. “We’re in for the long run.” And the Keeneys have plans to do more than just sell furniture in the 6,357-square-foot space: Susan is imagining trunk shows with artists, talks about antique textiles, flower-arranging demonstrations, and perhaps even occasional dinners by a private chef. “It’ll make the store more alive,” she says. “And it’s more interesting for me, too.”

Comment: