Property peep show: A treasure hunter's trove in Woodside, Queens

Take a tour inside Wren Britton’s one-bedroom home, filled with hundreds of dolls, baubles and apothecary relics

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  • Rayon Richards

    Jewelry designer Wren Britton, 42, has compiled an extensive collection of curiosities within the Queens apartment he’s inhabited for the past 12 years. “A friend of a friend once asked what my apartment was like, and somebody said, ‘Turn-of-the-century serial killer,’” he says. By his own estimation, though, “it’s halfway between Grey Gardens and Hellraiser.”

  • Rayon Richards

    Britton carefully curates his collection so that it feels warm and enveloping, rather than manic. "Even though it's kind of dark, it's not dark to feel scary," he says."It's dark to feel comfortable. Mostly I just want it to feel cozy."

  • Rayon Richards

    One of Britton's favorite pieces is a vintage wheelchair with caned seats. He clears it off for parties, when invariably becomes the favorite seat in the house. Many of the apartment's larger pieces do double-time as seating or storage. A coffee table of suitcases houses books, but can also transport and display Britton's jewelry pieces when he's selling at a show.

  • Rayon Richards

    An aspiring entomologist as a child, Britton’s early bent for collecting was jump-started with bug specimens, which hang above his stove. Britton keeps wooden platforms on the stovetop and sink to maximize his workspace. “When I work, I lay everything out and just spin around and grab stuff. But I can also hide it all in the closet when people come.”

  • Rayon Richards

    Britton’s jewelry and accessories come together on a sturdy vintage zinc worktable in the kitchen that’s riddled with baubles, architectural relics and doll parts. “I design for myself, and then other people just happen to like it,” he says. “I didn’t think people would at first, but it’s nice that the personal obsessions I have speak to other people, too.”

  • Rayon Richards

    Portraits suspended from a row of nails on sinewy wires create a living collage over the bed. A former window display designer for the likes of Anthropologie and ABC Home, Britton creates vignettes with a distinct point of view. Here, a unified collection of likenesses liberates photos once languishing in a drawer.

  • Rayon Richards

    Britton's bedroom is riddled with religious artifacts. "My dad's a minister, but he's Lutheran, so there's not a lot of pomp and circumstance there. But there's always been something in religious imagery that really appealed to me—there's such strength in the paintings, just looking at it as artwork, and an inherent sadness in it that I appreciate. But I've mixed in a little 40s-era beefcake porn, too."

  • Rayon Richards

    Having such an extensive collection requires a less fastidious mindset, sometimes: "I love everything I have, but I don't mind if stuff breaks. I knock stuff over all the time. If hear something fall from the other room, it will take me 45 minutes to even figure out what it was. It's not a big deal—I glue it back together or it becomes something else."

  • Rayon Richards

    “Sometimes certain things freak people out—dolls get a lot of people," Britton says. "But things like that feel comforting to me. I’m scared of different things, esoteric things, like not having the freedom to do what I want to do or to create what I want to create. Part of it, for me, is finding the scary things within myself and making them okay. People who aren’t in touch with those parts of themselves are the ones who really scare me.”

Rayon Richards

Jewelry designer Wren Britton, 42, has compiled an extensive collection of curiosities within the Queens apartment he’s inhabited for the past 12 years. “A friend of a friend once asked what my apartment was like, and somebody said, ‘Turn-of-the-century serial killer,’” he says. By his own estimation, though, “it’s halfway between Grey Gardens and Hellraiser.”


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