Wlodek and Abby Malowanczyk, photographed at their home in 2015. Elizabeth Lavin

Furniture

Dallas Is Losing a Treasure in Collage 20th Century Classics

Wlodek Malowanczyk is leaving his longtime home and taking one of the most impressive collections of furniture with him. Get to know him and what he brought to Dallas.

The old Malowanczyk home in the Disney Streets of North Dallas had an odd chair that I remember sat on some sort of makeshift pedestal. It was a Golgotha Chair, one of only a few dozen available in the world. The Italian architect Geatano Pesce made a series of these in the early ’70s by soaking a white fiberglass cloth in polyester resin, hanging it on a wire hook, and draping it so it dried in the shape of a chair. Someone would then sit on it to finish the shape, which broke a lot of them.

Wlodek Malowanczyk told me only about 50 made it through the whole process. No two are alike. You can view one at the MoMA in New York City. I haven’t seen that one, but I did see the one that was kept near their living room. I probably couldn’t joke with a docent like I could with Wlodek, that I’d sit on it when he wasn’t looking. To which he would smile broadly and say something like, “Fuck you, man.”

Wlodek and his late wife, Abby, had for years owned the furniture store Collage 20th Century Classics, which, as you’ll read in the profile of Wlodek that is online today, was really more of a museum that so happened to sell its art, some of which you could sit on. With what little I knew about furniture, I still knew not to call this stuff “midcentury” (Wlodek named it Collage 20th Century Classics and not Collage Midcentury Modern for a reason), and I knew to ask lots of questions, because part of the fun of going to Collage was to ask Wlodek the history of the pieces he kept in his Design District showroom and warehouse.

I’m friends with his son, Michael, whom I met during a (very dumb) college summer, introduced by a mutual friend who broke his hand and got sent home from work for three months. I spent more time in Dallas that summer than I ever had. Over the years, I became one of the Thanksgiving guests orphaned here, deciding not to travel south to Houston for the holiday. We’d pop by the shop, sit in the absurdly large Joe Chair, a leather chair shaped like a baseball glove that was big enough to occupy a small room.

Back then, at 21 years old, I didn’t know architects made furniture. I didn’t know much at all about this world until meeting the family. What I did know, almost instinctively, was that Collage was the sort of thing that makes this city great: hidden in plain sight, there for those who sought it out. (And who weren’t put off by Abby’s sometimes curt welcome of “What do you want?”)

Collage is leaving Dallas. I think it has left. Wlodek is in Hudson, New York. Abby passed away a few years ago. Wlodek texted me this week that he has a house under contract upstate. Which feels strange, but I’m also happy for him, if a bit bummed that the pandemic cut any potential hangouts short.

The departure got me thinking about how many Dallas people missed out on Collage, how a good many of those people would love to learn more about a collection of pieces typically only available for inspection in museums.

Michael called a few months back and asked about doing some sort of surprise for Wlodek in the magazine. Though I’m careful to not write about friends, I thought I would pitch a spread to Tim Rogers, D Magazine’s editor. This was worth making an exception for. The city was losing something it won’t get back. What I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have, is that Wlodek had a close friend in the painter, writer, and prolific emailer Richard Patterson, whose early work is currently on view at the Cris Worley gallery.

When Tim heard that Wlodek was leaving town, he asked Richard to write 1,500 words about the man and his shop and Premier League football. Two days later, Richard turned in a 7,500-word draft. Tim asked him to trim words. His next draft ran at 9,000. What was printed in the November issue of D clocks in at about half that, but I selfishly wish we’d have doubled it.

If you missed Collage, if you missed Wlodek and Abby, then you missed two of the city’s finest people and what I consider its most important shop. But Richard captures their impact and shows something more intimate, memories not unlike my own of drinking aquavit and listening to Wlodek shout out the hook to Ian Dury’s “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick” while the record spins.

Dallas might not have Collage, but Richard made sure the city—“Fucking Dallas, man,” as Wlodek liked to say—has a record of it and the people who brought it to life. It’s online today and I hope you’ll read it.

(And Wlodek: I promise I never sat on that chair.)

Newsletter

Get a weekly recap in your inbox every Sunday of our best stories from the week plus a primer for the days ahead.

Find It

Search our directories for...

Restaurants

Restaurants

Bars

Bars

Events

Events

Attractions

Attractions

View All

View All

Comments