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This is not your grandma's antique shop.


There's something to be said for mass-produced furniture -- the some-assembly-required coffee tables and bookcases from stores like IKEA and Target. They're cheap, functional and bland enough to meld seamlessly into the debt-impaired decorating schemes of the underemployed masses. But however nicely that Swedish-designed, Hong Kong-made cabinet holds Martha Stewart's Kmart wineglasses, one has to admit: That shit ain't got no soul.

Robin Gross derived a similar lack of inspiration from her 12-year stint as an organizational development consultant before finding nirvana in the world of Chinese furniture. Last January, she headed for the Crossroads District and opened FaFa Gallery, filling it with Asian furnishings that definitely have soul -- in many cases, hundreds of years' worth.

"This furniture represents a philosophy," Gross says, referring to some of the pieces' previous owners: the Chinese literati who centuries ago devoted their lives to the arts of calligraphy, painting and poetry. Gross claims that the refined furniture reflects the virtues treasured by these artists, such as justice, honor and love for beauty.

Virtues might come for free, but international antiques rarely fit into the budgets of people who sacrifice sleep for a midnight sale at Nebraska Furniture Mart.

"We often confuse upper class with money," Gross says. "It's possible to live an opulent life but not have a lot of money. This is where the West has a great deal to learn from the East."

To give us a few lessons, FaFa Gallery will have Shanghai-based furniture expert Curtis Evarts discuss the finer points of antique Chinese furniture. Evarts also specializes in museum-worthy pieces like those in the Ming dynasty collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

And in the event that poor, inveterate Westerners don't quite get it, FaFa Gallery offers payment plans.

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