As a child, Arkansas native Dannal Perry accompanied her mother and aunt to weekend flea markets, where she spent hours sorting through marbles to add to her collection. As an adult, Perry made a career out of her love for shopping – and giving gifts. Her retro-meets-pop-culture Magazine Street shop, Plum, which carries locally themed jewelry, handmade wares, irreverent accessories and vintage-inspired decor, is a destination for those with fun and funky tastes. Her Bywater home is a similarly colorful cocktail of Southern history and kitsch.
"When I collect, I don't need for things to be mint (condition) in the box," Perry says. "I want to be able to see some use. I love the idea that someone else has owned it and loved it and took care of it and now it's come to me."
Perry came to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, where she received her undergraduate degree, then completed her masters in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. She worked for The New Orleans Museum of Art and Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses in the French Quarter. During her time in the French Quarter, she met numerous artists. A job as the business manager of artist Mitchell Gaudet's Studio Inferno gallery followed.
In 2004, she opened her own store, which she named after her favorite author, P.G. Wodehouse, also known as Plum. "I wanted a fun store where people could buy themselves — or anyone else — a fun, unique, well-made gift for $25 to $30," Perry says.
At home, Perry's lighthearted aesthetic is reflected in her insistence on buying an old house that hadn't been gutted and stripped of its original features. In 1997, she found an 1850s Creole cottage that fit the bill. Its plaster and lath walls, weather board, fireplaces and hardwood floors were intact. The main house and separate kitchen buildings had been connected at some point, creating extra space for a bathroom, closet, the current kitchen and a laundry room in between. The cottage's sizable back yard, with its original (now sealed) well, was suited to pets.
Its simple interior was the perfect foil for her many collections, which include snapshots of New Orleans, lunch boxes, advertisements, game boards, British coronation mementos, Beatles memorabilia, records, album covers, Fiestaware and photos of people and their pets.
"I knew immediately that this was the house for me," she says.
Perry put her imprint on the historic house with bright colors and vintage furnishings with sleek lines — especially Art Deco and mid-century modern. "My decorating motto is 'If you like it, it goes,'" says Perry, whose parents are both collectors as well. "I like layers and layers of stuff. I'm a maximalist."
A space Perry calls her "pop culture room" is devoted to pop artifacts from decades past. Game boards, dolls and action figures line the room's shelves; vintage books are stacked on a center table, which doubles as a dining table. The effect is akin to a prop house, where stylists borrow decorative wares for films, commercials and other creative productions.
Comfort also is key in the Perry household, which includes a Great Dane, a terrier mix and two cats. Nothing is off limits and everything gets used.
Perry's taste in clothing is in sync with her surroundings: a mix of vintage, pop influences, color and fun. "My taste definitely runs to vintage-looking," she says. "I love that '50s silhouette of a fitted bodice with a full skirt and I love bright prints and polka dots and stripes."
She prefers dresses, except when it's cold, and collects both vintage and new handbags and costume jewelry. Her go-to shoe on most days is a Converse sneaker, which she buys in an array of colors. Over the years, she's scoured nearly every flea market she could find. These days, her best discoveries are made in out-of-the-way vintage stores in Florida and California.
"Today, most people sell things on eBay," she notes. "I almost never buy on eBay. I love to go to stores and look."
Perry's fondness for all things throwback influences her style of entertaining. She frequently invites friends for movie nights. This month, she and her friend, Arian Elfant host their first annual "Corndogs and Gingham" party, inspired by a summery red-and-white frock that Perry wore to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival last spring.
"Pretty much everything in my house has a story — where I got it, what I have done with it, who owned it before me," Perry says. "It's a visual history that reminds me all the time of friends and fun and places I have visited that is unique to me and my house."