Talk of the Town - Hidden treasure June 19 2003

Two-story home in historic West End

She isn't
the sort of home decorator who flits around, constantly dabbling in the latest motif or flashy concept. No, Sabrina Dooley has two themes, and she's sticking with 'em. First, she adores all things Egyptian, and that's the theme of the upper level of her home. The Egyptian motif is reflected in many ways: Egyptian artwork, a pharaoh-printed shower curtain (handmade by Dooley's mother), busts of King Tut, even a Nefertari light fixture.

Her second theme (for the downstairs level): Afro-centric artwork — everything from masks to pictures to walking canes.

Five years ago, Dooley bought a two-story brick home in the historic West End, a neighborhood she loves for its diversity, vegetarian restaurants and excellent public schools.

Creative Loafing: How long have you been interested in Egyptian culture?

Dooley:Maybe 12 years. It's one of the first civilizations that actually had kings and queens, and people honored that. I like the colors, the motifs, the scenery. [Points to an Egyptian picture on wall.] You can tell that this is a king and probably two or three of his wives and a server. There's always some kind of theme going on with them and, "I'm bringing you gifts!" It seems like happy times.

There's lots of King Tut — busts, plates. What was his story?

His father believed in only serving one god. So when he passed on, King Tut was a young boy of maybe 12 or 13 when he became king. And he believed also in serving one god. But slowly, deception crept in, and he was murdered at a young age.

This is an interesting Egyptian picture in the bedroom.

I bought the frame at Goodwill. This [pointing to the picture inside] is wrapping paper.

Wrapping paper — nobody ever woulda guessed. Are those Egyptian-style animals on the wrapping paper?

Yes, this is a camel, this is a scarab. A scarab is for good luck. A fish is for fertility.

Your stairway is lined with African masks. When did you start collecting them?

I lived in Harlem, and they had a lot of street vendors. They would be primarily from Africa and they would give me the history of the mask — if it was for good luck or fertility. But I didn't limit myself to the masks. I like pictures — really happy pictures — that reflect days gone by, to show how people have evolved with artwork.

You said the house has an unusual story. Tell me about the previous owners.

The house is 85 years old. An older Jewish lady lived here and she passed — and her son acquired the house. When [the son] got out of the military, he lived in the house. And when he died, he left the house to his doctor. From my understanding, the doctor found anywhere from $80,000-$100,000 in the house.

The son stashed that kinda money in the house! Why?

Because people didn't trust banks back then. From my understanding, the money was [hidden] all through the house.

Wow. What became of the money — do you know?

No, I don't. But actually the doctor still gets mail here sometimes.