The son of a preservationist/antiques dealer and a scientist-turned-old-time-hardware-store-owner, Bo Sullivan grew up in a 200-year-old house in a 300-year old-town that had been forgotten by time. He spent his teen-age years digging up bottles and bits of china, and exploring cobwebbed attics and abandoned garages. After graduating from North Carolina State University School of Design with an architectural degree in 1988, Bo spent several years as a designer and carpenter renovating older homes before beginning a 20-year association with Rejuvenation Inc. in Portland, Oregon. It was here that he encountered his first roll of M.H. Birge & Sons wallpaper…
“We found these in the basement of our house,” said the young couple, dropping two boxes of old wallpaper rolls in front of Bo at the architectural salvage desk… “Want to buy them?” Deeply embossed and richly colored, these rolls looked just like actual tooled leather, with burnished metallic highlights and hand-brushed stain finishes that were breath-taking in their beauty. The seed of a wallpaper obsession had been planted.
In addition to buying and selling salvage, Bo was Rejuvenation’s architectural and design historian, developing authentic reproduction lighting and hardware products, helping craft the look and feel of the company’s unique retail stores, giving presentations and seminars on American old-house history and culture, and writing the copy for the company’s national mail-order catalog.
As a part of this work, Bo built and managed Rejuvenation’s research archive of over 4,000 rare original period trade catalogs, plan books, photographs, sales samples and other ephemera related to the American building arts from 1870 to 1970. Bo purchased his first wallpaper sample catalog for this archive – a spectacularly shabby circa 1904 sample book from Potter Wall Paper Mills – and that seed was watered.
In 2012, that slowly sprouting wallpaper seed got a big pile of fertilizer dumped on it in Western New York with the acquisition of not one, but two remarkable collections from families of long-passed wallpaper installers – hundreds of original wallpaper rolls from the 1880s through the 1920s, and in early 2013, that sprouting seed finally burst into flower as Bolling & Company.
Bo is also the founder of Arcalus Period Design, a consulting resource established in 2009 for old-house owners, preservationists, architects and design professionals engaged in projects with a deep and meaningful connection to history. From 2010 to 2013, Bo also wrote the regular “A Page From History” feature for Old-House Journal magazine, and he continues to produce articles on period design and building topics for national audiences.