The best part about Nathan Terré's studio is not the endless inventory of art pieces and mechanisms, some from recent history while others centuries old, but his grasp on each piece and its purposeful place in time. 

You nearly have to catch your breath tracking Terré around his studio on Cedar Street as he glides from piece to piece: This painting is 20 years old, that one is 200 years old, here's a 1926 press camera and there's a Congreve rolling ball clock invented in 1808. 

"A very rare clock," he said. "Very weird, very rare, very delicate and fairly inaccurate but still, it's a lot of fun. We do a lot of research here and work on mechanisms."

It's hard to round everything found in Terré's studio under one term. There's art, decor, appliances and innovations of all kinds lost to new technologies.

While art restoration takes up much of the time in his studio, Atelier Boheme, Terré said he deals in "anything from yesterday." He grew up "mechanically inclined," but he spent much of his time diving into artwork as he traveled from Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Helena before landing in Missoula in 1979.

Researching the works that find their way to him used to be done the old-fashioned way; he has 1,300 books on the studio shelves. Today?

"Today, like everybody, I use Google or something of that sort," he said. "The thing about research is asking the right question. If you ask the right question, you get the right answers."

Manual dexterity, the ability to look at something and see how it's put together, has fallen away in the last 30 or so years, he said. Part of that is by industry design of things like furniture and appliances, he said. But he believes art, particularly, is something that holds value over time.

"Art is definitely about the investment," he said. "Particularly if you know something about the artist and you know something about the place."

If it sounds like Terré, 81, is trying to resist the changing times (considering phrases like "anybody can take a G--damn selfie," or "history doesn't mean anything anymore,"), he disputes that assessment.

He acquires things on eBay and has picked up a particular interest in new-tech developments like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. But history is simply his passion, and his inclination toward mechanics and art has created for him a productive career. Terré frequently works on appraisals with Tim Gordon of "Antiques Roadshow" and a few years ago appeared in the Missoulian for his restoration of a 1912 Glacier National Park painting by John Fery. 

He does hope to bring the wealth of his studio to an audience, though, in a more interactive fashion than a typical museum exhibit. For a short time he was showing classic films to University of Montana students on a projector in a corner of his studio with a theater curtain and a row of old theater chairs.

Terré would like to someday host an exhibit where he can put these antiques out for people, particularly the generation with whom he feels like he's losing touch, so they can actually engage with them.

"I don't live in the past, I live with the past," he said.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.