Last month I wrote a blog sharing details of my personal life as well as in #Divaland. While you may know me as The Antiques Diva – I joke to my real-life friends “Don’t call me Diva!” The real me – Toma Clark Haines – is “Toma Only.”
This nickname harks back to circa age 4 when my grandmother would call me “Toma Iola.” I was named after her, with my first name the female derivative of my grandfather Thomas and my second name coming from her’s, “Minnie Iola.” She was the only who ever called me Toma Iola and Little Me would get so angry. I would stomp my feet telling her, “No. Toma Only” so she then called me “Toma Only.”
I can’t help but to pause and pay tribute to the woman I was named after.
Grandma Minnie was a spitfire. She loved shoes. And the color red. She liked to set her hair before bed in green curlers. And she kept a fully stocked glass cookie jar at all times. Her hands were rough. She was a rancher’s wife. She always wore a silk scarf. And she worked harder than anyone I knew. She had a laugh that the wind would carry across the Oklahoma planes and as my dad drove me up the long dirt road to Grandma’s the wheat would dance and shimmy in excitement. When she disciplined me a smile slipped out the corner of her mouth. She let me sit on her lap when I was naughty. And I was naughty often. I would lean against her soft chest and feel at home. She would do laundry and hang her giant bras to drip dry over the old iron bath and I would gape in wonder. I took a cantaloupe from the cold pantry and tried putting it in one of her bras but the melon fell to the floor spilling seeds on the cracked linoleum. She let me wear her jewelry. She was not even 5 foot tall. She had secret closets. Closets and closets full of treasures that she let me dig through and explore wonderlands. She let me go on adventures. I would travel into her closet and come out a pirate, a secretary, a cowboy, a geisha, a lion tamer, a diva… In fact, I went into her closet and I tried on different personas until… I came out me.
The last year since moving to Venice has been a voyage in discovering myself – determining my priorities. I love my job. It’s what I would do if I weren’t working. I’m one of those truly lucky people who gets paid to pursue their passion. As a result, I work too much. And one day about a year ago I felt tired. Perhaps it was the stress of a divorce, an impressive ability to avoid dealing with my problems, an international move combined with a decade of 80 hour work weeks or a constant state of jetlag. So I decided to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I decided to pursue BALANCE – yes, I write the word entirely in caps. It’s daunting that word, it felt big and insurmountable. Impossible.
Not entirely knowing where to start I went to the gym. Not because I wanted to lose weight (though, yes indeed I needed to) but to work out stress. And then I started meditating. I took Italian lessons. I realized how utterly I suck at the pursuit of languages but continued anyway. I started Marie Kondo-ing my house before I knew who Marie Kondo was. Going room to room and ridding myself of possessions that didn’t make me happy. At the core – that was what I was in pursuit of. Happiness. I got 2 kittens – Fortuny and Fiorella and my heart swelled. I dated an Italian boy. Or two. 😉 I home-cooked dinners for lunch and sat at my dining room table in my kitchen with a cloth napkin and candles lit at a table set for one. And I continued to work. But on my terms. I took naps. I read books in my chaise longue. I rethought my business. I tried to travel less. (I failed greatly at that goal.) I relied more than ever on my team. I learned to delegate. I learned to shut down my computer at the end of the day knowing that I had 605 unread emails. #SorryNotSorry I learned to shut off. And in doing so, it turned ME on. Toma Only.
Robb Report Features Me
Over the last decade, I’ve been in 100’s of magazines, from Forbes, New York Times, Marie Claire, House Beautiful, the Wall Street Journal (even Wall Street International last week). But sometimes a journalist hones in on the essence of YOU. Hadley Keller did it in her Architectural Digest article when she gave me the moniker, “the woman in red lipstick”. Vogue’s Lynn Yaeger called me, “The Woman of the World.” And Aspire Design and Home magazine flattered me by quoting my famous mantra as I sashayed along the Seine, “I wear heels, I walk fast, You better keep up.” And Robb Report did it again, in an article on Mercanteinfiera where they quoted me extensively and starting the article by referring to me as a “Bon Vivant.”
Definition: Bon Vivant. One who lives well.
In fact, that’s such a fabulous description of me that I might request it on my tombstone.
In our Antiques Dealer Mentoring Program it’s one of the first questions I ask a client. “What do you want to be known for?” Yes. We need to know professionally what you want. But personally is what I care about. At the end of your life – What goes on your gravestone? Nothing else matters. One client answered, “She was kind to everyone” and my heart swelled. Our antique dealer mentoring program honed in on that – what it means to be kind and for her, that also meant she meticulously researched her items, shared information with everyone, created a space in her booth at Round Top that the other dealers and shoppers consider a resting ground, a respite in the middle of the Texas heat. Another client laughed and said, “She made a darn good martini.”
What are your priorities and how are they reflected in your business? When I work with mentoring clients, I want you to focus so every decision you make for your career keeps that goal in mind.
Since launching the training program, I was surprised by the number of long-term established dealers who had contacted us. We expected new and nearly new dealers but I didn’t expect 2nd and 3rd generation antique dealers and antique dealers who had been in the business 20, 30 years. The secret to success in business is to #AlwaysKeepLearning. Starting a new career in antiques is exciting – it feeds your soul to pursue your dream. But what about when you’ve been doing the job a while and you are starting to get bored? When it’s no longer a passion but a chore? How do you teach a new dog old tricks? How do you add knowledge when you know everyone and everything? You shake it up. You deconstruct it. You do a complete ReBoot. A complete RePrograming. Diva 3.0. In on our Antiques Dealer Training Program, that’s what we try to help you do, whether you enroll in our intensive one-on-one 10-week mentoring program or if you join me at our small group training in NYC April 10 & 11.
2 Day Antique Dealer Training Workshop
April 10 – 11, 2019 in New York City:
I would love for you to join me, Toma Clark Haines The Antiques Diva, and Margaret Schwartz of Modern Antiquarian in New York City for a small group 2-day training for antique dealers. This program allows you to network, ask questions and power through The Antiques Diva Training & Mentorship 3-month program in 2 days!
Learn from Industry Leaders and Insiders:
- Expert antique dealers and buyers who understand the antiques market
- How to stay ahead of design trends
- Strategies to make your passion for antiques profitable
- And so much more!
Act Fast! Workshop price returns to $2000 on April 7.
Part of my pursuit of BALANCE has been attempting to travel less – I’ve totally failed at that goal, but I like to think I’m failing forward. I’m choosing wiser when it comes to traveling. In addition to the upcoming trip to NYC to lead the 2-day mentoring workshop (I’m combining that with a trip to High Point #WatchThisSpace), I’m taking a vacation across China. And that trip is all personal. I’m traveling with a boy and attempting to go with one carry-on sized suitcase packing for temps from 30C to -10C.
(If you want to watch how I packed for that trip catch me on a Facebook Live @TheAntiquesDiva on a casual day at home WATCH.) I do have one minor shopping fantasy for the trip to China that I’ll find a piece of fabulous art to hang over my couch. By the way – the chaise lounge (right of the couch) is actually the very chaise lounge that I based my Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray chaise on!
In January I achieved 100K status on United – 100,000 miles in the course of a year!!! So what were the last few trips that helped me reach my Premier 1K status with those 6 complimentary first class upgrades for 2019? (lol – insert mental image of a champagne glass and full-reclined sleeping bed here!)
The Antiques Diva Furniture Collection by Aidan Gray
Dreams do come true. In October I fulfilled my 20 year-long dream of creating my own furniture collection: The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray. In the slideshow below you’ll catch the fabulous (and famous!) people in the interior design trade who came out to help me celebrate at our Launch Party at the October High Point Market.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT!
The top hits in the #ADbyAC collection are without a doubt:
- the lucite Louis 16 style console
- the lucite backed chairs
- the contemporary take on animal prints on our abstract ottoman
Occasionally you have those pinch-me moments and that moment happened when a director on HGTV was talking to me after I spoke on a panel about Global Women in Design and she said, “blah blah blah… your iconic chair… blah blah, blah…” and I said, “Wait… Iconic!!?” And laughed – I may pretend to be a Diva but my feet are pretty firmly on the ground – I learned a long time ago not to believe my own press. “I would hardly call it Iconic. The collection only launched yesterday.” And she brushed my objection aside, “Yes but you know it and I know it… years later it’s how it will be referred to. So why not start now?”
All We Have Is Now
Anyone who knows me well knows that Carpe Diem is my mantra. Seize the Day. Imagine my absolute delight when I was in England recently leading a series of events for the Bath Decorative Fair and I discovered a neon sign that read, “All we have is Now.” I’ve pinned about a dozen neon signs to my Pinterest board over the last 6 months for #DesignInspiration as I started working on decorating my Venice apartment. Imagine my joy when I found this one in the Malthouse Collective in Stroud, England. Needless to say, that baby found itself as part of my checked luggage and now hangs above my chaise longue in my living room.
One of the things that have taken on extreme importance in the last year or two has been the concept of home. And while I make my home in Europe – America always feels like home to me. I sort of straddle 2 continents mentally. You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take America out of the girl.
I’m thrilled we’ve started offering more and more #NoPassportRequired Tours:
The Original Miami Beach Antique Show
When the fair coordinators at US Antique Shows asked me to lead a series of tours at The Original Miami Beach Show I jumped at the chance. Miami? In January? You don’t have to ask me twice. A slew of antique dealers and designers from around the USA flew in to join me including Margaret Schwartz and Kelly Macguire of Modern Antiquarian, Laurent Gouon and Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More, Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill of Mitchell Hill, Nancy Price of Nancy Price Interiors and Stacey Tiveron of Ronati.
Held each year in January, The Original Miami Beach Antique Show is a destination antique show. Days are spent shopping the antiques fair, stocking up on amazing inventory from jewelry to mid-century to some of the best art deco on the planet, as well as a surprising amount of classical antiques; while nights out involve Cuban music on Calle Oche, dining in some of the top-ranked restaurants in America, lounging by the pool and touring the local art deco scene.
Save the date for next year’s fair: January 4-8, 2020
Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or #WatchThisSpace for details on how you can join me next year for a #DivaTrip to #OMBAS
Charleston Antiques Tour with Southern Style Now
Speaking of our famous #NoPassportRequired Antique Tours, I’ve not had a chance to write about our recent Antiques Diva Charleston Antique Tour as part of Southern Style Now. After the success of their annual events in New Orleans and Savannah – the end of last year they moved the conference to Charleston where the antiquing is to die for! I took Southern Style Now fair participants on a 1-day tour of the best antique shops in Charleston! If you’re traveling in the South and seeking to source antiques definitely visit King Street to Shop Antiques Diva Style!
A few of our Antiques Diva Favorite Antique Dealers in Charleston include:
- Golden & Associates
- George C Birlant & Co
- David Skinner Antiques & Period Lighting
- Tucker Payne Antiques
- Silver Vault of Charleston
While not on King Street, there is another antique dealer in town that I MUST MENTION AS BEYOND FABULOUS – Wynsum Antiques where one of my favorite (and the nicest) dealers in town has an antique shop – Terry Stephenson of Juxtaposition!
As I write – Round Top is just about to start. And I’m starting to fantasize about planning our next group tour for Round Top in the Fall. Interested in joining me antiquing in Texas? #NoPassportRequired Let me know and I’ll keep you posted on this special GROUP TOUR as it develops.
Recently on Facebook, people have been posting their 10 Year Challenge – a photo taken 10 years ago versus today.
A decade ago The Antiques Diva & Co was almost 1 year old. In fact, there was no “& Co” as I was a one-woman firm. I had just finished pitching my book – The Antiques Diva Shopping Guide to Europe – and ultimately the book was rejected. I was so disappointed. And I thought maybe my career as a Diva was going to be short-lived. It was a global recession. No one was going to Europe. No one was buying antiques. And no one was reading books.
I had just started offering buying tours and we had only a handful of clients. Our biggest struggle was buyers at the time simply didn’t know mine was a service they could hire. They didn’t know to Google ‘Antique Buying Tours’ because they didn’t know such tours existed. The way clients would find me was by accident if they Googled ‘antiques in Europe’ and stumbled upon my blog. Every email I got from a new client began with some thing along the lines of “Oh My God – I didn’t know this service existed! I’m so glad I found you!” It was exciting but… there weren’t enough clients finding me randomly online to actually have a real business.
The Antiques Diva & Co was 1 year old and I felt like I was failing.
And then a friend sat me down and he said, “Toma, there is no shame in quitting. You need to accept that this idea is not going to work. Stop wasting your time.” And then he said the stinger words… “It’s not a good idea.” He wasn’t meaning to be an asshole – though
I knew one thing…
He was wrong.
I knew that I simply could see what he couldn’t see.
I could see where The Antiques Diva Brand was going.
He was in the proverbial forest in a place that was dark and scary with bears surrounded by trees which were covered in creepy crawly things. Meanwhile, I was soaring up above, seeing the majestic landscape lush with foliage and the fields and horizon up ahead. The colors were amazing… and My God there was a beautiful sunset up ahead. But… admittedly there was a headwind and I was being pushed back a bit by the wind. I definitely needed to flap my wings a little harder to fight against that gust which was pushing me back – but I was moving forward. I could see what he couldn’t see.
I always can see what others can’t see. That is my super power.
When I was 5 years old I discovered the TV Show Dallas. I wasn’t allowed to watch it but I would sneak a peek from my cracked open bedroom door after dark. I became obsessed with glamour and jewelry – it’s no surprise nearly 40 years later I started my own haute couture jewelry line the TCH Collection. As a child, I would cut paper diamonds and glue them piece by piece to my clothes and wherever I walked, a cloud of paper followed me around like Kate Spades quote “A trail of glitter follows wherever she goes.” My parents would get so frustrated – my dad would lecture, “Toma, stop being such a PigPen,” picturing the cloud of dust that follows the Snoopy character. And when he said this, I would get soo soo mad! “These are paper diamonds!!! 💎Can’t you see what I see!?”
I’ve always been able to see what others could not see. And when I see something so clearly – I fight for it like the world depends upon it. If you believe it – anything is possible. In that moment when Mustache Man said, “This is not a good idea.” I thought, “Game on buddy.”
I had a vision while I was flying up over those trees that I was going to build an empire. I was a
I may not have had many clients, but I knew that I know things other people didn’t know, and I know people who know more than me, and I know that together that we could help those people by giving them access to our contacts and my Diva Lifestyle. When I started the company I thought it was for people like me who merely liked antiques; what I didn’t realize was that I was building a B2B business serving primarily the antiques trade.
After analyzing my client base, I realized that I have 2 very specific demographics:
1. Antique dealers who needed to increase their profit margin and inventory quality and selection – these were people who were already successful, but they were ready to take their business to the next level by buying overseas. And our job was to give them a hand-up on the path they were already heading. I liked these clients and we could fast-track them to success.
2. But the clients I liked most were the 2nd demographic. They were mostly women, and they were starting a new career. They had already been successful in their first career. It was usually something super practical – like a banker or accountant or a lawyer. Or maybe they had given up their career years earlier to stay home with the kids, to raise a family, and they were ready to have something of their own, something that fed their soul, something that represented them. These were the people I could help.
Why I Do What I Do
A couple weeks ago I got a private message on Instagram, it started:
“I’m sure you get 100s of messages and I don’t want to sound like a stalker or a fangirl but I love what you do. You’re amazing. I know you’re very busy, but… I am wondering if I could talk to you? While I’m not currently in the antiques industry, I have a strong interest in it. I’m at a point in my life where I want to do something more. I’ve always had an interest in interior design and I had a shop for a while. I feel I have a natural talent for many things, but none of them generate income. And I’d like to change that. I would like to support myself and not depend on my husband for that. Any advice about getting started in the antiques industry would be appreciated.”
It’s not really just about antiques. I have a fabulous life – super glamorous actually with amazing travel and more champagne than should be legal. Let’s just say being a Diva does have its perks. But… I don’t do it for the 🍾 champagne. I do it because I saw a need for this service to
Over the last 10 years, the business has changed. The team has grown from 1 to around 20 at the moment. We are now in 16 countries and 3 continents. We don’t just offer antique buying tours. We offer a Training and Mentoring Program for Antiques Dealers – a training program to teach new or nearly new
What Would You Ask Me?
Here’s something I want you to think about… is there a question you would ask me if you could? One of my #1 responsibilities in the company is to talk to incoming clients and to help them determine where they should shop, for what and when. I chat all the time with clients about their marketing plans and repeat clients know that they can always call me to bounce ideas off of me; and when I’m out and see things that remind me of a client I send all sorts of tempting texts and ideas.
If you’ve been dreaming about a new career as an antiques dealer – or perhaps simply need to fast-track a career you’ve already started selling antiques – then I would love to schedule a phone call with you to help you make your dreams come true.
Top Interior Design Influencers Who Are Making It Happen
In mid-November, I received an email with urgent in the title. It was from Kimberly Wray of Furniture Lighting and Design Magazine. I gave a giant yelp and my kitten Fortuny – who had been sleeping peacefully on my desk – jumped with a start.
“We are doing an article on the top interior design industry influencers who are making it happen in 2018 and I want to interview you.”
When the article came out Dec 28, 2018, I sighed and felt a little victory. This is me. I am a just a girl from Oklahoma. I didn’t grow up with any money. I think my parents simply struggled to pay the electric bill. Buying luxury furniture wasn’t a consideration and most of our furniture was hand me downs, vintage or secondhand. But my mom had fabulous taste. She knew the importance of angling the chair just the right way, and good lighting, lamps were always on and scattered around the house. She painted her own paintings and arranged bouquets of flowers and she grew the flowers herself or plucked wildflowers out of a field. Food was always readily available and no matter how many strays my dad brought home for dinner (which was a nightly occurrence) she stretched the food and there was always enough to seat one more. We didn’t have a fancy life but we lived well. Life was beautiful.
Antiques Diva Is A Lifestyle
And for me, that’s what it’s always been about… living gracefully. I got into antiques because I feel they add elegance to a home. I like the patina, the sense of history and the story. When you buy antiques you don’t just buy antiques – you buy a story. Antiques help you travel to other places and other times, if only in your mind.
Moving to Venice
Several years ago my husband of 20 years and I separated. To be honest, it was devastating for me. I couldn’t emotionally process it so I threw myself into working too much as a solution. It was good for my company growth but it wasn’t good for me on a personal level. And so I decided to change. I decided to reevaluate what my priorities are.
I needed more balance, less work, and definitely more personal time, which meant I needed to work more efficiently and effectively. I also realized I wasn’t happy living in Berlin. So I thought about all the places in the world I could live and my happy place was Venice.
A few photos from my move down the Grand Canal…
One year ago I loaded up a 40-foot container and my truck drove over the Alps. It took 3 boats, but I arrived at my new home in Venice on a flotilla going down the Grand Canal. My mover Alfredo Rubelli even tied my desk chair to the front of the boat so I could sit on the chair and wave to tourists as we passed them by. It was surreal. But I had arrived.
Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch
Speaking of thinking like a Diva – Aspire Design and Home Magazine just published the best article on me that has ever been written. In The Antiques Diva Guide to Paris Flea Markets. they shared the definition of a Diva:
a woman who exudes great style and personality with confidence and expresses herself without letting others influence who they are.
On January 20, The Antiques Diva & Co held our 6th annual Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch co-hosted by Aspire Magazine and Marché Dauphine. Each year we welcome guests from the international design community during Paris Design Week to a festive brunch at Les Puces before a day of antiques and vintage sourcing and #DesignInspiration. The article was published to promote the party I co-hosted with Marché Dauphine and Aspire Magazine.
Check out our Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch party pics taken by photographer Joachim Pelletier …
2018 was devoted to Balance. And it was hard work, but I achieved that goal.
My Goal for 2019
2019 is dedicated to re-engaging in a personal level in my company. I believe the company needs more of me – more of my leadership and more of my voice and vision.
And I’m doing that by going back to the basics. My company started because I wrote a blog titled The Antiques Diva. People liked my blog and demanded that I take them on antique shopping tours. Somewhere along the line as I was growing the company, my voice got lost in the day to day madness. So I thought about it and I wondered, Why not go back to where this all started with my voice? This year on the blog I will be blogging less, but the blogs I will write will have more depth and more meaning. And drumroll… where did this company begin? It began because I wanted to write a book – so I’m starting over. I am writing a book. It’s not
Thanks for following along as I share my journey. My word for 2019 is Ready. I’m ready. Ready. And it’s going to be a great year.
Toma Clark Haines
The Antiques Diva
April 10 – 11, 2019
New York City
Click HERE to learn more about our 2-day Antique Dealer Training in NYC
Saturday March 9, 2019
To add some Diva sparkle to the antiques show, on Saturday 9 March, Toma Clark Haines The Antiques Diva, a speaker on antiques and design on the international stage, will be spending the day at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair, leading visitor tours around the fair, talking to exhibitors about their memories and showcasing highlights of the Bath Fair.
The Antique Diva’s tours and interviews will be streamed LIVE on social media throughout the day.
Are you new to the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair? Muddy Stilettos has a great preview of the show… and there just might be a link to free tickets: Anyone for cocktails?
I’ll ring in the New Year with my favorite Prosecco. I first became aware of the Prosecco house Bisol when I visited the winery earlier this year in Valdobbiadene for my birthday in the nearby Veneto region just an hour north of Venice. When I discovered it was the house Prosecco at the Gritti palace my good taste was reconfirmed. At my house, the glasses are vintage champagne coupes – a Christmas present from my mom several years ago. They aren’t the standard flute but rather champagne bowls and rumor has it (I don’t know if the story is true) that the shape of the round coupe is inspired by Marie Antoinette’s bosom! Along with my friend and co-host Steven Moore of the Antiques Roadshow who is visiting for the New Years celebrations I’ll be serving ‘cicchetti‘, small Venetian tapas-like hors-d’oeuvres, and of course, my Paris favorite: caviar on toast with a dollop of crème fraîche; served #DivaStyle from my antique 17th-century Spanish secretary which I’ve styled as a bar cart!
With New Year’s Eve right around the corner, the timing is perfect for Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More’s 3rd article in our series on holiday tablescapes and entertaining design inspiration! Here are Mimi’s tips on stocking the bar for holiday entertaining and how to style your bar cart with antiques – do NOT miss Mimi’s barmoire!
Felice anno nuovo!
Stocking the Bar for Holiday Entertaining
Photos by Eric Gray Photography
Nothing calls for celebrations and cocktails like the holidays. There’s no better way to make spirits bright than with a well-stocked bar and a well-mixed drink! Both are a must for anyone who enjoys entertaining at home. Read on to see how you can mix and a-mingle in the jinglin’ glass… and shake and stir your way through the holidaze with ease.
Stocking the bar can be both affordable and easy. There are several essential elements that need to be included for it to be considered a success. Since many of us may have limited space and/or limited funds, choosing wisely is very important. No matter your budget, the first rule of our guide, The Art of Stocking the Bar, is to buy quality ingredients. From bourbon to bubbly, the wines and spirits you choose to stock will set the tone for your bar and the type of cocktails you can concoct. You don’t have to go top shelf, and remember price doesn’t always mean quality. You do want to cover all your beverage bases, however, so we suggest you start with the following:
Wine & Spirits
- Champagne or Wine
Once you’ve taken stock of what you need to mix up some classic cocktails, like a French 75 or an Old Fashioned, add what you like to the above essentials. If it’s tequila, popular for shots and margaritas, you should definitely have a reposado and an añejo. If you’re a fan of whiskey, be sure to include a good Scotch whiskey, made from malted barley in Scotland, a bourbon, an essential American whiskey for the southern gentleman (that’s also great for sipping), and a classic rye from Canada. You may also want to add in some liqueurs like Cointreau, Campari, and both sweet and dry Vermouth, a key ingredient in iconic cocktails such as the Martini and the Manhattan.
Whether shaken or stirred, with a twist or with a chaser, all cocktails need mixers and garnishes. Which ones you decide to stock will depend on the drinks you want to make. When displayed in small glass bottles, mixers add a splash of color to your bar and make pouring a breeze. Garnishes, on the other hand, can take a boring French Blonde from oh to oh la la. They also give you something to nibble on while sipping your drink. These are our choices for basic mixers and garnishes:
- Club soda
- Tonic water
- Sodas – Coke, Sprite, 7-Up
- Ginger Ale
- Juices – orange, lemon, lime, cranberry, tomato, apple, pineapple
- Angostura Bitters (technically not a mixer — only a dash or two to add a bit of flavor to a drink)
- Simple Syrup (made by dissolving equal parts water and sugar over heat — will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator)
- Peels and Wedges – lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, grapefruit
- Fruits Soaked in Booze
- Spices – cinnamon, celery salt, clove, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, salt, pepper
- Veggies – pickled corn, asparagus, okra, beets, and cocktail onions; celery stalks
- Herbs – mint, rosemary, and basil
You have your booze, your bitters, and your bacon. When it comes to bar tools, only a few items are truly necessary to make a tasty toddy. Our favorite bar tools (and accouterments) include:
- Shaker, Mixing Glass, and Strainer
- Jigger – for all your measuring needs… try a 1 oz and 3/4 oz combo
- Bar Spoon – for all your stirring, mixing and layering needs
- Citrus Peeler and Handheld Citrus Press
- Ice Bucket and Tongs
You’ll also want to add your favorite cocktail recipe books, old or new. My favorite is The Coupe by our friend Brian Hart Hoffman. Brian has a fabulous coupe collection and offers tips for collecting coupes and styling a home bar, as well as drink recipes from some of our fave bars. We also keep monogrammed bar napkins and pretty hand towels readily available for spills and quick clean ups!
Next up… glassware. I love glasses like I do chairs — their different shapes and sizes, curves and angles. How you present your cocktails is almost as important as how you mix them. Having the proper glass for each cocktail isn’t a necessity, but it makes pouring and serving more fun. These glasses (and some red Solo cups) will see you through any soiree you might be planning:
- Coupe – our choice for serving cocktails that are shaken or stirred
- Champagne Flute – tall, slender, and fun… break out the bubbly
- Wine – white or red, and stemless — a real crowd pleaser, especially when serving batch cocktails
- Shot – that tequila isn’t going to shoot itself… and they’re fun to collect
- Highball – for any variety of liquor and mixer that your heart desires
- Rocks Glass – a short tumbler for making spirits bright… with ice or neat
Style and Location
Last, but definitely not least, is the style and location of your bar. We all want a home bar that’s welcoming and appealing to our guests, but make sure it’s fun and easy for you. Whether you mix Margaritas from a brass bar cart, or transform an antique placard into a barmoire — like we did — you can always personalize and elevate your cocktail hour.
Try these ideas for a stylish home bar that will shake things up a bit:
- Turn a console into a drinks station when space is limited. A pretty tray will keep a cocktail shaker, pitcher, and liquor bottles in one place, leaving plenty of room for setting up glassware. The tray also proves handy in keeping everything looking organized as well as making things easier to move around when needed.
- An antique chest or buffet makes an ideal bar. Place crystal glasses and decanters filled with your favorite aged liquors on an antique brass or silver tray to make spirits really shine. Add a lamp, artwork and flowers to bring color and height. You can store napkins, tools, extra glasses, and your favorite recipe books in the drawers or cabinets below.
An antique bar cabinet looks just as beautiful open as it does closed, especially when you set the bar high! That’s exactly what we did when we recently removed a built-in desk from our kitchen during a renovation and replaced it with a gorgeous Louis Philippe period placard that we had at our store. Originally a dark cherry wood, Laurent bleached it and added a lime wax before installing it. We turned the center section into a bar to store our collection of antique French ice buckets and antique and vintage glassware, and called on Santa’s elves at Barri Thompson Interiors once again to sip and style the day away just in time for the holidays! It was nothing less than magical, proving once again that mixing in antiques will always #raisethebar!
Antique and Vintage Glassware
Cheers to that!
Today in part 2 of our tablescapes series, Mimi is making s’mores on a mohair rug – #DivaStyle. The Christmas s’mores bar Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More shares below is simply divine – both the recipes themselves and the stunning photographs. Perfect for holiday entertaining – or any time you want a simple, elegant dessert that is dramatic, fun and easy!
Dreaming of a White Christmas S’mores Bar
Photos by Eric Gray Photography
Last week, we were all merry and bright for our Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch. This week, we’re going dark(er) and decadent for a winter picnic like no other. For our second tablescape, Dreaming of a White Christmas S’mores Bar, we’re taking the art of picnicking to a whole new level. Instead of roasting chestnuts on an open fire, we’re toasting marshmallows on an open fire and making s’mores… on a mohair rug.
I don’t know about your weather, but ours has been more than a bit frightful lately. The kind of weather that makes you want to stay inside and snuggle up by the fire. If you have a small home or studio apartment, I’m going to show you (with a little help from my friends at Barri Thompson Interiors) how to get creative and host a fun holiday soiree picnic-style around your coffee table. You’ll definitely have your guests Dreaming of a White Christmas…
A Closer Look
A walk on the wild(er) side. The luxurious look and feel of the natural undyed, mid-century Turkish Angora woven blanket from Paige Albright Orientals that Barri chose to cover the homeowner’s custom-made chunky white coffee table was just what we needed to spice up our picnic, along with a spiced rum cocktail, of course. I know most of you probably don’t have a tiger-striped mohair rug laying around — but if you do… If you don’t, you definitely want to add it to your list! IT’S. THAT. DAMN. FABULOUS!
Let Them Eat Cake
S’mores are the quintessential dessert — they require no baking! You’re free to choose as few or as many ingredients as you like, leaving plenty of time to concentrate on the tablescape and signature cocktail. For this place setting, Barri mixed and matched selections from the homeowner’s collection of modern tableware. She selected a white charger that really stood out against that fabulous mohair rug and anchored the black La Chamba pottery. The salad plate was adorned with fresh cut greenery, while the place card from Target was tied to the “bowl with one handle,” which was filled with marshmallows, tiny chocolate bits, and pieces of butterscotch. The coating of powdered sugar we added to the marshmallows (to keep them from getting sticky) added a slight shine to them, and we placed a sparkly napkin ring in the center of them for an extra pop of shimmer and shine! Because more is more, and we love shiny finishes, we chose Gold flatware by West Elm. Spiced Rum Old Fashioned cocktails were served in smoky gray rocks glasses from West Elm.
Since the S’mores Maker, filled with graham crackers, white chocolate peppermint bark, and marshmallows, had to be in the center of the table, Barri used gold mercury glass votives to magically light up the space. She randomly placed them on the table creating an oh-so romantic atmosphere. Votives give off a soft, beautiful glow, and because they shine the light upward, they make everyone look good. Voila! Who can complain about that? Just for kicks, she grabbed an antique wooden saddle stool that she saw sitting in a bookcase and placed a moss nest with a glitter ornament on it. She then added some vintage sleigh bells… for a very “beautiful sight!” Often, it’s the simplest things that make the biggest impact.
Barri also threw various pillows from PAO around the room. Incredibly stylish and versatile, they made for perfect party seating and snuggling. The neutral colors of the pillows, as well as the butterfly chair with the taupe Mongolian sheepskin cover, also from PAO, added just the right amount of texture… and had us dreaming of this White Christmas for days!
The best thing about s’mores is there’s no wrong way to make them. Here are a few of our favorite combinations that will have your guests asking for s’more.
Mimi’s S’mores Recipes
Classic S’mores Recipes
- Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
- Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
- Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
- Oreo Cookies
- Creamy Peanut Butter
- Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
- Ritz Crackers
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
Sweet and Salty S’mores
- Ritz Crackers
- Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moremallows
- Cookies and Creme S’mores
- Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
- Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Crème Candy Bar
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
What’s your favorite? Let us know!
Our next tablescape is a Holly Jolly Dinner Party. Instead of toasting marshmallows on a mohair rug we’ll be toasting “A day when cheer and gladness blend, When heart meets heart, And friend meets friend.”
Your home is a reflection of who you are – your travels, your passions, your lifestyle. As The Antiques Diva, I always incorporate antiques and vintage pieces into my home, mixed with modern and far more practical items for everyday living! When I entertain, I enjoy using antiques I’ve collected in new ways that showcase their beauty, but at the same time demonstrate that antiques are anything but old-fashioned and stuffy. Living with antiques is an art and a passion – and I love to share my home and #DivaLifestyle with my guests, especially during the holidays.
Today we’re starting a series of blog posts by Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More full of #designinspiration and tips on using antiques and vintage pieces for holiday tablescapes, bar carts and entertaining! Mimi is thinking pink! Are these tabletops not the most stunning Christmas shades of pink you’ve ever seen! I’d love to be invited to this ladies brunch!
Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch
‘Tis the season… to deck the halls, the walls, and the tables! Whether you’re celebrating all that’s merry and bright with an intimate group of friends or hosting a large family gathering on Christmas Eve, you always want to make sure your holiday tabletop shines. This year, I called on a few of my favorite friends for some sparkling inspiration. WOW! Did they ever deliver! You might have seen some sneak peeks if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the three table settings (plus a bar) that we created, along with detailed photos. So… put on your sleigh bells, pour yourself some bubbly, and fa la la la long…
TABLESCAPE #1 WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS TIME LADIES BRUNCH
When it comes to setting a festive table, especially one in shades of pink, like my Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch, no one does it better than Barri Thompson Interiors. I met Barri shortly after moving to Birmingham, and we became fast friends. When Laurent and I purchased our home, there was no question who would be our designer. Barri’s love of color and her enthusiasm for design is contagious. I recently asked Barri and her assistant Melinda Musgrove (one of the floral designers on the C. Wayman Floral & Events Team for Cardi B’s baby shower before joining BTI) to design not one, but THREE, holiday tablescapes for a photoshoot. They didn’t hesitate to say yes! Photos by Eric Gray Photography.
Barri embraces the romantic appeal entertaining at home has. It’s a well thought out affair for her, where “fancy” doesn’t mean complicated. She brings her signature modern style to each tablescape, yet she has the uncanny ability to mix in vintage and antique pieces — making things that probably shouldn’t work together look enchanting. Non-traditional details help to define her Christmas tablescapes, which are made festive with fresh flowers, boughs and greenery from the yard, signature drinks, and a break from the usual red and green colors associated with Christmas.
A pink and green color scheme. The green plates used as chargers make the mix and match place settings, in various shades of pink and green, pop when placed directly on my bleached walnut table. The vintage Tulu rug and the bright colors and bold pattern on the antique Louis XVI style chairs also stand out against the wood.
The table is set à la française — French style, with the tines pointing down. Barri chose to use heirloom silver passed down to me from a great aunt, Pyrex chargers, a gift from my mother, beautifully detailed antique Limoges dishes, and Raynaud Festivite salad plates. As you can see, my love of antiques and vintage is not limited to furniture!
Barri has such a discerning eye. She took the dainty little Limoges butter pats and placed two yummy macarons in each. What a delightful surprise! She also mixed the stemware, using Parklane by Mikasa and Manhattan Gold by Union Street. Blush pleated metallic napkins and chandelier napkin rings by Deborah Rhodes, were used to add extra shine.
Melinda placed a 19th century Limoges fruit bowl that is part of my china collection in the center of the table to hold a large glitter bottle brush Christmas tree surrounded by pale pink peonies, silver brunia and gumball pink hypericum berries. She ran a glitter garland down the center of the table and filled in with the live berries and more silver brunia, adding champagne colored bottle brush trees inside glass on each side of the centerpiece for height. Blush colored rope taper candles from Greentree Home in antique silver candle holders add additional height and provide elegant light.
Will any of you be hosting a holiday fête this season? If so, these 5 tips will help make you the hostess with the mostest:
1. Decide On A Color Scheme Or Theme — Think outside of the box with new color combos to create a fresh tablescape. Consider color combinations other than the traditional red and green. Dishes and glassware, as well as florals, are great ways to bring color to your table.
2. Get Creative — Take a cue from Barri and use things in unexpected ways like she did with the butter pats. We’ve been trained to set forks on the right and knives on the left, but holiday tablescapes give us the freedom to step away from tradition. Play with the napkins. Move them around until you find the perfect spot. And never feel like you have to cover a wooden table! The texture of the wood just creates another layer.
3. Make It Personal — Work with what you have. Don’t think you have to go out and buy everything new. You can’t go wrong with a mix of modern and antique tableware, or high end and low end. If you have a fabulous collection of sterling napkin rings or colored coupes, use them! Mix Limoges with Pyrex like we did! We played around with my china and crystal and swapped plates and glasses and candlesticks in and out many times before we settled on what we used.
4. Keep It Fresh — Go big on fresh flowers, garlands, and greenery. Natural elements are key to making a holiday tablescape memorable. Tuck sprigs of greenery into the tablescape or use them to adorn plates or candle holders.
5. Add Some Sparkle — Metallic finishes just draw people in. Whether its metallic threads in linens or glitter ornaments, everyone loves a little sparkle!
*All other table accessories except sterling candlesticks are from Table Matters.
Don’t miss our next tablescape, Dreaming of a White Christmas. We’re roasting marshmallows and making s’mores… on a mohair rug.
Toma Clark Haines will be leading tours of The Miami Beach Antiques Show:
January 26 – 29, 2019
Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach, FL
Complimentary Tickets HERE (promo code DIVAEM)
Meet Toma Clark Haines The Antiques Diva at The Miami Beach Antiques Show on her famous #NoPassportRequired walking tours of the fair… ideal to preview the exhibitors at this spectacular show!!
Join Toma at 3pm on Sunday 27 January and at 12noon on Monday January 28 for a free champagne tour:
- I’d like to reserve a spot on Sunday, January 27 at 3pm (click here)
- I’d like to reserve a spot on Monday, January 28 at 12pm(click here)
Last year I attended the Original Miami Beach Antiques Show for the 1st time – and I was gobsmacked by America’s largest indoor antique show, they offer a vast selection of exceptional antiques year after year. Items range from a variety of historical time periods including the Renaissance, Georgian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Art Deco, and more. On the show floor, attendees can explore a variety of antique treasures such as fine art, American and European silver, antique jewelry, fancy colored diamonds, clocks and timepieces, Asian antiquities, rugs, porcelain, objects of virtue, and much more.
You haven’t shopped the Original Miami Beach Antique Show until you’ve done it #DivaStyle! Toma will take you on a whirlwind champagne tour teaching you the major antique periods and styles, give hints and tips on identifying key characteristics and help you distinguish period pieces from modern forgeries. As she introduces you to her favorite antiques dealers, she will share what’s hot in antiques and what’s not – and how you can use this information to get the best prices on the best pieces!
Join this Tastemaker on a complimentary Antiques Buying Tour with a Champagne Glass in one hand and a shopping sack in the other. But one word of warning… she wears stilettos, and she walks fast… so you better keep up. #NoPassportRequired
The Art of Conversation Benefitting City ArtWorks in Houston
The Art of Conversation™ is more than just lunch! This event boasts a unique and fun format where each table hosts a celebrity guest, who donates their time and conversation skills to lead a unique and fun conversation at each table. This is a special opportunity for you and your friends to have lunch with your favorite celebrity conversationalist and get to know them beyond social media.
Monday, November 5, 2018
11 a.m. Registration and VIP Reception
11 a.m. Silent Auction Opens
12 p.m. Lunch and Conversation
The Junior League of Houston
1811 Briar Oaks Lane, Houston, TX 77027
The Art of Conversation has tickets and tables available for purchase and sponsorship opportunities.