When I speak at design industry events or with The Antiques Diva® clients, one of my core messages is, “The most important tool in your design kit is your passport.” My personal travels are what inspired me to launch The Antiques Diva, and my later travels to Asia and South America to source antiques for clients provided design inspiration for my upcoming couture jewelry line, TCH Collection. So I knew I had found a kindred spirit when I met Julianne Taylor, the Founder and Creative Director at Taylor Burke Home. I learned more of Julianne’s design inspirations when she interviewed me for a chapter in her brilliant book DesignHER, a celebration of female entrepreneurs shaping today’s home décor industry. Living and working abroad is, to paraphrase Hemingway, a movable feast: it stays with you, and forever influences your ideas and choices.
Julianne Taylor’s design aesthetic was influenced by her many years living abroad. As an expat, she provided interior design services for clients in Australia, Spain, China and South Korea; and when her family returned home to South Carolina, Julianne launched Taylor Burke Home, providing design services and decor to clients who appreciate her bold, unexpected and sophisticated designs.
Juliane Taylor Style Shanghai Collection
Julianne’s time living in Asia influenced her recent collaboration, Shanghai Wallpaper Collection by Julianne Taylor Style for Mitchell Black. The Shanghai Collection features six designs, and each design is offered in five to seven different colors. True to Julianne’s signature style, the collection offers sophisticated designs bursting with vibrant color.
No doubt influenced by her frequent moves while living abroad, the wallpaper collection is removable and wipeable: just peel and stick, reposition, and clean with a sponge! Beauty and practicality.
In addition to wallpaper, the Shanghai Collection offers Asian-themed framed prints, including ginger jars, kimonos and drawings. Julianne’s Asian influences in the collection include:
- every-day objects such as fans and vintage brass hardware
- cultural symbols like the Chinese Foo Dog and koi fish
- nature and botanicals including water lilies
It’s All In The Mix
My design philosophy is: it’s all in the mix! Our Antiques Diva Asia Tours are a moveable feast: all your senses are engaged by the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Asia! And when you travel and bring a bit of Asia home with you – vintage textiles, antique furniture, artisanal crafts, bits of architectural salvage (or even an entire Bali bridal house!) these pieces blend beautifully with your European and American furnishings; modern, contemporary, traditional, rustic or antique!
A global design mix in your home reflects who you are, your experiences and your evolution – and who you want to be. Finding decorative accessories that bring cohesion to your home can be a challenge: that’s why I’m crushing on Julianne’s Asian wallpaper collection! It’s both traditional and modern, both Asian and continental, and totally chic – just like Julianne! If you dream of traveling to and experiencing Asia one day, Shanghai Wallpaper can bring Asian design flair to your home today.
Leaving you to dream of Asia…
Toma – The Antiques Diva
Delighted to be an HPMKT Trendspotter: I’m sharing my design inspirations at High Point Market on Instagram to help you discover new, unique products: follow @highpointmarket! #designonhpmkt #hpmkt #interiordesign #interiorinspo #interiordesigners
Pop into Market Square to meet Richard Auber – who is truly a visionary in Design and a trendsetter in the Antiques world.
With its gorgeous beaches, luxury resorts, rice paddies and ancient temples Indonesia has far more to offer than just a destination as a vacation hot spot. Bali is one of the world’s best resources for global sourcing. Their antiques scene – and the abundance of offerings – is reminiscent of the Paris Flea Market but Indonesia offers more than just antiques. After assessing your antiquing and design or fashion sourcing needs our local expert Antiques Diva® shopping guide will custom plan your Bali antiques buying tour – helping to maximize your time and money by translating and negotiating on your behalf, and finally liaising you with an international shipper.
Join Toma Clark Haines, CEO of The Antiques Diva® & Co, with Derrick Ricketts, VP, Dallas Market Center on a Bali Antiques Buying Tour with local expert Antiques Diva Guide Marilyn:
Bali is more than a vacation destination. Bali is one of the world’s best resources for global sourcing. Whether you are looking for rustic or folkart furniture… wood and stone carvings… textiles, batiks and ikats… tribal jewelry… architectural salvage… or actually seeking a source to manufacture your own furniture line… Bali has it all!
Our Bali tour crisscrosses Seminyak and Ubud. Bali has countless antiques warehouses where you can find both Balinese and Javanese furniture and architectural salvage. I simply love the colors and carvings of Indonesia!
We have a lot of places to go! Our job is to bring clients to exactly the right places for what they’re looking for! Marilyn knows all the right places, and gets the best prices.
Bali is famous for its textiles. You can even find newly made furniture in Bali. If you want to design your own furniture we can introduce you to artisans and manufacturers for handmade goods.
Bali is also an excellent place to source contemporary art.
After a full day of shopping, we take time to monkey around in Ubud Monkey Forest!
My favorite hotel in Bali is Bambu Indah, John Hardy’s famous eco-lifestyle boutique hotel. Hardy salvaged 11 antique Javanese bridal homes and reconstructed them in Bali. A reknown antiques collector, Hardy’s philosophy is Antiques Are Green. We explore with our client the use of architectural salvage in luxury and eco-design.
On Antiques Diva Tours we always take time to eat! And here eating is a culinary and visual feast.
After lunch we hit the road again. Bali boasts a district of antique shops that can only be compared to the Paris Flea Market! Mile after mile of treasures unfold.
The secret of our tours is we know where to go. We take a peek at one of Donna Karan’s secret sources.
To close the day we are invited for cocktails at the home of local antiques dealer Michael Nalder of LeMari.
Kop khun kha,
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
I’ve always had a love for old things, the passage of time, wear and tear, scars – all of this has been of interest since my earliest memory. We lived in a very old house in Cuba, a 17th-century building with old pasta floors and beamed ceilings. Most of it kindly neglected after the revolution but impeccably tidy. We moved to the US to a modern apartment not at all to my liking and so as a teenager I began buying old bits; Japanese Imari, an old French chair; my bedroom was a little museum in my mother’s Danish Modern home. I studied dance, but before becoming a professional working in Monaco I became friends with an antiques dealer who owned The Ballet Shop on the Upper West Side; I’d spend hours rummaging thru stacks of old Romantic prints and silver gelatin photos of famous dancers. Turns out that Norman Crider was a baton twirling ice skater, quite a character who was awarded the Order of National Merit and Philanthropy in France and founded the Antiques Center of America; as he had 3 shops he’d sometimes need a little help. Eventually I’d assist him setting up his booth at the Armory Show where he would display paste jewels once owned by Hollywood Royalty… I remember him saying after a little composition went up “oh dear, you have an eye” and so I cultivated that eye as I danced my way thru Europe and South America.
The best part of being an ornament is that you’re invited into people’s homes, houses decorated by Colefax and Fowler, Mongiardino, all the greats and so you see and you learn how to mix fearlessly. I remember Castaign’s shop in the 80’s, the last period of high style decorating. That’s why antiques are so important, they remind us of what visual quality should be. Luckily there are still many people who appreciate that quality. Speaking of older, when I hung up my ballet shoes I attended Parson’s and was fortunate to have worked with Bunny Williams and Thomas Jayne who use antiques in all of their projects, so it was another layer of training and when I went off on my in own in 1992 I knew what I was looking at. I opened a small shop along with artist Ric Best called from House to Home in Asbury Park and then Flourish in Philadelphia as well as a small booth at the now defunct Center 44; today I sell my finds to a few high profile designers and those who know where to find me. Luckily the Antiques Diva is a great resource for those in the know.
That’s why antiques are so important, they remind us of what visual quality should be.
My take on vintage and antiques is that if something has been around for a few decades or a few centuries, the chances are that with a little care they’ll outlive us all. And even the worst antique is probably better made than the best mass-produced repro. You also won’t see yourself coming and going in your friend’s houses. Stylistically I tend to gravitate to the neoclassical though that can span a very long period of time. Here are 5 items I’d be happy to use just about anywhere.
1. A pair of Regency marble-top consoles. I love Regency, it’s not as stiff as Empire and the scale can be a little more forgiving so these pieces are suited to city living. These particular tables could be used in an entry flanking a doorway or they could live on either side of a sofa with some mod little low tables in front of them or even as additional servers in a dining room. Add a modern painting or a simple mirror above and you’re pretty much set.
2. The now much-maligned cabinet once used to house our clunky TVs were once actually used as storage. Working with clients in NYC and environs not everyone is blessed with miles of closets. I tend to go for the very plain or the very interesting. Here’s a Biedermeier cabinet that’s not too deep, so while it makes a big statement with it’s architectural presence, all columns and rusticated detailing, you could center this on a wall opposite a seating area or perhaps in your bedroom or a study to hold papers and oversized books. At one time a cabinet like this would have cost a small fortune. Best time to buy this type of furniture is now.
3. A pair of faux painted classical planters. I have a thing for non-furniture items. I think the biggest rookie mistake is to buy upholstery and tables all from one source. The quickest way to look ‘done’ and be done in is to fill a room with store bought blandness. These planters could transform any space, they could flank a doorway or a window and as they’re large they could easily be placed on stone plinths in your double height living room with some palm trees. Why not be just a decadent, you know you want to. And it will give your room much-needed height. They could also go to the side of a fireplace to hold logs. So many uses!
4. I have a thing for the Grand Tour. My first time in Florence I visited a shop that was filled with 19th-century bronze casts and models of great sculpture and I was hooked. I buy them whenever I see them and they’re not that easy to find. Group them if you have a center table, use them singly on a modern cube or coffee table, you can’t go wrong. This Atlas was used by Kelly Wearstler in a recent project.
5. While I always mix modern and contemporary art with my antiques there’s no reason one couldn’t use an ancient textile here and there. Tapestries are not something the average person ever thinks about, but imagine this late 18th-century example in a very clean lined room, or in an entrance hall. The borders alone are enough to fill you with countless hours of joy. I also tend to like religious theme, not for everyone, but here is Moses finding water in the desert, talk about a refreshing subject.
And so those are the five items I’m thinking about right about now. Hope you’ve enjoyed them.
Featured image: Room by Louis Navarrete Decoration for Holiday House 2014
Louis Navarrete Decoration
834 Riverside Drive 5B
New York City, NY 10032
Born in Cuba, Louis was always interested in houses and their contents. After emigrating to the US, he studied ballet with renowned teacher David Howard and danced professionally across Europe with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, in the US with The Joffrey Ballet and in South America with Ballets del Zulia. A career ending injury afforded him the opportunity to attend Parson’s where he studied Environmental Design and Interior Decoration under the tutelage of ex Parish-Hadley alumni. He worked as design assistant to Thomas Jayne and Bunny Williams before embarking on his own in 1992. Louis is an expert on design with a keen eye for antiques and has developed a wide range of connections which allows him to source anything you might be in search of, at various price points.
If you’re not already familiar with legendary Manhattan-based interior design John Douglas Eason you’re going to thank me for this introduction! John Douglas Eason is not only one of the nicest (and most attractive) men I know he’s also one of the most sophisticated. If you’ve visited some of the grandest homes in Greenwich, Connecticut, without a doubt you’ve encountered John’s designs. Some of the best homes in America have John’s touch. At the core of John’s work lies a sophisticated modern sensibility, tempered by respect for traditional design. This can be seen in his strong, structured interiors saturated with texture and softened with organic forms and unexpected colors. John’s deep knowledge of fabrics, finishes, furniture and furnishings, from contemporary to historical, is leveraged in every project. Sourcing at international art and design fairs as well as hidden New York showrooms and secret sources, John brings a wealth of knowledge and resources to every home he designs.
Last week while traveling with John on our special Hamptons Antiques and Design Inspiration Tour (now taking reservations for our July 2018 Antiques Diva® Hamptons Group Tour – private Hamptons tours are available April through October) we were chatting about what a great time we had last year antiquing in Italy. Amidst the antiquing we took an extra day to soak in some design inspiration, visiting one of Milan’s best-kept secrets – Villa Necchi Campiglio, formerly a private home, and now a museum open to the public.
The villa was built between 1932 and 1935 for the wealthy Lombard industrialist family made up of Angelo Campiglio, his wife Gigina Necchi, and her sister Nedda Necchi. It is situated in a very well-to-do part of Milan and was designed by Italian architect Piero Portaluppi. Both architect and client paid close attention to detail to create a house that would be the backdrop to a life well-lived in Milanese high society.
I asked John to share his design inspiration from our visit to Villa Necchi Campiglio:
My fondest memory of the Villa Necchi Campiglio, other than the company I was traveling with of course, is those fabulous nickel and brass pocket doors leading out to the terrace. I also was captivated by the attention to the details, the intricacy of the that was repeated through the entirety of the house. It was on the pocket doors, the radiators, ceilings & stone floors! There was a most amazing track system for those infamous pocket doors that became seamless as it recessed to the height of the floor when the doors were opened. Recently I posted a photo from our trip of those nickel and brass pocket doors to Instagram and they immediately became one of my most popular IG posts to date. So memorable are they that I don’t recall anything from the movie “I Am Love” except for those phenomenal doors. This was the sole purpose that I so willingly tagged along for our group tour just to see a pair of pocket doors, and they did not disappoint. Much to my pleasure the attention to detail that abounds in the remainder of the house does not either!!
Let John’s design inspirations inspire you! Follow John on Instagram: @johndeason.
Watch I Am Love and see if you can spot John’s design inspiration!
When you’re in Milan, you simply must visit this inspirational house museum – it’s one of Milan’s best-kept secrets – a lesson in architecture and design as it successfully mixes impressive 19th-century style with progressive 20th-century design. Perfection!
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
Get A Dose of Paris Design Inspiration!
July 14 the French celebrate la Fête Nationale or Quatorze Juillet, what we call Bastille Day, with military parades, fireworks, concerts, and balls. Nothing will help you get in the French spirit more than a movie filmed in Paris – except, of course, a trip to Paris with The Antiques Diva®!
While lunching with Antiques Diva client Bruce Bailey at Chez Paul in Place Dauphine, Paris, Bruce told me that this restaurant was the setting for a recent movie (Me Before You), which led us to discuss films that will give you a dose of Paris design inspiration before a trip to Paris. Bruce recently spent 6 weeks in Paris with AD&CO Diva Guide Danielle Pelletier filming our TF1 Documentary (France’s most popular tv channel) that depicts how we work as Paris Flea Market Guides (The Antiques Diva is the Paris Flea Market Paul Bert Serpette’s only official tour guide).
Movies Bruce Recommends Before a Trip to Paris with AD&CO:
1. Me Before You
A romantic comedy it seems, but maybe not.
2. Rape of Europa
Documentary showing how Hitler planned the plundering of Europe.
3. Woman in Gold
Based on a 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt.
A history of the Louvre during the occupation.
5. The Collection
A series set in a post-war Paris fashion house.
A series about palace life under Louis XIV.
Other movies and TV shows that evoke Paris:
French Design Inspiration Films:
- Gabrielle with Isobelle Huppert
- Paris with Juliet Binoche
- Summer Hours with Juliet Binoche
- Diving Bell and the Butterfly
- Bel Ami
- I Have Loved You for so Long
- Farewell, My Queen
- Molière (2007)
- A Little Chaos
- Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola)
- The Affair of the Necklace
- The Dressmaker with Kate Winslet – not French in aspects, but Dior inspired
- Dior and I
- The Eye Has to Travel
“Paris is always a good idea!”
~ Audrey Hepburn
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®
Join Toma Clark Haines and Daniel Larsson on a Sweden Design Inspiration Tour
While traveling with Wendy Estes of Layla Grayce and Derrick Rickets of the Dallas Market Center, we went on a Scandinavian Style Hunt learning how the Swedes make antiques feel modern through the use of minimal decor and open floor plans. Derrick took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us to create a Sweden Design Inspiration Tour SlideShare, showing what he learned. Join us on a behind-the-scenes visit to Sweden with Derrick Ricketts of Dallas Market Center and Antiques Diva Guide Daniel Larsson – and me, The Antiques Diva®️ Toma Clark Haines.
What is a Design Inspiration Tour?
Interior designers, furniture manufacturers and showrooms, architects, landscapers, shelter magazines and design industry professionals stay ahead of trends in design, art, cuisine and fashion by traveling to locations that inspire and nurture their creativity and are an opportunity to see first-hand emerging trends in the design world.
The Antiques Diva & Co provides curated, custom guided inspiration tours throughout Europe and Asia for design industry professionals. Tours are private, or offered to carefully selected groups of industry professionals for a unique opportunity to connect and build relationships – and provide, what else? – Design Inspiration – as well as opportunities to buy antiques abroad. On tour we translate, negotiate and liaise clients with international shippers or use our own in-house shipping division to help clients get purchases home sweet home across the pond.
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®️
Custom Couture For A Curvy Diva
I have a bit of a reputation… in addition to drinking entirely too much champagne, I’ve got a penchant for high heels and fabulous dresses. In fact one of my most frequently asked questions when I speak is and when I meet clients and brand followers in real life.… “Where do you get your dress?” And while I’m a fan of both high end and low end – from DVF to Laundry – I look for items that flatter the figure. I’m a curvy girl and what curvy girls everywhere know is you can look fat… or you can look curvy. I choose the latter.
I’m going to let you in on one of my biggest fashion secrets… This January we hosted our annual Paris Champagne Brunch at Paul Bert Serpette in the Paris Flea Market – I wore a sensational cape-sleeved knee-length red jacket with a simple strapless tube dress underneath. The design was a one-a-kind design by Cambodian Designer Romyda Keth.
I first visited Romyda’s shop this summer while laying the groundwork for our Phenom Penh Design Inspiration tours. One of the things I love about our Asian Antiques Diva Tours is #ItsNotJustAntiques – from helping you find a furniture factory to custom-make your designs, to art studio and gallery tours to giving you access our favorite local craftsmen whether that’s hardware for your furniture and doors or lantern and lighting makers or simply a fabulous tailor…. A stop in Romyda’s shop is fabulous for retail therapy for fashion hunters, but even if you’re not looking for clothing it is worthwhile for the design inspiration. (Plus she has a maison store next door).
For years – even before we started working together and were just friends – I’ve admired my colleague Angela Somwaiya’s wardrobe. Angela now heads up our Asia Antiques Diva Tours. She is statuesque, standing a good head above me. She’s gorgeous, very sultry and has a mysterious look and wears the most amazing dresses of anyone I know. Curvy, Vivacious and Va Va Va Voom.
I was thrilled when as we were heading to Phenom Penh as part of our groundwork for setting up our Antiques Diva Asia Tours Angela asked… “Toma, is it possible we can make time to shop at my favorite dress store?”
In South East Asia when you attend a social event the well-heeled who’s who will all be wearing Keth’s designs. But the amazing thing… not one of the women will be dressed the same. Keth only makes 1 dress in each size for every design. Created in her onsite factory, the designs are done in a gorgeous Khmer silk in a harmony of colors cut specifically to emphasize on women what differentiates them from men. From now on a trip to Asia is not complete without at least a 36-hour stopover to stock up on my fashion needs for the next season.
Romyda is Cambodian-born, was raised in Paris and studied at the Paris School of Fine Arts and at top fashion design school Esmod. She is one of the few Asian designers to have established a worldwide following; after the first Atelier Ambre opened in Cambodia in 1999, the brand has since expanded to Middle East, Africa, Australia and the rest of Asia. Her designs are all about COLOR and CURVES. Those are the key words that describe my fashion sense. Each item is custom tailored on site, fitted by Romyda. And for a luxury brand creating nearly one of a kind designs the prices are reasonable. I think my custom fitted dress and jacket combined were around $300. The dresses I purchased ran between $75 and 150 USD. For more information visit Romyda Keth.
Kheunh anak chab,
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®
Spring High Point Market
And it’s a wrap. Another High Point Market came and went in a flurry of silver fox fur, fantasy designer inspiration tours, champagne soirees and late night foot baths soaking my aching toes. Yes. I might be the only person at Market who does it in stilettos, but how else will I earn the right to call myself the CEO in Stilettos?
The Antiques & Design Center at High Point Market stole Market as the MAIN attraction – literally anyone who was anyone in the design community was seen sourcing there. I took a huge group on my annual Early Bird Champagne Tour and was delighted that Ruthie Staalsen of DecRenew did an Instagram Takeover for IDS National and Instagram LIVED my tour allowing viewers not at Market to experience this #NoPassportRequired Antiques Diva® tour in America. So many of our fabulous clients are now selling at shops in America… that it occurs to me, maybe I should be doing more than just PR antiquing tours stateside #WatchThisSpace
Behind every diva… there is a secret. All those fabulous jewels you see me wear? Yep… IF they are not part of my new TCH Collection that’s in development – #WatchThisSpace – then they are often on loan… I want to give special thanks to a fabulous dealer at Market. Donnie Grissom at the HPMKT ADC loans me gorgeous real jewels each day of Market so that I can not only call myself a Diva – but also give those gals on Dallas a run for their money. He knows my philosophy is that MORE is MORE. We start the morning with a blank canvas. Usually, a wrap dress and a fabulous pair of heels and then Donnie begins adding the accessories. Turquoise brings out my eyes, he informs me. That brooch strung on a necklace hits the perfect spot on the décolleté. Never wear a big bold ring on the same hand as your bracelet. And when it’s not my TCH COLLECTION or Donnie Grissom’s jewels bedazzling me… it’s often Nancy Price loaning me Aura. Having friends to help style me at Market makes all the difference in being camera ready!!!
All modesty aside… We knocked it out of the park on our Global Sourcing Panel at Aidan Gray Home at High Point Market. But don’t take my word for it… watch for yourself. I handed my colleague my phone so they could Facebook Live it and as luck would have it, about the time my data-roaming reached freak out mode, Nick May of the Chaise Lounge podcast came along and began his Facebook Live of the event. CEO of Aidan Gray Randal Weeks, Wendy Estes of Layla Grayce, Susan Jamison of Bridget Beari Designs, and Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill of Mitchell Hill discussed their experiences in sourcing antiques overseas, manufacturing furniture in Asia, and doing design projects without borders. We highlighted what the problems were – red flags to watch out – dove headfirst into the topic of international antiques and furniture shipping – as well as discussed the simple fact that Global Sourcing could change your business… and change your life!
One of my favorite showrooms at Market is always Currey & Co – this market they launched Bunny Williams lighting line. Meeting Bunny was a dream come true… She’s a Design Icon and one of the women I most respect in this industry. As I shook her hand I had a PINCH ME MOMENT as I said, “I’m Toma Clark Haines,” and she said, “I know who you are. You’re The Antiques Diva. You’re Amazing. You’re the lady who is making antiques mainstream.”
More and more, Market is full of these Pinch Me Moments. When I was introduced as Brand Ambassador for Pandora de Balthazár last fall they launched a fragrance in my name “Toma”. To this day it is still one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. It was incredibly exciting when a former client on a tour recognized me hanging out in the booth and came to chat with me. When she saw that there was a fragrance in my name she said: “I must buy it!” While Pandora has sold cases and cases wholesale for retail stores across America this was my first time I was there when a purchase of my signature fragrance was made! It tickled me pink.
Speaking of la vie en rose… this Market was chocked full of exciting opportunities. Imagine my surprise when James Swan of Million Dollar Decorating Podcast impromptu interviewed me while I was touring market as did DesignerInc. Mark Cutler whipped out the camera and gave me their 10 questions on design. You’ll be surprised to learn what I wanted to be when I grew up… (okay… spoiler alert… a veterinarian) and, “What my least favorite thing is about working with designers?” For that, you’ll have to stay tuned. I will be providing links for both as soon as available. Style Spotters Gary Inman and Courtney Allison featured us at Pandora de Balthazár on both their whistle-stop tours of Market Square.
In the midst of this… meetings with new and long term clients are the real reason I go to High Point Market. What many people don’t understand is that we don’t just do antique buying tours, we do design inspiration tours. Many of our clients are furniture manufacturers seeking to source samples for developing their next line. I fear I might be running out of ink in my Tiffany Blue ink pen signing confidentiality and NDA agreements after this market.
Net net… This High Point Market was a whirlwind. Thanks for the memories.
Until next Market,
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®
Antiquing in Parma at Italy’s Premier Antiques Fair
Fancy meeting up with a group of fabulous designers, delightful dealers, (antique dealers, of course), magazine creatives, gracious guides, and one Diva extraordinaire to #shopeatplay in Italy for five days. Well, that’s exactly what Laurent and I did last month during Mercanteinfiera, Italy’s largest antiques fair held in the historic and gastronomic city of Parma, Italy, famous for its Renaissance and Romanesque architecture and prosciutto, parmigiano cheese and Lambruscu.
Twice a year, Toma Clark Haines, the Antiques Diva, and her Diva Guides take a VIP group of mostly interior designers and antique dealers on a trip that can only be described as an “antiques lovefest” because not only did we fall in love with the beautiful Italian antiques we saw, but we also fell in love with the people and places of Italy as well as everyone in our group. (While The Antiques Diva & Co NORMALLY only does one on one customized antique buying tours, a few times a year they work with 3rd parties to put together special VIP Group Tours; Mercanteinfiera is one such occassion. We were lucky enough to be part of that group!) What we thought would be a “look see” turned into an outright buying trip filled with more food, fun and friends than we could have ever imagined!
buy directly off the trucks as dealers
were unloading and setting up
The nine-day shopping extravaganza, which attracted more than 50,000 purveyors of antiques and designer finds from around the world, opened to the public on February 25th, but as VIP guests of the AD&CO we were fortunate enough to have early access during the pre-trade and trade days. This allowed us the ability to buy directly off the trucks as dealers were unloading and setting up. It was a bit crazy with everyone heading in different directions, dodging doggies and dollies (the furniture moving kind), but it provided us first dibs on the crème de la crème of Italian antiques and wares of over 1000 dealers.
Dealers are set up in five different pavilions selling a mixture of styles and periods of antiques and vintage furniture, jewelry and fashions, lighting (lots of lighting), art and accessories. Because Toma was in full-on Diva mode and making history in London at the House of Lords with the first ever Facebook Live post at the Houses of Parliament while speaking at the 9th Annual LAPADA Conference, she wasn’t able to join us the first day. We were in very capable hands, though. Her amazing Diva Guides, Orseola Barozzi Rizzo and Chiara Zanella, took charge and managed to navigate our large group through the multitudes of shoppers. They made sure that we each found what we were looking for, whether it was an 18th century Baroque Italian painted cassapanca or the nearest ATM. They also made sure we could communicate properly. Everyone in our group was from the South, and we could all be heard asking “quanto costa?” in our best southern accents!
A Few Vendor Booths at Mercanteinfiera
Our Goal: A Large Monastery Table
Since Laurent and I had one goal in mind, to find a large monastery table, we were thrilled to find not one but two 18th century tables almost immediately – and decided we best take them before someone else did. One table was fourteen feet and the other was twelve feet – hard-to-find sizes, at reasonable prices and both in excellent condition. We had already arranged to have our “collector” there just in case, so we immediately called him and let him know we had made our first purchase of the day. He would be collecting any items we purchased and taking them to our warehouse in Nantes, France. When Laurent goes to France in April to make a container, he’ll add the pieces from Italy with what he buys in France to be shipped back to our shop in Birmingham, Alabama.
A few things you need to know about Laurent. He’s been importing antiques for 25 years and has his own sources and does his own containers, usually four to five a year. So he was really reluctant about buying anything during this trip. He thought everything would be way over priced, and many things were because it’s a very high-end trade show, but once we started shopping, we realized what a wonderful opportunity we had been given.
even established antique dealers, set in their ways,
can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours
In the two days that we attended Mercanteinfiera, we were able to purchase some incredible Italian antiques and were also able to find sources and make contacts that we will use in the future. Without the AD&CO, none of this would have been possible! We can’t thank them enough! It just goes to show even established antique dealers, set in their ways, can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours. We plan on taking another tour in either Belgium or Sweden as soon as we can. Time is precious. And the time saved having Diva Guides with us to make introductions, translate and negotiate when necessary, and take care of the small details (like reading a menu) made all the difference in the world. Our imaginations could not have dreamed up anything more perfect. The energy, creativity, ingenuity, experience and the professional and personal attentiveness shown to us by Toma and her Diva Guides made this buying trip a truly magical journey.