I’m beyond thrilled to share with you a guest post by Margaret Schwartz, owner of The Summer House, and the inaugural USA Antiques Young Gun of the Year. Margaret is an antiques powerhouse: she began her career working at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which played a key role in inspiring and developing her passion for the home décor business. After four years, she left to open her own shop, The Summer House in New Canaan, Conn. Margaret applies her signature styles and passion for home design to hand pick today’s best finds: upholstered furniture, fashionable jewelry, eye-catching lighting, exquisite rugs, fine art and more.
I have a confession. I am an antiques junkie.
Three years ago by a stroke of luck, I discovered The Antiques Diva through another favorite blog, The English Room. I was planning a trip to London and just by chance The English Room posted about antiques tours offered by The Antiques Diva, the brainchild of Toma Clark Haines. I was very intrigued because I love antiques but was hesitant to buy because I don’t have a degree in Decorative Arts. The Antiques Diva gave me the opportunity to buy with confidence. The moment I laid eyes on a lavender glass mid-century chandelier on Lillie Road, I was hooked. That was nearly three years ago, and I am about to embark on my next adventure with Gail McLeod, UK Antiques Diva, and Daniel Larsson, Swedish Divo.
I’ve taken a half-dozen tours with The Antiques Diva and I’ve learned quite a bit about how to prepare for a buying trip. Let me give you some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
Tips for An Antiques Buying Trip
Do Your Research
Antiques Diva tours are incredible regardless of how much prep you as a client do. However, these guides are seasoned vets and know all the best places to go for that perfect Venetian mirror your client covets. For instance with this upcoming trip, I am looking for pairs of chests, pairs of nightstands, cabinets, side tables, mirrors, and lighting. We usually create a shared photostream on our phones and post photos of past items I’ve purchased and loved, things I’ve seen and loved, or items that clients have requested I locate. Pinterest or a shared visual board would work, but we prefer the shared photostream because you can add detailed descriptions, measurement, and budget info and it’s private. Once the Diva or Divo Guide has an idea of what you’re looking for, he or she will tailor the itinerary to your needs.
Trust in your Guide
Your Diva or Divo Guide is there for you, no matter what you need. This is something that differentiates them from other buying agents. Your guide has access to some of the best secret sources in Europe. When I say I’ve bought from castles, I mean actual, real fairytale-esque castles. I’ve also dug through dirty warehouses because you really can find a diamond in the rough. If you prefer to only shop castles, let your guide know as far in advance as possible so she can schedule those calls for you. No need to storm the gates down; when they see it’s an Antiques Diva client, they will roll out the red carpet for you.
There is an art to negotiating, and in Europe you need a trusted hand to guide you through any cultural barriers. They will translate for you and help you negotiate prices. The dealers offer good prices because The Antiques Diva brings so many clients through, and there is power in numbers. Be prepared to bargain, but don’t insult them and your Diva Guide will help you walk that fine line.
Your Diva is also an expert in the industry. She can help you spot a piece that you might have overlooked, or conversely a piece you are interested in, but you didn’t see that replacement leg that would turn off your clients. You make your own decisions, but they will keep you informed and point out things you might not be aware of. Listen to what they have to say because they will impart wisdom to you and teach you so much about the industry. Gail McLeod, UK Diva Extraordinaire, has been such a tremendous source of wisdom and support, helping me grow my business and career, and she’s been with me every step of the way on all my antiques tours. She has become a fast friend too. I don’t know what I would do without Toma and Gail!
I cannot stress this enough. Set. Your. Budget. And then add 20%, minimum. There will inevitably be an absolute to-die-for must-have piece, and of course it comes when you’ve already spent your budget. Your budget can be anything. There is no minimum spend on these tours, but communicating your budget in advance with your guide will help set you up for success! Price-point is key so they know where to book your calls. A quick note, even when you do set your budget and go over, there will still be the one that got away.
I had the opportunity to buy the console from an Axel Vervoordt-designed castle that was on the cover of The Houses of Veranda book. What was I thinking passing it up? I was thinking, “Oh my god, I’ve been on tour for two weeks, and I’ve completely blown my budget!” There will ALWAYS be the one that got away! And that’s ok. My mom likes to say that it’s good to not get everything you want. Naturally, she is referring to the sable coat she has always wanted, but she got a gorgeous sheared mink with sable cuffs and that will do. Haha!
How can you help stick to your budget (+20%)? Transfer funds ahead of time! One of the best tips I’ve learned is that you transfer your budget, plus the 20% slush fund, to your shipper. While you are out on your trip, your Diva Guide will be writing up detailed purchase orders and you can keep track of your spending that way. If you don’t use the 20% extra (I’ve never been that disciplined) that’s fine. Your shipper can deduct their charges from that leftover amount. It’s all very tidy when done this way.
I learned the hard way that the dealers need to be paid immediately. Your reputation over there is everything, and if you drag your feet on payments, other dealers might hear about it. So pay promptly. Seriously. These dealers work so hard sourcing and restoring, and this industry already has razor thin margins. In order to keep these wonderful dealers in business, we must pay them promptly.
Just as important as the relationships you build with your Diva guides is the relationship you build with your shipper. Your Diva Guide can help you with that, but better yet, you can conveniently use the in-house The Antiques Diva shipping service. The Antiques Diva & Co. kicked off their shipping service last year, and using them will help streamline your experience. The fewer moving parts the better! And you absolutely need a trusted shipper. There are so many forms to fill out and information that customs needs. Getting a shipper who understands that process and guides you through it, or manages it for you, is absolutely vital. Plus, you want someone reputable, reliable, and experienced and The Antiques Diva knows quality when she sees it!
Day to Day Tidbits
- Wear comfy shoes. While Toma is always clacking in heels, my days of Barbie Feet (look it up, it’s real) are over since I moved out of the Upper East Side, and now I prefer a pair of fly-looking Chiarra Ferragni slip-on sneakers so I’m still stylish but can navigate barns and fields.
- Pack light, re-wear items. The dealers don’t know that you’ve worn that sweater twice before, and the Diva Guidess don’t mind. Trust me on that one.
- Take breaks throughout the day. Your Diva Guide will keep you fully caffeinated and fed, but you will both need mental breaks to review what you’ve purchased throughout the day.
- Take photos of everything. Now on your iPhone you can write directly on the pictures so you remember what the price was, the measurements, and what restoration was promised or that you need to do on your end.
- Be social! Get your booty into high gear with social media. Post multiple times a day and have a little fun with it. Yes, this is a serious job with serious people, but it’s also an absolute joy. And even though the company is called The Antiques Diva, the guides and you will get down and dirty so have fun with it! Show people what the behind-the-scenes of the business is!
Margaret (Modern Antiquarian)
Antiques Diva Shipping Services
When purchasing valuable, one-of-a-kind or fragile antiques or art, one of the first questions our clients ask is how to pack and crate antiques for international shipping. In addition to The Antiques Diva & Co in-house, turnkey antiques shipping services AD&CO Logistics, we also offer antique warehousing and shipping liaison services, and work on your behalf with your shipper to meet your transportation needs.
This gorgeous table was purchased by an Antiques Diva antique buying tour client who contracted AD&CO Logistics to pack and crate it for international shipment, along with her other purchases.
la Vendange: Antique French Wine Tasting Table
The wine tasting table had the following specifications:
- antique French wine tasting table with tilt-top
- 86cm diameter x 67cm height
- 10 kg weight
- traveling from Europe to the US
- prepare for international shipment
- to be picked up by client’s transport company
This beautiful antique French wine tasting table was purchased on an Antiques Diva buying tour.
Fragile, valuable and one-of-a-kind pieces are carefully cushioned and protected for international transport. Our AD&CO Logistics expert team carefully built a custom crate to protect the table from damage during shipment.
Our team of international shipping experts have been packing, crating and shipping antiques for over 50 years, to destinations around the globe.
Our shipping concierges understand you have unique needs and requirements. We will work with you to provide a solution to your international shipping needs. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about international shipping.
The crate is wrapped tightly in a special black foil to protect it from rain damage during transport.
Request a Quote Today
FAX: +32 (0)3 283 73 49 MOBILE: +32 (0)478 01 01 01
When you’re traveling overseas and shopping for antiques you have a few options on how to ship antiques home from abroad. In addition to Antiques Diva shipping services, here are some other ways to ship antiques home from abroad. For more information on Antiques Diva tours and services, see our FAQs.
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva
At The Antiques Diva & Co our goal is to provide a turnkey solution and help our clients with the entire process of buying antiques overseas. From planning customized one-on-one antique buying tours to taking clients shopping by the hand whilst doing the translating and negotiating – our goal is for our clients to have “smooth sailing” antiquing abroad. We want our clients to have a seamless experience in their process of buying antiques overseas. For years we’ve worked with 3rd party shippers – but the fact is that when there were problems – and with shipping there are always problems – we didn’t have control over helping our clients SOLVE their problems.
The Process of Buying Antiques Abroad Just Got Simpler
By starting an in-house Art and Antiques Shipping Services called AD&CO LOGISTICS we are now able to offer our clients more solutions to their global sourcing needs. While we’re still happy to work with our preferred list of 3rd party international shipping companies who we trust and have worked with for years— we’re also giving clients a turnkey solution so that within one company they can shop in multiple countries and ship their purchases worldwide within the safe confines of The Antiques Diva & Co! For you, that means the process of buying antiques abroad just got simpler! And while this service is new at AD&CO, it’s old-hat for our shipping team. We’ve partnered with a premier international shipping company with 50 years expertise in international shipping as our in-house shipper.
“It’s not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage… “
George William Curtis
At The Antiques Diva & Co we’re all about customer service. Your AD&CO LOGISTICS shipping concierge will personally manage all facets of your shipment, including:
- collecting your goods from the dealers
- tracking your inventory and payments
- cross-referencing your tags
- complete all export/import paperwork
- monitor your shipment’s progress from the time we receive your goods until they are delivered to you
- keep you advised of the status of your shipment
Our containers leave from the shipping port in Antwerp, Belgium.
Antiques Diva Art and Antiques Shipping Services Options:
∗ full 20 or 40ft containers or partial containers (LCL: Less Container Loads)
∗ door-to-door shipping
∗ port-only shipping
∗ independent or shared location shipping
We provide white glove art and antiques transport and shipping services to customers across Europe and around the globe, including antiques dealers, interior designers, builders and private clients. And while we love it when you book our Antiques Diva Tours – we’re even willing to offer our shipping service for those times when you’re shopping on your own independent of AD&CO!
Our bespoke shipping services will provide you with tags, labels and instructions to identify and inventory your purchases at the dealer or on your buying tour, and our shipping concierge is always available to respond to our customers before, during and after your shipment. In fact – if you’re just needing to get information – wondering if buying antiques overseas is feasible – why don’t you email me firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a phone call to talk about your options!
Our Art and Antiques Shipping Services Include:
√ Organising the invoicing and payments of the goods purchased on an AD&CO Tour for our tour clients; or collecting the goods if you are not part of an Antiques Diva Buying Tour
√ Collecting all the goods from the different vendors and transporting to our warehouse in Antwerp
√ Our packing service including wrapping your goods in protective materials, crating, loading on pallets for transport, and using the most advanced art and antiques packaging and crating industry practices
√ Prior to shipping we store your goods in our secure cold storage warehouse in Antwerp
√ Shipments are organized in 20ft, 40ft or LCL (Less Container Loads)
√ We manage the loading of your container in our warehouse
√ We organise all customs and VAT paperwork concerning the export and import documentation necessary for your goods
√ If required, we provide fumigation of your container
√ We provide insurance for the shipped goods
And we’re doing it all at a bargain…
Our Goal at AD&CO is to save you time and money, whether that means by getting you better prices when we take you with us to source antiques overseas or in offering competitive rates on our art and antiques shipping services.
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
hen you’re traveling overseas and shopping for antiques you have a few options on how to ship antiques home from abroad:
The first option is to only buy what you can pack in your suitcase. This costs nothing and is perfect if you’re looking to buy a few trinkets or smaller items – but what if you’re really wanting to buy a lot when you’re overseas?
The second option? Buy an extra suitcase. When you’re at the Paris Flea Market they actually have stalls with suitcases for sale. Pick up an extra suitcase and fill it to your heart’s content. (It’s not a bad idea to bring a hand-held luggage scale with you on holiday to make sure you’re within the weight limit).
But what if you’re buying porcelain or other breakables? Do you really want to risk putting that in your suitcase? I didn’t think so.
Your third option? Then we’re talking either the local post office or FedEx – hint: the post office in Europe is always much cheaper than FedEx. Plus at the post office you can buy the box for packing your purchases. Investigate if the town you’re traveling to has a Mail Boxes, Etc. I often pay to have Mail Boxes, Etc pack my breakables for me. When Mail Boxes, Etc finds out that I’m using the post office to mail my box instead of them, they often offer a discount off their services. They are faster than the local post office so if you can get a bargain it’s worth paying a little more for special handling to go this route.
Now – you may not know this – but if you want to get a bargain in Europe – RARELY will you get that bargain on smalls. The smaller, the more perfectly packable it is, the more expensive the price tends to be when comparing it with American standards. On the other hand, if you fall in love with an armoire it’s likely to be 1/3 the price you’d pay stateside. As I always say “Go Big or Go Home.” The bigger the antique the better the price. But if you want to ship an armoire what’s a girl to do? Hire an international shipper! They will give you a cubic meter price – an estimate on the cost of shipping the item. You’ll want to ask them for a door-to-door quote and specify that they include insurance on the delivery. The price they give you may not be exact – it’ll probably be an estimate. You’ll have the option to air freight the item or to put it in a consolidated container to ship home on the slow boat. Find out the price difference between the two methods. Be aware that delivery ALWAYS takes more time than you’re expecting.
Introducing your fourth option: For help with how to ship antiques home, contact The Antiques Diva & Co. Our white glove art and antiques international shipping service (AD&CO Logistics) is ideal to ship home antiques that you purchase in Europe. Our shipping service is available even if you’re not on an Antiques Diva Buying Tour. At AD&CO we can also liaise you with some of our preferred international shippers. We’re always happy to help you get antiques home sweet home across the pond.
Toma, The Antiques Diva®