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
Boston remains close to my heart. Although I’ve lived and worked in Europe for nearly 20 years now, I travel frequently to the US and have had several opportunities to speak or attend events at the Boston Design Center and attend design events in the Boston area. I’m delighted to introduce today’s guest blogger, Chesie Breen, Editor-in-Chief of ID Boston Magazine, a trade publication published and distributed exclusively by the Boston Design Center.
Antiquing the East Coast: ID Magazine’s Favorite Trends by Chesie Breen
These are a few of my favorite things… in antiques up and down the East Coast.
We first came across Gray Antiques on Instagram (@grayantiques) and are now both obsessed and impressed by their highly unique and sophisticated mix of fine antiques and vintage pieces. Located in the historic district of Mount Vernon in Baltimore, Maryland, the shop was started by Carol L. Vargo and Katherine Behrens Crosby. Their work combines Vargo’s keen eye and retail experience with Crosby’s interior design background and knowledge of antiques from stints at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York and Boston. They offer, by appointment only, a range of antiques and decorative pieces in their shop, including continental antiques from the nineteenth century, twentieth-century pieces from Maison Jansen and Paul McCobb, as well as handmade lamp shades from Massachusetts-based Perrotine Co. and decorative tabletop accessories from Aerin. They believe today’s most modern and fresh homes are layered and personal, blending timeless pieces with new items to create an environment unique to the owners’ personalities.
While you can certainly shop their well-edited website the real payoff comes when you work directly with this duo to source your design needs. Most of their pieces are acquired through auction, and they are experts at navigating this process and assisting designers and their clients with finding that perfect piece.
Market Stalls, BDC Suite 203
Anyone who visits the Market Stalls at the Boston Design Center knows that the secret weapon for spotting great finds with pedigree is Joe DiDonato.
This month he has his carefully trained eye on a new dealer: Lussier Lajoie Custom Framing. Along with exquisite and custom-designed framing, owner Daniel Lajoie sources a selection of rare and one-of-a-kind antique prints and reproductions. Adhering to museum conservation standards, products, and techniques, Lussier Lajoie Custom Framing designs and creates tailor-made frames that beautifully showcase each piece.
Falls Village, Connecticut
When interior designer Bunny Williams founded Trade Secrets with her husband, antiques dealer John Rosselli, from their home in Falls Village, Connecticut in 2001, their mantra quickly became, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing!” Today, Trade Secrets is a must-visit destination every May for everyone from garden aficionados and collectors to anyone just interested in spending an afternoon supporting their community. “We’ve grown by leaps and bounds and raised a lot of important funds for Women’s Services. We’ve had all sorts of weather over the years, including snow on the ground, but it doesn’t dampen the joy that comes from a stroll through a beautiful country garden and shopping for rare plants and garden antiques,” says Williams.
This year, guests toured the couple’s gardens in Falls Village and were able to see Williams’s new creative studio for the first time. Also on tour was architect Gil Schafer’s garden, Middlefield, which he designed in collaboration with landscape architect Deborah Nevins. Rounding out the triangle was Wethersfield Estate, about which architectural historian Henry Hope Reed, Jr. wrote, “The inspiration is grand, the tradition noble, and the vision all-seeing.”
Kinsey Marble & Co.
What do designers, past and present—from Albert Hadley and Mark Hampton to Steven Gambrel, David Kleinberg, Charlotte Moss, and Richard Keith Langham—have in common? When the need arises to help a client curate and build a unique library, they all turn to Kinsey Marable for his highly coveted, distinctive expertise. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, Kinsey Marable & Co. specializes in furnishing distinctive libraries from New York and California to London and Paris. Seventeen years ago, Kinsey, then an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, gave up securities trading to deal in a more exotic commodity: rare and out-of-print books. Today, he is widely considered the premier American source for libraries. Though subjects such as architecture, fine arts, gardening, and design usually anchor his commissions, his knowledge is vast and versatile; for Oprah Winfrey he assembled a complete collection of first-edition Pulitzer Prize winners.
Another service he provides is cataloging and organizing your existing collection, as well as providing conservation services and meticulous binding and leatherwork. Buying an entire collection and selling it intact is another forte—he cites the libraries of Nancy Lancaster and David and Evangeline Bruce as examples.
Read more about the best of East Coast antiques and find interior inspiration in the Fall 2018 issue of ID Boston Magazine, now available in the Boston Design Center.
The Antiques Diva offers American Antiques Tours: the best antiques sources and fairs in the United States – # No Passport Required! Our US Antiques Diva guides are antique and interior design experts who create custom antiques buying tours to our inside sources – where the designers shop. Whether you’re looking to buy one specific piece or fill an entire store, our personal shopping antique buying guides share their vast knowledge of secret sources to take you to all the right places.
Ciao for now,
Toma Clark Haines is The Antiques Diva
While taking my summer vacation in the Amalfi Coast this summer one of my favorite things I did – besides merely lounge poolside in my BoxerinBlue swimwear under the wafting smell of the lemon trees – was visit the Ruins of Pompeii, which I talked about in a recent blog post when I announced my furniture collection – The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray.
Pompeii continues to fascinate – Mount Vesuvius had erupted in a phenomenal fashion straight off a Hollywood movie script – perfectly preserving the ancient town of Pompeii and the surrounding countryside in ash. The result – while devastating at the time, burying the people alive – did preserve the works of arts for centuries allowing us to see frescoes from the time of Jesus. (Segway from religion to sex… ) While the frescoes in the brothels were… uhm… especially interesting… what continues to fascinate me is the lush decadent lifestyles they lived in ancient Roman times. When I think of 2000 years ago, I imagine people walking around barefoot and yet in Pompeii the rich were living in villas I’d be happy to call home today.
Pompeii was to Rome like the Hamptons are to New York. And these villas surely must have been where the profession of interior designer came about. The wealthy employed sculptors and painters and other artisans to create an atmosphere that reinforced their position in society. In addition to proper sewage, they had gyms and swimming pools, libraries and courtyards with gorgeous mosaics… but for me… it’s all about the frescoes. The villas were painted ceiling to floor with motifs that were anything from actual images of other villas to architectural elements such as porticos or even cards, rivers and coastlines as well trees, fruits, flowers, birds… But my favorite room, a kitchen in one of the villas, reminded me of my own home. The walls of the kitchen were painted with swimming fish found in the sea nearby.
At my home in Venice, I live in a small apartment a stone’s throw from the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, on a side canal just off the Grand Canal. Soon after I got an apartment here I found myself dreaming of water – which apparently is a trait of Venetians. Water is as much a part of daily life in Venice as is air and breathing. Meanwhile fish swim in the canals outside my kitchen window, they are served in every restaurant and I even have pet goldfish (Frank Sinatra Jr and Frank Jr Jr – fans of the TV series Friends will catch the joke in the name of the later). Wanting to connect the interior of my apartment to my surroundings, I decided to commission the artisans from Porte Italia to come and paint fish swimming down my entry hall. I chose to do the entire entrance in a dramatic high gloss black paint – painting the ceiling as well as walls which makes the space feel infinitely larger.
A fan of Fornasetti, I had the artisans nod towards Piero’s style. The fish swim towards a reflection pool in the middle – aka, an 18th C Gilded Mirror with the original mottled and melting mercury glass. The mirrors frame design is straight out of a fresco design in Pompeii, a basket overflowing with pomegranates and roses. This mirror created most likely between Louis 15 and Louis 16 reign reflects the notion we discussed in a recent blog – where does design inspiration come from? Everything we see and feel and do, influence who we are and our design aesthetic. Louis 16th furniture makers were heavily influenced by Pompeii, just as I was heavily influenced by Louis 15 and 16th when designing my furniture collection – The Antiques Diva Collection for Aidan Gray, which debuts this week at High Point Market.
Fall 2018 High Point Market I’m speaking on 2 panels that broach the subject of Design Inspiration. I’ll be Facebook Living both events – so don’t worry if you’re not able to be there in person, know you can always catch it online on my personal page Toma Clark Haines.
Inspiration Behind the Designs – Saturday October 13 2-3pm
Surya Showplace 4100
Join interior and product designers Mary Douglas Drysdale, Michel Smith Boyd, Toma Clark Haines (“The Antiques Diva”), Xander Noori, and Keon Khajavi-Noori as they discuss where they seek inspiration, how they overcome the dreaded creative block, and give tips and tools for recharging your creative batteries.
Designing Women of the World – Sunday October 14 1.30 to 2.30pm
Suites at Market Square Seminar Room SAMS T 1014
How do you prioritize travel as a busy designer and business owner? How do you prepare for design inspiration at a particular destination? How does getting outside of your local marketplace help your business? Join our traveled designers as they discuss these questions and many more, while giving tips and inspiration on how to incorporate travel into your design process. Panelists include Adriana Hoyos, Tina Nicole, Toma Clark Haines, Sandra Espinet, and Aviva Stanoff with Deb Barrett as moderator. Reception and book signings to follow.
Until then, Be Inspired.
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
Today while running errands in Venice, I popped down the Calle delle Mandole to the Punto Simply grocery store and popped into my friend Jewelry Designer Marisa Convento’s shop, where she sells her handmade creations using antique Venetian beads. She inquired about my new kittens Fortuny and Fiorella – she had after all priorities, my kittens are quickly becoming the most popular cats on Instagram – and then, she said, “Congratulations on the launch of your furniture collection! You have traveled the world and seen some of the best designs and antiques in Europe, Asia and the Americas… I KNOW this collection is going to be good.” She emphasized “know” by touching her heart. Blushing, I thanked her and said, “I’ve a lifetime of design inspiration – Now I’m taking that design inspiration and putting it to work.”
Diane Vreeland said, “The Eye Has To Travel.” Ernest Hemingway said, “Paris is a moveable feast.” What I always say is, “The most important tool in a designers briefcase is their passport.” Other cultures and countries educate the eye, entice the spirit, encourage travelers to think differently, to see new ways of doing things, and consider new ideas. In the 1960s and 70’s it was a right of passage to backpack across Europe. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, a young man of standing was not considered well-educated if he hadn’t taken The Grand Tour. Young men (and occasionally women) were traversing Europe, visiting Italy and France, learning the most important developments in language, arts, court etiquette, legal and political systems, science, culture and refined European taste. They visited France and Italy, Austria and the Low Countries and while they were out “getting cultured”, they also SHOPPED, Antiques Diva Style! Their purchases, known as “Grand Tour Souvenirs” were brought home and displayed in their salons in order to illustrate their knowledge and symbolize their refined tastes. Proof positive they were educated in the ways of the world!
During this time frame, one of the most important archeological discoveries of all time was uncovered – the Ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Visiting Pompeii was imperative. I had been there nearly 20 years ago, but this summer along with a friend I took a pilgrimage to one of the most influential design destinations on the planet and I realized how much of my own furniture collection was birthed here.
Pompeii, located south of Rome and not far from Naples and the Amalfi Coast, is well-known for the vicious eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the 29th August 70 A.D. The eruption led to the entirety of the city being buried beneath a 6 meter thick layer of volcanic ash that solidified and preserved everything that lay beneath for 17 long centuries… When excavators broke earth in 1748, the original Classical Design felt new again. But what was amazing, was that recent innovations that had only been discovered in the last century or two were found to have been in use nearly 1500 or 1600 years before. All of Europe was entranced by the discoveries of Pompeii. Neoclassical – the new classical – was en vogue! And for people returning from the Grand Tour, showing they had a piece from Pompeii was something then like having a piece of the Berlin wall was in the 1990’s. Artists began painting the ruins, and furniture makers began incorporating their symbols into their artwork.
The style was based on the designs of Classical Greece and Rome. Vases were the ultimate symbol of the ancient world and there was an enormous craze for them in the second half of the 18th century. You’ll note in our Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray we have a Lucite-wrapped console that’s done in a Neoclassical fashion and the base of the piece has a vase carved between the stretchers on the legs. Swags and festoons were totally in fashion – as were hanging garlands of fabric, ribbons, flowers and bud-like motifs based on Classical Roman decoration. Lines of small bead shapes are also a frequent embellishment.
Fans of the French furniture style Louis 16th will recognize these motifs repeated again and again. It was during the Louis 16th timeframe that the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were discovered – and elements from Pompeii pop up in the Louis 16th furniture. The Louis 16th style is neoclassical.
So my question is… Is our furniture collection at Aidan Gray the NEW neoclassical?
I can’t wait to share with you The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray Home.
Join us Oct 14 9am to 11am for our launch party
Bubbles and Bites
201 North Main, High Point North Carolina
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
Today you know me as The Antiques Diva. I’ve lived in Europe nearly 20 years, having lived in Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin before moving to Venice last year. But I grew up in Oklahoma and rarely traveled outside of the state as a child and teenager. I didn’t have a passport until I was 21 and I decided to study abroad and in doing so, it changed my life. On that first trip abroad to London, I realized that “Dreams Do Come True” and my dream was to live and work in Europe. I realized if I wanted something strongly enough, if I worked hard enough, that I could achieve my dreams. And my dreams were big. Ten years ago when I founded The Antiques Diva® & Co I had a very specific vision of where I wanted to bring my brand – and I’m still working on achieving all those goals. Today I’m excited to announce that I get to check one more of those goals off my checklist. This Fall Aidan Gray Home is launching The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray at the fall High Point Market, Oct. 13-17, 2018.
If one phrase captures the essence of my mindset, it’s “You Mustn’t Be Afraid to Dream a Little Bigger Darling.” Thanks to the way my parents raised me, I have always believed I could achieve whatever goals I set for myself. My dad is the ultimate at giving encouragement. He thought I could climb the highest tree or run faster than all the boys… and because he believed I could, I did. As I was growing up my parents did not have much money and things were always financially tight in our house. My parent’s house was small, but it was a wonderfully cozy home. My mom didn’t have much money to decorate with but she had good taste. And more importantly, she has an ability to make anything look beautiful. I remember her walking into the fields near our house and picking wildflowers. She would bring them home and put them in a rusted vintage Folgers coffee can and they looked like a centerpiece for Country Living. She went to garage sales and bought second-hand furniture and paintings and our interior design was always the coziest of all my friends. Today I owe a lot of who I am professionally to who she was as a mother. She inspired me to live beautifully. My father inspired me to achieve my dreams.
When I met Randal Weeks, CEO of Aidan Gray, we connected not only in business but connected as friends who have similar roots. We understood each other. He’s a Texas boy. I’m an Oklahoma girl. He grew up as a military kid, with his family moving around the world from military base to military base and his mother was a magician. She could move into a house in a foreign country and perform magic on military housing making the spaces as beautiful as she was. He saw the beauty she created in her world. And he was inspired by her and the way she lived her life.
In university, he studied architecture – but he was always drawn to furniture and interior design. When creating the architecture plans for the house he couldn’t help but think how the people would live in the space, what the lighting would be, how the furniture placement would interact with the structure itself. For him, architecture, interior design and furniture were always in the conversation. By happenstance one day while getting his MBA, he caught an episode of Oprah. And something she said resonated with him, “You will never be happy if you are not passionate about what you do.” And he thought – “she’s right.”
And he made the decision to pursue his dream to start a company that produces European inspired home furnishings. Since 2003, Aidan Gray has grown to become one of the leaders in the home furnishings industry.
Randal and I first met 6 years ago when he approached The Antiques Diva & Co to help source antiques in England, France and Belgium to use as design inspiration for creating his collections as well as accessorizing and selling in his showrooms. And – the shoe fit.
We were fast-friends enjoying a mutual respect for one another’s businesses and over the years worked together when Randal had international antiquing needs.
When two years ago I was approached by a licensing agent to design a licensed line of furniture for one of Aidan Gray’s competitors, I prepared a powerpoint presentation. And I did what they say you should never do. I flew to Dallas and I showed my ideas to Randal and said, “I’ve been asked to develop a furniture collection, and if I am going to do a furniture collection, I want to do it with you.” Before I was halfway through the presentation he was taking me into his warehouse and showing me some feet for a chair he was working on and we were excitedly discussing the idea of “the chair as art.” He got my vision immediately. My initial ideas were too “Form over Function” and he gently informed me, “It must be comfortable to sell!” We discussed my ideas and decided eventually decided the best way to start our collaboration was to hit the road together – traveling throughout France, Holland and Belgium, seeking design inspiration to develop a line of furniture together – and a collection was born. The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray
The Antiques Diva & Co’s goal is to make antiques accessible. Aidan Gray’s goal is to offer this same accessibility for European decor and home furnishings, so this is a perfect partnership! Designing this collection together was a natural progression for The Antiques Diva brand. Just as Louis XVI was inspired by his Grand Tour and the discoveries of Pompeii when creating his Neoclassical furniture, I’ve traveled the world and have seen the best-quality antiques and gained global design inspiration. Antiques help us learn from the past to create for the future.
But I didn’t want to create a line of antique reproductions – I wanted to create something that was inspired by the past but made for today – mixing media to create unique looks for furniture, using concepts and materials not available in the 18th century – such as authentic hand-carved woods combined with Lucite and faux leather.
Years before I started The Antiques Diva & Co – when I was in my mid- 20’s living in Paris – I remember sitting one day at the Café Les Deux Magots and telling a girlfriend that my dream was to someday design a line of furniture. At the time I didn’t think it would actually happen – it was a far-out fantasy – but words have power. Speak the desires of your heart out loud… and then work your butt off every day until your dreams come true. It is my great pleasure to invite you to join me at High Point Market | The World’s Home for Home Furnishings for the Launch Party for The Antiques Diva & Co Collection by Aidan Gray Home. Aidan Gray is located in High Point at 201 North Main. The fête is Sunday October 14, 2018, from 9am to 11am, but you are welcome to shop the collection every day during market October 12-17, 2018 (or online on the Aidan Gray website after the product launch in High Point). If you’re in High Point, I would love to take time personally to show you the collection in a private tour – email me Toma@antiquesdiva.com to make an appointment. For those of you who won’t be at market, over the coming months I will share photos on my blog and tell the behind the scenes stories of various pieces.
Hope to see you at High Point!
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
For antique buyers, the ability to buy antiques online allows them to discover antique treasures they may never have come across at home or on their travels and compare pieces and prices. It provides competitive information. Buyers get peace of mind and gain confidence when online antique dealers are screened and vetted by an online marketplace.
I love the thrill of the hunt. Personally, I love shopping for antiques in person, touching the piece, inspecting it, talking to the dealer. I love the challenge of negotiating the best possible price for an item. Practically, when I need a special antique for my home I may not have the time or money to travel until I find the perfect piece, at the right price. Being able to shop 24/7/365 from dealers around the globe has enabled me to score some antiques that I realistically would never have bought if I hadn’t sourced it online. Professionally, many antique dealers, interior designers and homeowners simply do not have the time or budget to travel to Europe or Asia to buy the best pieces at the best prices. At AD&CO technology – the internet – allows us to offer our antiques buying services, where we combine the magic of technology with our Diva Guides’ 1st hand antique expertise and personal relationships with antique dealers to buy some amazing inventory for our clients and ship it to their business or home. Online antiques marketplaces are important sources for both our trade and private clients.
The best online antique warehouses carefully choose their dealers and vet the inventory on their site. They understand that value, honesty and quality are key to making their antique marketplace a success. I’m delighted to introduce you today to LoveAntiques.com, an online antique warehouse run by IACF, International Antiques & Collectors Fairs. I spoke to Will Thomas, Managing Director at IACF, about what’s hot and selling in this uber-competitive industry.
LoveAntiques.com Online Antiques Marketplace
Tell us about LoveAntique.com: what is it, who runs it and who are your dealers?
LoveAntique.com is an online antiques marketplace located in LoveAntiques.com is owned and operated by International Antiques & Collectors Fairs, organizers of Europe’s largest antiques fairs. For over 25 years, IACF has been trusted by dealers to deliver thousands of buying customers to our fairs. Our venture into online sales in 2013 is no different with dedicated marketing and PR teams, and the largest advertising budget in the online antiques sales market, you can trust IACF to deliver buyers both on and offline.
Antiques are listed by certified dealers, their items are then approved by the LoveAntiques.com team. Only antique dealers who can prove an honest history of dealing are able to upload pieces onto our website, so you can shop with confidence on LoveAntiques.
Many of our dealers also have a brick-and-mortar antique shop and list some or all of their inventory on LoveAntiques.com.
Why did you launch an online antiques site?
With online shopping becoming the main way consumers buy products, it was inevitable that the antiques trade will be doing more and more business this way, leading to increased expansion of the online marketplace and the continued growth of the website. I have a firm belief that if you do something well, there is always a place for you in the market. Our visitor traffic is up 75% in the last year and we expect similar growth in the coming year. We’ve doubled our dealer numbers, and more than trebled the number of inquiries coming through to dealers.
Who are your customers? Who buys antiques on LoveAntiques.com?
LoveAntiques wants to help the growth of the antiques industry online. We want to bring the world of antiques online for the good of the industry, and we work with numerous publications to promote our antique dealers and their inventory, and to encourage new audiences to shop for antiques online.
The International press is a big PR target for LoveAntiques.com, with our experience of working and encouraging international buyers to attend our IACF fairs. 2 of the USA’s biggest publications, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have promoted our online antique marketplace, which has increased traffic on our site from across the Atlantic, which benefits the antique dealers on our site. We promote LoveAntiques.com to all relevant international publications across the globe.
What are your top sellers – what’s trending?
What’s most popular on LoveAntiques.com with American buyers?
The US is about 25% of our market now. The top item going to the US at the moment are the vintage wrist watches!
How do buyers pay for their antiques at LoveAntiques.com?
Many dealers accept online payments where buyers can purchase the item instantly via PayPal with the necessary delivery costs (if applicable). If however the dealer does not accept online payment the Buy This Item button will take you to a contact form, and you can email the dealer and arrange payment by other means and ask any questions you might have about the item.
English Antiques Diva Buying Agent Gail McLeod is a regular visitor at LoveAntiques.com, as a customer as well as a dealer:
I’ve known Will for years through IACF events, they are long-standing advertisers with us at Antiques News & Fairs. We often take Antiques Diva clients to their prominent shows around the UK, Ardingly, Newark and Shepton where we are able to meet a large collection of dealers in one place with plenty of fresh inventory ideal for the export market. The main shippers are also on site so we can get our purchases picked up on the same day.
I know many of the dealers personally on Love Antiques, such as Fontaine Decorative, and can source special pieces for our clients and alert them to be on the hunt for antiques that are particularly difficult to find when a client is searching for something very specific. As a lover of English garden antiques, my own shop @JardiniereAntiques will be joining LoveAntiques.com later this year because I have great feedback from dealers on the site – so I personally can vouch for the quality and diversity of their antiques! Will is an expert in SEO and the site is becoming one of the most hi-viz in the sector.
LoveAntiques.com: The Details
For more information on Antiques Diva antique sourcing trips or buying services contact us.
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
What is your definition of home? I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a house a home… for me it’s a space filled with people and laughter in the air. Fabulous smells coming from the kitchen, open bottles of wine and champagne always on tap. It’s antiques and family heirlooms, next to flea market finds and objet d’art, and the odd pieces of Ikea. It’s window boxes and shutters and flowers in every room and candles alongside cozy places to read. A real home is a mix of high and low… beautifully choreographed moments for a life well lived. I’m a natural collector. But how does one start a collection? Today my favorite dandy (j’adore being called The Dandy and The Diva!), Gary Inman is sharing with us his expert advice on the art of collecting. Don’t miss Gary’s favorite books on the art of collecting!
Featured image: William Morris textiles and wallpaper set the tone for this Virginia mudroom. The table is an antique Chippendale inspired fretwork design. English tole, majolica, and French garden finials provide character to the space. The bespoke herringbone floor is by Waterworks.
All images provided by Gary Inman
The Art of Collecting
Everyone is a collector, some just don’t know it yet. After twenty-five years of designing and decorating luxury homes, I have had many clients insist that they’re not collectors, only to become impassioned collectors once they discover their genre. Helping them find their passion has been one of the most rewarding parts of my practice. If you think back to your childhood, you’ll surely recall something you collected with unbridled enthusiasm. It can be as simple as sea shells or baseball cards, but regardless of value, nothing surpasses the thrill of the chase! The objects amassed can be costly or free, academic or whimsical, and the collection can be as small as three objects or as massive as a museum.
As an art historian, I have always admired the erudite collections amassed by legendary collectors such as Henry Francis Dupont, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Sir Richard Wallace, Albert Barnes, Richard Jenrette or Henry Clay Frick. Their mammoth collections are now available to the world at museums and historic buildings devoted to the conservation of their achievements. Some collectors become as famous at their curations which are significantly autobiographical. Gertrude Stein, Carolyne Roehm, Coco Chanel and my personal favorite, Sir John Soane are examples of this phenomenon. I encourage you to visit all the museums associated with these collectors.
So how do you become a collector? I suggest you begin by doing your homework. Read the books I’ve listed below, visit antique shops and shows, research various categories such as ceramics, silver, textiles, art, antiques, illustrations, the list is endless. Also, survey auction houses and online dealers and wait for the magic to happen. You will discover a passion that will bring you joy for a lifetime! Once you buy that first piece you’ll be hooked.
There are many books on collecting, but here are three that I found to be great references:
- Barbara Milo Ohrbach, A Passion for Antiques. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York, 2004.
- Charlotte Gere and Marina Vaizey, Great Women Collectors. Philip Wilson Publishers in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1999.
- Caroline Clifton-Mogg, A Passion for Collecting. Bulfinch Press, Boston, 2002.
Gary M. Inman
Vice President, Hospitality at Baskerville
Today’s guest blogger is my dear friend, the brilliant Cathy Whitlock, who is giving us an exclusive review of this year’s East Hampton Antiques Show. She is the author of Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction (Harper Collins, November 2010) and re-de-sign (Fairchild Books/Conde Nast, 2009). She is a contributing writer for American Airlines Celebrated Living, Hollywood Reporter and Traditional Home magazines and her work also appears in Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest and The Huffington Post where she specializes in celebrity profiles, design, film, travel and lifestyle articles. Cathy also lectures all over the country on the topic of design in the cinema.
Best in Show: East Hampton Antiques Show
Summer in the Hamptons marks one of my favorite events, the East Hampton Antiques Show. Sponsored by the East Hampton Historical Society and now in its 12th year, the show is one of the premier antiques events. Held on the bucolic grounds of the 17th-century Mulford Farm, the money goes to a great cause, maintaining some of the oldest farmhouses and barns on Long Island. And great people watching with Martha Stewart and interior designers Alex Papachristidis and Steven Gambrel in attendance.
More than 50 antiques and art dealers with a penchant for vintage decorative items and jewelry ranging from classic to contemporary for home and garden were showcased at last weekend’s event. From the whimsical to the serious, here are a few of my favorite things spotted at the preview party on July 20th.
Antiques Diva Guide Tamara Matthews Stephenson says,
“The secret to the Hamptons is knowing where to go. There are 100’s of antique shops in the Hamptons. 100’s of restaurants and 100’s of interesting places to be inspired by design. But narrowing down your choices to the right places… to the best places… takes a lifetime of making the right contacts and then of course knowing who to call to get in.”
See you in the Hamptons!
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
Architectural Salvage: Adding Spice to Restaurant Design
Who buys architectural salvage in New York? Actually, an amazing variety of people: interior decorators, DIY-ers, contractors, prop stylists, hoteliers, individualists, and architects. Those of us who work at Demolition Depot & Irreplaceable Artifacts in Manhattan, know that there’s one group of people who walk through the door with real purpose and passion: restaurant designers.
Success in the restaurant world depends on the mood and décor almost as much as the food. In fact, there are some diners who will excuse mediocre food if the setting intrigues them as much as watching a Wes Anderson movie. Savvy restaurant designers know that younger diners are an intensely visual group. Like a Wes Anderson movie, a memorable restaurant has to feed us odd details and visual surprises — often with a vintage tone.
“Adding architectural ornaments to a restaurant keeps the ambiance interesting,” says Evan Blum who has owned Demolition Depot & Irreplaceable Artifacts for over 48 years. “Old bars, antique lighting, carved marble mantels, even slightly tarnished mirrors, are items that set your interior apart from the designed-for-a-chain look. These wonderful features add personality and authenticity to your space.”
Within the downtown Ludlow Hotel is a bistro-like eatery with the cheeky name of Dirty French. Major Food Group designers chose bold brass antique chandeliers from Demolition Depot’s inventory to add patina and a mellow, relaxed lighting. For the definitive feedback, check on Yelp where diners describe the restaurant’s interior as “sexy”, ”cozy” and “Instagram worthy.”
Further uptown, there’s P.J. Clarke’s Lincoln Center where clientele are often dining before they dash off to the opera, ballet and theater across the street. The décor of this restaurant, a contemporary cousin to the 19th century P.J. Clarke’s on Third Avenue, holds a secret unbeknownst to most of the customers. The antique lighting was rescued and purchased by Demolition Depot from former live performance theaters. One chandelier is from such an establishment in Cincinnati and four lights are repurposed from the former world-famous Erlanger Theater in Philadelphia.
Choosing architectural antiques as decor can reinforce the quality of the product or service that is being offered. Jack Mazzola is the founder of Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee Shops, 6 shops in Manhattan, one in The Hamptons and another in Sag Harbor. The young entrepreneur roasts and sells his own organic coffee along with vegan baked goods. His restaurant designer, EunHea Kim, sources architectural elements – hand built church pews and Art Deco mirrors discovered in an Elks Lodge — from Demolition Depot. Antiques like these represent craftsmanship and tradition. EunHea feels strongly that their organic and natural qualities “are integral to the brand.”
More personally, Jack grew up around his father’s auto shop business and people who worked with their hands. He adds: “Bringing pieces of old New York into Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee Shops is part of sharing that story.”
Designing a restaurant? Architectural salvage just might be that secret ingredient you’re looking for.
The Demolition Depot
Learn more about Antiques Diva Architectural Salvage Tours
One of a kind architectural antiques make a statement and add authenticity to any design project. Reclaimed pieces mix with any décor to create a look that’s both modern and unique.
I hope to see you soon an Antiques Diva architectural salvage buying tour!
Toma – The Antiques Diva
The first client who approached me for architectural salvage was Australian in 2009. She wanted antique bricks to pave her driveway. I was perplexed – I’ve never had anyone ask me for building supplies – but I contacted a friend who had a small assortment of fireplaces in the back room of his antique shop and I asked his advice. Three days later I found myself driving my Mercedes SUV to a salvage yard after salvage yard after salvage yard on the back roads of Belgium and France, and a new addiction was born. The south of France and the Cognac region came on my radar and England and Italy or soon thereafter. But that first day – seeking sources for salvage – I learned that 17th 18th and 19th-century Flemish bricks have amazing patina and that one can tell the region by the color. But the salvage yards had more than bricks – they had balustrades and grand stone steps and terraces, Versailles parquet from France and limestone that would make your heart skip. As I would walk through these dissected château laid out like pieces of a puzzle, I realized you can give a new home an old history – and in America, where most of my clients come from, access to an entirely new way of living.
At the Antiques Diva and Co, our mission has always been to make antiques modern, sexy and fun but most of all our goal is to make antiques accessible. Our sources become our clients’ sources. My first big architectural salvage client in Europe was starting a new store specializing in American architectural salvage and she wanted to vary her inventory. Three container loads and about €250,000 later I had been educated in the best way possible… by doing.
Read more about my adventures in architectural salvage in Architectural Salvage & Antique Lumber News Business Profile: The Antiques Diva & Company.
Here are a few tips on how to buy architectural salvage.
About Architectural Salvage & Antique Lumber News
Architectural Salvage & Antique Lumber News was founded in 2004 to provide sources for salvage, project ideas, and news to architects, designers, decorators, homeowners and the architectural salvage and antique lumber industry, and to connect buyers and sellers. It is the only U.S.-based publication focused on this industry in both North America and Europe.
Special Subscription Rate for Antiques Diva Readers
Fans of The Antiques Diva are invited to enjoy a special, discounted subscription rate to the magazine. Click here and then choose the gray “subscribe” button that appears on left to receive 50% off the regular subscription rate of $20 (U.S.) This $10 subscription is for one year of the bi-monthly magazine and at this time is only available for shipping to U.S. and Canadian addresses.
Ideal for antique dealers, interior designers, builders, landscape architects, developers and homeowners, Antiques Diva Architectural Salvage Tours are available in Europe, Asia and the US – #NoPassportRequired.
Ciao for now,
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva