If you’ve ever attended one of my lectures at High Point Market or the D&D geared towards interior designers you’ll inevitably have heard me say “The most important tool you can have in your toolbox is a passport.” Mine is battered, covered with baggage tag stickers and filled with page after page of stamps and visas. In my current passport, I have only 10 blank pages remaining. (Note to self: Order Extra Pages). Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” If that’s the case, then I’ve been living a well-read life.
More and more during these last few years, I’m taking time to stop and smell the proverbial roses. As business travel is a regular part of my life the easiest way to do this is adding days onto each trip to bookend a business trip. This last month has had a heavy focus on travel – with my vacation to China followed by a business trip across the USA to High Point, New York, Boston and London.
Often as an individual I’ve got my eyes set on the horizon looking towards the destination – I sometimes get so busy considering my plan and next steps of action that I forget to celebrate the milestones.
I dream big.
And in order to achieve big things – it’s necessary to dream bigger than everyone else around you.
But life is a journey – not a destination.
As I write, I’m on the train, the Frecciarossa, en route home from Piemonte from Easter weekend with friends. At home on my bedside table is Eckart Tolle’s Power of Now – a reminder to simply enjoy the Great Big Right Now. I’m soaking up the moments – and as a result, I am finding more and more inspiration each day. For design. For writing. But also just for day to day life. I’m cooking more. Being more creative in general. I’ve even pulled out my watercolors which I haven’t played with in years.
Design Inspiration can come from anywhere. Often it’s my travels that inspire me, sometimes it’s an everyday object that I see in a new way, people I meet and places I go that weave themselves into my soul. When my friend Alessandro told me he was moving to China he gave me Andrea di Robilant’s book Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and his Last Muse. He told me the title was important, “Hemingway because you were an English literature major in uni. Last Autumn because it’s my last autumn before I move. And Venice IS your muse.”
He was right. Moving here has inspired me. Venice is an obvious choice for inspiration – but inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. Those who follow me on Instagram were fascinated when they learned that the leather on my Roccoco-style bench in my Antiques Diva Furniture Collection by Aidan Gray was inspired by the designo leather in my Mercedes SUV.
Last week I was struck with Global Design Inspiration while visiting friends in England at the end of a business trip. The entire world was brought to me in one destination. Ascott House is a palace-like Jacobean black and white timbered cottage that was the creation of Leopold de Rothschild and architect George Devey. It’s a quintessentially English Country House with exquisite English antiques standing alongside Dutch and Flemish masterworks and fine French furniture and art. I nearly ran into a Rodin as I stepped backward in the Billards Room turned Library.
In the library I looked around – the room was beyond cozy – but something felt different. It was more casual than one would have expected a formal library. (The photo above makes the space look much more formal than in real life). When I commented on the unusually light color of the wooden library shelves the docent confessed, “though it’s now a National Trust estate the family still uses the property – and they stripped the wood to make the room more airy.” Bingo! I suddenly realized why I loved the house so much. That was the difference. While it is a museum – it’s still a family home part of the year.
It’s the perfect example of how to live with antiques.
But not just any antiques – Ascott House could be the pictorial definition of the word wanderlust. It’s layered with generation after generation of antiques, textiles and embroideries from the Grand Tour and the Silk Road. The Silk Road was the ancient network of trade routes that connected the East with the West. It meandered along the northern borders of China, India, and Persia and wove through Turkey, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. It was important because it helped to generate trade and commerce between a number of different kingdoms and empires but trade was not the only purpose of the Silk Road. Just as on the Grand Tour young men and women learned the most important developments in language, arts, court etiquette, legal and political systems, science and culture, the Silk Road was also about the exchange of ideas.
The more we travel, the more we open our minds.
In a conversation recently with a television producer, I was told that Americans don’t want to see TV shows filmed abroad. “How can you travel the world through antiques if you’re not interested in the travel aspect?” I wondered. It seemed incomprehensible. Was the producer telling me the entire American viewing audience had Xenophobia – the fear of foreign places? I’ve made a career out of making both international antiques and foreign places accessible – I’ve been called the Anthony Bourdain of antiques – that girl who travels the world uncovering lesser-known places and exploring their cultures and antiques – then sharing my #Divascoveries with my followers.
As humans – as humanity – we grow when we’re connected with people and places outside of ourselves. We are all connected. What happens in one part of the world, impacts another. Have you heard of the Butterfly Effect? The theory is based upon an idea if you track the path of a hurricane from its inception, you’d see that it was all caused by a change in air pressure caused from the flap of a butterfly’s wings three weeks prior and halfway across the world. The Silk Roads network of connecting pathways changed history because the people who traveled along part or all of the Silk Road planted their cultures like seeds carried to distant lands.
Bringing your travels home has long been a tradition in interior design. A classic English Country House simply wouldn’t be an English Country House without its global influence – seeds plucked from faraway places and transplanted at home.
Ascott House exemplifies the East Meets West decorating vibe. My favorite room is the living room where you’ll find Ikat silk chapans from Uzbekistan repurposed into Roman Shades. Someone painstakingly de-assembled vintage robes and hand-stitched the fabric together to form patchwork, and then used the patchwork to make the fabric for the blinds. In one corner of the curtain, you can see still see the vague outline of the sleeve of an arm. The whole setting is very Robert Kime – one of my favorite London Interior Designers known for his elaborate use of antique textiles, creating what 1st Dibs calls, “comfortable classically English Rooms that his clients – including Prince Charles – say they never want to leave.”
I found myself thinking about travel, collecting and interior design as I toured Ascott House. What is it that makes us desire to see far away places and to bring a piece of it home? Is it a Napoleonic desire to conquest? A holdover from the caveman days of hunting and gathering? Why do we collect? Is it merely a means to give meaning to our lives – making an emotional connection to a period, place or time? Or does it have deeper meaning?
As Ascott House caused me to contemplate my own travel I thought about how antiquing abroad has influenced me over the years. The Antiques Diva started because I was traveling the world. Some people buy a t-shirt on holiday. I buy antiques as my souvenir because that’s what interests me. The French word souvenir means memories, and for me – that’s what I am doing when I antique abroad. I buy memories.
Traveling and antiques have always been intertwined in my mind. As a child, I remember family dinners when my mother pulled out the antique silver that my grandparents brought over with them on the boat from England to America. This cutlery represented not only my family’s heritage but faraway places that influenced how we lived. I saw antiques as a way to be transported to other times and other places.
While traveling in China last month one of my favorite moments was in Kaifeng, the 11th Century Song dynasty capital. My friend and I had stumbled into an antiques and artisans two-story gallery that was partially abandoned. Antique furniture, fragments and tools were propped against walls, while porcelain and lacquerware filled the shelves. Men gathered at card tables played mahjong near their stalls. One of the things I Iike about antiques is that antiques unite us. When you go antiquing, people with different backgrounds, interests and passions collide. Each person can find something that speaks to their soul. My friend Alessandro is a physicist and etno-mathematician. On a purely surface level, we couldn’t be more different if we tried. I lost track of him while we were browsing the stalls and at a certain point, I rounded the corner and saw him bent over a box smiling from ear to ear. He looked up and showed me what he’d found – an antique abacus, a Chinese counting tool. Ironically, he was the one who bought antiques that day – not me.
Meanwhile while touring this gallery I was introduced to something new. I’d become obsessed with the Chinese traditional painting. In the gallery nearly 2 dozen artists had ateliers and you could watch them dip their brushes into black ink or water-based color pigments, creating patterns on paper or silk using traditional themes, materials and techniques. Watching the artist paint felt like peeking through the window into the soul of the country. Guóhua, as traditional Chinese painting is called, is one of the three pillars of Chinese culture (the others being medicine and opera.) Chinese painters tend to learn their craft by copying earlier masters in order to build their foundation.
To understand the past is to understand the future.
Elizabeth Hammer, Head of Sales of Chinese Classical and Modern Paintings at Christie’s New York explains that “the most prized Chinese traditional paintings are those that reveal the artist’s personality and character. It is believed that an evil person cannot make a fine work of art. To really understand an artist’s works, it helps to learn his or her biography, and about the times in which the artist lived.”
Last year during the Architectural Biennale in Venice I met the team from Chanel who were documenting Coco’s life, travels and inspirations for Chanel’s in-house archives. “We need to see what she saw, be influenced by her influences, to design a brand that stays according to her vision.” Once you’ve traveled, that knowledge of a country, it’s people, traditions and architecture, their decorative arts and their environment, the natural world – the subtle sense of a place – will continue to inform you. Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
But it’s not just Paris that’s a moveable feast – all your travels – your adventures – are your personal progressive dinner.
For me, while visiting Ascott House my olfactory memory went straight to the Silk Road. Having just been in China last month, my jaw dropped when I walked into Ascott House’s Porcelain Room filled with turquoise and purple-glazed ceramics from the mid to late Ming dynasty (1368-1644) displayed in specially designed bamboo cabinets. The collection was formed by Anthony de Rothschild when he used a buying agent (the 1920’s equivalent of an Antiques Diva Guide) to help him source pieces that suited his tastes.
In the end – that’s what it all comes down to. Taste. Buy what you love. Whether you’re an antique dealer, interior designer, or a private antique buyer – that is the best advice I can give you. Buy what you love. As Elizabeth Hammer of Christie’s explains, “Follow your instinct when collecting and buy something that delights you.”
As I close I challenge you:
Go someplace new. Do something new. Maybe you can’t go to Uzbekistan this week – but you can seek out an Uzbek restaurant. Take yourself on an Artist Date. Last month in New York City we did our first ever Antiques Dealer Training Workshop. Interior designers Justin Shaulis and Robert Passal joined us as guest speakers for a break-out session, advising our attendees on How Antique Dealers Should Work With Interior Designers. While closing, Robert told a personal story of his own career and how he became an interior designer after he read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist Way – a book that also inspired me to launch The Antiques Diva & Co. In her book, Cameron advises each week to take an Artist Date. Make time for yourself – on your own – to do something enchanting. Expose yourself to new places and new ideas. Where will you go on an Artist Date this week?
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Toma – The Antiques Diva
Since I first began exploring Asia nearly a decade ago, I’ve been in love with Asian antiques. When I launched Antiques Diva® Asia Antiques Tours two years ago, I knew we were ahead of the curve helping interior designers and antique dealers (as well as hoteliers and restauranteurs) source antiques in Asia. Even 2 years ago you didn’t often see Southeast Asian antiques in interior design magazines but today I’m seeing a change. When you flip open a magazine today you quickly see it’s all about the mix – globally chic interiors are mixing not just periods and echelons but geographic origins – European goes next to American next to Asian for a well-traveled interior. Globally chic interiors are on the cutting edge of design and some of the best antique dealers around the globe have started mixing Asian antiques into their traditional European inventory.
On a personal level – I want my home to be as individual as I am. I don’t want a cookie-cutter style looking like I chose my furniture from a catalog. I want my home to reflect my travels and interests. I like to mix it up: a high-end piece with a provenance next to a modern trendy piece, an Asian antique juxtaposed against a modern abstract painting, a 17th-century Venetian apartment with a global sensibility.
Each time I visit Thailand my first stop once in Bangkok is Paul’s Antiques, the headquarters for our Thailand Antiques Diva Tours and the shop owned and operated by Asian antiques expert – and Antiques Diva Asia Guide – Angela Somwaiya, one of the leading experts in Southeast Asian antiques. Angela is a long-time expat living in Thailand, and she’s who I turn to advise on all things Thai. When Angela introduced me to The Siam Hotel in Bangkok it was love at first sight! The Siam combines all my favorite things – Asian antiques with an uber-luxury hotel and exclusive service alongside some of the best food in Bangkok. It’s also a hotel interior whose vignettes could grace the pages of Elle Décor or Architectural Digest. And it’s the place I go in Bangkok for #globaldesigninspiration.
Art and Antiques at The Siam Hotel
I won’t blame you if when someone says “Thai antiques” nothing comes to mind.
However, if you ever wanted to take a crash course on Thai antiques, and learn first hand how to decorate your house beautifully using Thai antiques, a visit to The Siam Hotel, located on the banks of the majestic Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, would be a superb idea indeed.
As a long-term expat living in Bangkok, I’m always looking for unique outings that will give visiting friends a taste of Thailand. Designed by globally acclaimed architect and interior/landscape designer Bill Bensley in collaboration with its owner Krissada Sukosol Clapp, The Siam Hotel does not disappoint. So when my colleague and friend, Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva, visited Thailand recently, The Siam was at the top of my list of places to take her. Antiques, award-winning architecture, delicious food, authentic experiences – I knew were all right up her alley.
The Antiques Diva Asia Team visits The Hotel Siam, Bangkok
Our day read like a page out of the most perfect travelogue. Like most savvy visitors to The Siam, we skipped Bangkok’s infamous traffic jams and took advantage of the hotel’s complimentary private riverboat taxi. The journey filled us with a rush as we got to experience quintessential traditional Thai living along the river, reminding me all that I love about Thailand. Cruising past golden temples, rice barges, and children swimming along the banks, we soaked up the exhilarating feel of the rich, lush and exotic life in the tropics that still is accessible despite the urbanization of Bangkok.
Once we arrived at the private pier of the hotel and were greeted by staff with a refreshing tropical herbal drink, the sense that we were about to experience something special was palpable. Owner Krissada Sukosol Clapp is a prime example of how a collector can often be a conservator, and how following one’s passion is always a sure way to success. Coming from a musical family, Krissada is not only famous as an antique collector but as an actor and musician. In the case of antiques, he has made a mark for himself as having one of the most unique and aesthetically stunning collections of antiques in Thailand.
Being the owner of an antique shop, it is hard for me to put into words how truly special what Krissada (who is an occasional visitor to Paul’s Antiques) has accomplished. He has taken the best of what Thai antiques has to offer – shop house display furniture, finely carved statues and architectural salvage, Thai traditional theater masks, ceramics and a cache of interesting curios and historical documents related to the Thai royal family – to design the interior of his hotel in a way that is stunning and unique. However, you don’t have to be the owner of an antique shop to appreciate the beauty and other-timeliness the collection evokes and to be whisked away by the ambiance. From the perfectly-patinated teak and leather art-deco club chairs to the super-rare solid teak traditional medicine shop cabinets in pairs, exquisitely carved statues, to the quirky tiger settee, old photographs and books, vintage gold shop display counters – even an antique billiards table – the collection is truly amazing.
Perhaps the pinnacle of the collection is three antique Thai teak houses on stilts (now serving as private villas for The Siam’s guests) that have a fascinating history. They originally were acquired by legendary silk icon Jim Thompson in Ayutthaya for his friend Connie Mangskau – a famous socialite and antiques connoisseur. It was in these houses that she entertained the worlds’ glitterati who visited Bangkok during the 60s, 70s and 80s, people like heiress Doris Duke, who amassed one of the largest collections of Thai and Burmese antiques which are now displayed in museums, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who visited Connie’s antique shop, The Monogram, on her visit to Bangkok in 1967.
In this YouTube video, we get to see Jackie Kennedy touring Bangkok by riverboat and shopping for traditional Thai hand-woven baskets.
If you are ever lucky enough to make this magical trip, do stay long enough to enjoy cocktail hour at sundown – one of the most enchanting times of the day when the golden rays of the sun dance upon the Chao Phraya as it sets behind the Krung Thon Bridge. It’s the perfect way to relax and take in some of the best sights and sounds that Bangkok has to offer.
2018 is the year of chinoiserie – and where better to stock your antiques store, source architectural salvage or discover one-of-a-kind pieces than on a private, customized, 1:1 antiques buying tour to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Ayutthaya, Thailand. We will custom plan a Thailand antiques buying tour for you whether you’re looking to purchase antique furniture, textiles, decorative accessories, handicrafts and artisanal creations or architectural salvage. We will also help maximize your time and money by translating and negotiating on your behalf, and finally liaising you with an international shipper.
Toma – The Antiques Diva
When I can’t travel to Asia, I immerse myself in books and magazines featuring Asian design. One of the things I love about working with Angela, our Asia Antiques Diva Guide, is that she is an intellectual – and her tips on reading books about Asia reflect that. Me? I tend to like something that spoon feeds me #DesignInspiration and have four great books about Asia on my shelf, and I’ve ordered Angela’s recommendation Four Reigns for summer reading on the beach.
Southeast Asia Design Inspiration On Toma Clark Haines’ Bookshelf
Burmese Design & Architecture
by John Falconer and Elizabeth Moore
It is the first book to showcase the amazing diversity of architecture, design and art found in Burma (Myanmar). Ranging from the monumental pagodas of Pagan (Bagan) to the architectural heritage of Rangoon (Yangon), religious as well as contemporary secular buildings are presented in rich detail. A series of authoritative essays by archaeological experts highlight the major influences and styles found throughout the country, while chapters on Myanmar’s rich art and craft traditions provide a wealth of information on Buddha images, lacquerware, painting, ceramics, woodcarving, bronzes, textiles, costumes and much more.
Tropical Asian Style
The first book to showcase contemporary residences throughout Southeast Asia from Chiang Mai to Bali, Kuala Lumpur to Java highlighting tropical dream houses in their breathtaking natural environments.
What’s On Asia Diva Guide Angela’s Bookshelf?
Angela Somwaiya has lived in Bangkok for 24 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Japanese Studies and master’s in Thai Studies. In 2008 she took over Paul’s Antiques which has built its reputation as having one of the leading collections of colonial-era Burmese teak furniture. Since acquiring the business the collection has come to reflect her tastes and love of unique market finds throughout Asia. Innovative and entrepreneurial by nature, Angela developed a bespoke furniture service using reclaimed teak and enjoys up-cycling and repurposing found items. Angela is considered one of the leading experts in Southeast Asian antiques.
Sacred Skin: Thailand’s Spirit Tattoos: A book about sacred tattoos in Thailand that reflects animistic beliefs prevalent in Thailand. You can see many Thai symbols, designs and motifs in traditional tattoos.
by Sacred tattoos, called ‘sak yant’ in Thailand, have been around Southeast Asia for centuries and afford protection from accident, misfortune, and crime. Young women get tattooed with love charms in order to attract partners, while adolescent men use the protective power of their yants in fights with rival youth gangs. For most though, the tattoos serve as reminders to follow a moral code that endorses positive behavior.
The Buddha in Lanna: Art, Lineage, Power, and Place in Northern Thailand: Having a basic knowledge about Buddhism is helpful. Any books about Buddhist art or symbols would be useful.
by For centuries, wherever Thai Buddhists have made their homes, statues of the Buddha have provided striking testament to the role of Buddhism in the lives of the people. The Buddha in Lanna offers the first in-depth historical study of the Thai tradition of donation of Buddha statues. Drawing on palm-leaf manuscripts and inscriptions, many never previously translated into English, the book reveals the key roles that Thai Buddha images have played in the social and economic worlds of their makers and devotees from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries.
Are you craving Asian design? Armchair travel is nice, but there’s nothing like experiencing southeast Asia first-hand. Book an antique buying tour or design inspiration tour with The Antiques Diva.
Chan khoy tii jah daii jerr khun
Toma – The Antiques Diva
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
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
Buy 2/Get 1 Free Thailand Tour Special
- Book a 2 Day Chiang Mai Thailand Antiques Buying Tour, Get a 1 Day Bangkok Antiques Buying Tour FREE
- Travel: November 2017 – February 2018
Book a 2-day private, custom Chiang Mai Thailand tour with our expert Diva Guide, and we’ll provide you with a full 1-day Bangkok tour!
Bangkok and its better-looking sister to the north Chiang Mai, are treasure chests of exotic antiques that tempt even the most well-traveled shopper. In the Bright Light Big City of Bangkok, you find a wealth of inventory from various time periods the reflecting cultures of Thailand and its surrounding countries. In Chiang Mai, you enter the ancient kingdom of Lanna – which traditionally is a crossroads for trade routes through the Golden Triangle into Laos, Burma, China and beyond. Our Thailand Antiques Tour Guide will custom plan an Asian antiques buying tour for you whether you’re looking to purchase antique furniture, textiles, decorative accessories, handicrafts and artisanal creations or architectural salvage. We will also help maximize your time and money by translating and negotiating on your behalf, and finally, liaise you with an international shipper.
Mention THAILANDSPECIAL when booking your trip
Your Thailand Antiques Diva Guide, Chief Asian Diva Guide Angela Somwaiya, has lived in Thailand over 20 years and has one of the most highly respected antiques shops in Bangkok, Paul’s Antiques, and over 20 years expertise sourcing Asian antiques. In fact, Angela takes you to the many antique stores where she personally has been sourcing for her store. As one of the leading experts in Southeast Asian antiques, Angela’s design eye understands how to create a modern global mix with Asian and European antiques and art. Angela is an expert guide to sourcing Asian bespoke furniture makers using reclaimed teak, and how to up-cyle and repurpose found items.
Chiang Mai Antiques Tour
Available 7 days a week
One to Three Day Tour
The Chiang Mai region is ideal for trade clients because it is home to the best wholesale antiques sources in South East Asia with the most variety of inventory from Thailand as well as from neighboring countries. In part this is because of the historical traditions and geographical positioning in what has traditionally been called the Golden Triangle where the borders of 3 countries meet – Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Lanna culture has distinctiveness from the rest of Thailand. It was an independent kingdom for years, and you can see Indian and Chinese influences. It has distinctive architecture that incorporates hand carved woods and stylistic motifs. While Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city and has all the modern amenities of a modern city, the culture of the people is still reminiscent of the countryside where you find a slower pace of life, more personal interaction, and people are more patient and kind. There is also an influence of the hill-tribe culture in the region, which creates product variety because the hill-tribe handicrafts are different than the city and royal cultures. From antique furniture and decorative accessories to architectural salvage and beyond, Chiang Mai is a magical place to source a variety of Asian antiques. Whether you’re looking to source small amulets or entire rice barns for architectural salvage, our Chiang Mai Antiques Buying Tour has a lot to offer. As always, on tour our Thailand Antiques Tours Guide will translate, negotiate, and liaise you with an international shipper.
Bangkok Antiques Tour
Available 7 days a week
One to Three Day Tour
All roads lead to Bangkok. Being the major city of South East Asia, all antiques wind their way through this city – so you will find antiques from the rest of Thailand as well as Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia, India, and even China. While you will certainly have the opportunity to purchase classic Asian antiques such as Buddha statues, Bangkok offers so much more. Ornate architectural salvage from temples and Thai homes as well as garden antiques such as Spirit Houses, benches, lanterns, and other pieces can be found in abundance. When it comes to furniture, our Guide will take you to hidden sources where you’ll see Rattanakosin Period antique furniture, scripture cabinets, traditional Thai beds and tables, cabinets, mirrors, and Chinese furniture. For those who love decorative accessories, shop for red lacquer containers, betel boxes, hill-tribe weathered baskets, sturdy pottery, brass and wood carvings, and opium weights and tools. You’ll also find textiles, costumes, amulets, gems, and Thai jewelry, as well as antique handicrafts from the many villages surrounding Bangkok. On our Thailand antiques tours we will translate and negotiate on your behalf, maximizing your time and money. We also liaise you with a shipper to get your purchases home.
WATCH: Antiques Sourcing at Bangkok Chatuchak Market with Toma Clark Haines of The Antiques Diva & Co
Chatuchak Market – Bangkok’s JJ Market Shopping Tour
Available Saturday & Sunday
Limited Availability Mid-Week Upon Request
Full Day Tour
Everyone knows the Paris Flea Market is the place to shop for antiques in Europe… In Asia the equivalent is Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market (aka the JJ Market). It’s massive and sprawling… and the best bits are hidden. Most tourists arrive amidst the tourist tack or get lost in the maze that sells literally everything from pets to candles to t-shirts. The lucky ones find their way to the housewares and decorative accessories – even the reproduction antiques – but to get to the true antiques, off the main soi’s, tucked away in alleyways you need an expert’s hand and that’s where we come in. Our Thailand Antiques Tours Diva Guides not only know the vendors, but they know the hidden antique warehouses, they know the fakes from the genuine pieces and they know how to avoid the heat – escaping occasionally from the brutal heat into AC and when and where to rehydrate with a fresh coconut. They even know the best loos. Shopping the JJ Market without The Antiques Diva & Co simply put is a waste of your time. We save you money by bargaining on your behalf – remember in Thailand negotiation is an art. And as we know the market like the back of our hand, we save you energy by helping you avoid both sensory overload and frustrating dead ends. What To Buy? Everything, but our favorites include Thai Wooden Carvings, Burmese Antique Teak Furniture, Buddhist Manuscript boxes, Handwoven Hill Tribe Baskets, Theater Chairs, Shophouse Display Furniture, Antique Textiles and Art Prints, Architectural Remnants, Vintage Garden Furniture, Khmer Stone Carving, Retro Accessories and billions of Buddha heads (both tourist market reproductions as well as original period pieces). And while these aren’t antique we love them – Thai and Chinese silk and silk lanterns and lighting galore. Not to mention jewelry – both new and old – as well as fusion fashion. And let’s not forget fabulous lunch. In Thailand it’s all about the food – the Thai eat ALL DAY LONG, so you won’t turn a corner without another opportunity to feed your mouth. And of course we know where the best bites are. Our guide meets you at your hotel and whisks you away to the market so you avoid getting lost in the crowds – taking you directly to the area of the market you’re most interested in seeing.
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Let your senses be thrilled – your Thailand antiques buying tour is guaranteed to offer surprising finds! And we will make sure you stay fresh and refueled, and ready to experience everything Chiang Mai and Bangkok have to offer!
Kop khun kha,
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
I’ve always been fascinated with all things Asian and I especially love Chinoiserie. Both as a general interior design style and as individual elements seen in interiors of all types, it’s one of those styles that have been around forever but really never goes out of fashion.
So you won’t have to struggle through this post, here’s how to pronounce ‘Chinoiserie’ which is derived from ‘chinois,’ the French word for Chinese: http://howjsay.com/pronunciation-of-Chinoiserie .
It all started in the 15th century when Marco Polo explored ‘the Orient’ and brought the first exotic Eastern treasures like colorful silks and carved ivory and jade ornaments back to Europe.
Chinoiserie – which has always been less about representing the Far East accurately and more about Europe’s idyllic, romanticized idea of the other side of the world – took the west by storm in popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was truly the first international design style.
Both then and now, Chinoiserie motifs range from the natural (willow trees, mountain ranges, streams, monkeys, elephants) to the man-made (pagodas, bridges, temples) to the fantastical (foo dogs, dragons, phoenixes).
Bearing those motifs is the ever-popular blue and white porcelain. Did you know these vases, plates, ginger jars, and more were at one time among the biggest exports from China to Europe? Today it’s everywhere and at just about every price point.
My preference has always been antique Chinoiserie. Take a look at some of these beautiful antiques I spied that would make any space special.
Pair of Red Chinoiserie Bamboo Sconces, 1st Dibs
We see Chinoiserie’s timelessness in currently very trendy fretwork patterns and glossy lacquered furniture finishes. Chinese garden stools, lacquered Ming tables, and ginger jars also adorn many of today’s homes of all styles, from staunchly traditional to ultra modern.
If you are looking to infuse your own home with a bit of Eastern-inspired flair, here’s a selection of some of my favorite pieces on the market today ranging from pagoda-shaped lanterns to bamboo-framed mirrors. I just might have to get a dog so I can have that fabulous pagoda dog bed!
Pagoda Lantern, Charles Edward Lighting
Pagoda Mirror, Interior HomeScapes
Pagoda Pet Bed, Society Social
Willow Salad Plates, Loveramics
Macau Armchair, Ballard Designs
Oscar de la Renta Pagoda Bar Cabinet, Century Furniture
Many of the grandest, most fashionable rooms have one thing in common: hand-painted Chinoiserie wallpaper. Some of the best quality today are from Gracie or De Gournay. Take a look at these absolutely stunning wallpapers.
For those of you who might be on the fence about installing wallpaper, I have found a company that sells temporary wallpaper in Chinoiserie styles and I think they look amazing. How cool is that?!
By the way, remember to always order a sample of any wallcovering you’re looking to put in your home, whether temporary or not, as colors can look very different on a computer screen than they do in person.
When it comes to Chinoiserie print fabrics… the sky is the limit. Almost every fabric line carries one or two patterns at the very least. I have pulled together just a few of my many favorites for you here.
Isn’t it fun knowing you can put something (whether it’s brand new or a rare antique) in your home today that’s been considered beautiful and stylish for centuries? Even though the tide of design styles ebbs and flows constantly, I’m confident we’ll never see Chinoiserie be anything less than the epitome of chic.
So tell me, are you brave enough to include a little Chinoiserie in your home?
Liza Jones, owner and principal designer at Liza Jane Interiors in McLean, VA, believes that good design is transformative, allowing us to experience joy when our living environments offer beauty, functionality and comfort.
A proud eighth-generation Virginian, Liza has a unique ability to spot unusual pieces that will punctuate and define a room’s décor. She then combines those pieces with other elements to create an elegant, cohesive finished space that reflects the clients’ personal tastes.
Her passion for gardening and original fine art, and her ongoing world travels inform Liza’s tastes for different styles and cultures. She sources a wide range of unique furnishings, artwork, and accessories to create living spaces for her clients that move their souls.
Liza Jane Interiors
Welcome to Indonesia
Photo Credit Susanna Ollmann, Ollmann Creative
Do you believe in love at first sight? That might have been how I felt when I met Michael Nalder. He’s suave, debonaire, devastatingly handsome and not only has the most gorgeous antique shop under the sun… he cooks too. Discovering that he had been an Antiques Diva® blog reader for years was almost as much of a delight as it was when Michael invited me for dinner chez him with my colleague Marilyn, who leads our Bali tours, and my friend Derrick Ricketts, VP of Dallas Market Center.
Visiting the home of an antiques dealer is always a treat… most dealers hold their favorite pieces back for themselves. But visiting Michael’s home was visiting his personal oasis. Enclosed behind an unassuming building the house surrounds an inner courtyard open to the elements and the pool inside. An artful mix of pieces from around South East Asia and the world, Michael’s home is reminiscent of his store, Lemari.
Lemari means cupboard in Bahasa (the Indonesian language) – and opening the doors to Michael’s shop is like opening a cabinet of curiosity, only chic-er, more stylish, and perfect for purchasing some of the most swoon-worthy designs on the planet.
Lemari offers the traveler an opportunity to take a piece of Bali home, selling an eclectic array of antique furniture, carvings, artifacts and objets d’art hand selected from the islands of the Indonesian archipelago as well as a variety of Dutch colonial pieces and other inventory collected from the world at large.
Michael Nalder explains, “Traditional Balinese architecture blends influences from other cultures to create something unique and interesting.” From European pieces chosen for their grandeur to cheap and cheerful folk art, the principle for Nalder’s collection remains constant; everything at Lemari must exude that certain uniqueness and beauty that Bali is known for.
Originally from New Zealand, Nalder explains, “Living in Bali is so different from waking up in Wellington, I can hardly imagine living anywhere else than Bali.” Hmmm…. though rumor has it, this bad boy has been cheating on Bali with Portugal as of late… Which simply makes me wonder. Will Portugal be getting a new shop called Lemari 2? And better yet, what’s the likelihood I can convince Michael to be our Antiques Diva Guide in Portugal if a move really is on the horizon?
Until next time,
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®
A Visit to Bambu Indah in Bali with John Hardy
Photo credits Alessandro Luppi
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. Whether you’re seeking a source for manufacturing your furniture line, wood and stone carvers, weavers, painters or gold and silversmiths Bali alone has the world’s greatest repository of high-level artisans in the world and at The Antiques Diva® & Co we give you access to the best of them.
Furniture – whether new or old – ranges from rustic and folk art to refined or cutting edge and contemporary in design. Textiles reign with batiks and ikats in heartbreakingly beautiful patterns. Fashion, jewelry and art de la table give island chic a new audience making the tribal mainstream.
On a recent visit to Bali I had lunch at John Hardy’s Bandu Indah and took a private tour of the property with its owner.
Bali has its fair share of expats – one of the most well-known is John Hardy. Canadian-born jewelry designer John Hardy moved to Bali 40 years ago and launched his Asian-inspired designs using traditional handmade jewelry techniques. Having recently sold his eponymously named jewelry line, Hardy now devotes his life to educating others about sustainable living with his Green School. A great place to begin one’s education – while experiencing luxury Balinese style – is at Bambu Indah, Hardy’s radically distinctive eco-lifestyle boutique hotel in Ubud where guests commune with nature in their open format huts.
Hardy – a huge proponent of using architectural salvage in his designs – transplanted a series of 19th C teak Javanese bridal homes to Bali and then restored and decorated them offering his guests a once in a lifetime experience.
“Our charming Javanese teak wood houses are historic traditional homes built by native Indonesians over 100 years ago. Each served as bridal houses to a Javanese nobleman whose duty it was to provide a home for his new bride. These antique homes were hand picked by John Hardy before being carefully dismantled, relocated to Bambu Indah, lovingly restored and made available to you.”
The interior design ranges from rustic to chic, featuring décor from Hardy’s personal travels such as Moroccan rugs, Burmese lacquerware and Ethiopian woodwork.
If you’re visiting Bali, I strongly recommend you include Bambu Indah on your itinerary. My lunch with John Hardy was definitely a highlight of my last trip to Bali!
Indonesia Antiques Tours
After assessing your antique, design or fashion sourcing needs, The Antiques Diva & Co will custom plan your private Indonesia antiques tours and buying trip. We can combine your Indonesia antiques tour with other Asian country itineraries to create antiques buying and design inspiration tours to meet our all your sourcing needs. Our local expert Indonesia Diva Guide negotiates on your behalf as we have relationships with vendors, getting you the best deals possible. We also liaise you with a preferred shipper to get your purchases home.
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva