In this month’s header photo taken last week in Cambodia I am sunburnt. I am sweaty and just after this photo was taken I found a mosquito stuck still alive in the sweaty goo of sunblock at my hairline. In spite of all that I still I took to my standard diva pose even though my butt seriously hurt from hiking.
This January before going to Cambodia I was in Las Vegas speaking at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. (The flight from Vegas to Siem Reap was h-e-double-hockey-sticks… 10,135 miles and 4 layovers but I digress…) In one of my presentations at KBIS I gave a presentation in the DMM Design Milk / Modenus Talks Lounge called Strike A Pose where I taught attendees how to take a good photo. Everyone has to have a profile photo for their social media – so you might as well look good!
The thing I noticed about this photo is I look tired, but I look happy. More than that, I look content. And I’ve determined content is a better feeling than happy. I had just come out of hiking in the jungle to the top of Kulen Mountain and I had overestimated my ability to go those last 3 kilometers. But here’s the thing: Hiking in a jungle to the top of the most sacred mountain in Asia is like jumping out of an airplane and deciding at the halfway point you want to go back. That description of me on the mountain is how I feel about who and where I am today.
A Few of My Cambodia Photos – click to enlarge
The Business of Antiques
It’s 2020. And this is my first blog post of the new year. I suspect my content manager is about to have a heart attack that I missed blogging in December, January and February. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging. The problem? I want to be intentional about content. And intentional isn’t easy. Several years ago I was on a hamster wheel – trying to blog X times per week for SEO and I reached a point where creating content had sucked all joy out of blogging. I hired someone to help – but I found the blog not representing my vision so last year I made the decision to write once-a-month longer personal blog posts which I’ve loved doing. All was fine and dandy until… I launched my podcast The Business of Antiques and all my energy went into getting it up and running and I dropped the ball on blogging. (I’m sorry readers 🙂 ) And by the way, speaking of the podcast – if you haven’t listened to my episode on Marketing For Antique Dealers you must – its my favorite podcast to date!
One of the hardest things for me is juggling all I do. Business traveling, speaking around the world, mentoring clients and taking them on Antique Buying Tours, managing my Antiques Diva Team of Buying Guides in 16 countries, designing jewelry and furniture, marketing those as well as my main business, dealing with taxes and business administration and finances, and writing my book, as well as the content for my blog and other social media in addition to podcast… it’s a lot. And I don’t do it alone. I couldn’t. I have a fabulous team who helps. But I’m trying to manage it and sometimes I fail.
And like the juggler who keeps adding balls in the air until one ball – if not all of them – drops, I’m also juggling Life. In my personal life I am dealing with trifecta of problems from finalizing The Divorce, to dealing with visa issues and facing a tax audit. Nietzsche says “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I think that’s what I liked about my photo. I am tired. But I looked strong. Maybe I’ll never be a size 6, that’s not in my linguine all’astice and 3rd glass of prosecco lifestyle, but I like who I am becoming even if dealing with life issues sucks more energy than I care to admit.
What I’ve learned during these times is I Must Keep Calm and Diva On. I’ve also been using this time to clear my mind and reflect. With one decade closing and another one beginning it’s important as Marie Forleo explains, “to look back, celebrate your wins, acknowledge your growth, extract the lessons and set the right goals for the upcoming year.”
It’s a new year. A new decade. And a new Toma. Yes, I’m still your Diva. But maybe I’m Diva2.0, or rather… make that Diva2020. As I look back at 2019 and forward to 2020, I think about what my resolutions are both personally and professionally.
Resolution #1 Be Intentional in Expressing My Authentic Voice
You might have noticed as I change, the tone of this blog is changing. Yes, I’ll always have stilettos and pearls. I’m your Diva afterall. But when I look back at my life journey, I went from being a daughter to a bride to a diva… and from a diva to me.
Resolution #2 Make Time for Wellness
Wellness is not a luxury, but a necessity. I love a good luxury spa hotel, but I’ve learned wellness is not about going to a great resort but about self care every day. My sister and I were talking this weekend and she said “I’m not sure I even know how to do self care.” For me, that means getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, but also imbibing ginger tea and lemon water, going to the gym at least twice a week (my goal is 3 but it doesn’t always happen), cooking healthy dinners when I’m at home. It means learning to Say No To Others and Yes To Me. Going for a walk everyday. Spending time snuggling with my cats. Reading books. Taking time to journal and meditate. In 2019 I formed a lot of healthy habits that have changed my life.
While staying in Cambodia at the 5-star hotel Anantara Angkor Resort in February for my writers’ retreat to work on my book, I went to the spa everyday to sit in the steam room. It was part of my process. If you’re going to write, you need to clear your mind so you can hear your voice. It occured to me, “What if I could do this every day at home? What if I incorporated steaming into my daily schedule?” Mr Steam makes that possible! They manufacture state-of-the-art steam shower systems and steam shower accessories that transform residential steam bathing.
Returning home from KBIS Vegas and Cambodia, I’m in research mode to determine how I can convert my master bath into a Mr Steam steamroom. It’s easier than you would ever think possible – and actually affordable! I’m super excited by this concept that I can steam at home!!! Steaming improves circulation, skin health, loosens stiff joints and helps restore your body after a workout. Plus it reduces stress, opens up the sinuses, and burns calories. Resolution #3 Embrace Technology
At the resort, I would call the Spa and tell them to turn on the steam and I would be there in 30 minutes. But at home, if you have a smart home, you can simply tell your Smart Home to turn on the Steam. One of my sponsors with Design Hounds at KBIS in Las Vegas was Control 4, a provider of automation and networking systems for homes and business offering a personalized and unified smarthome system to automate and control connected devices including lighting, audio, video, climate control, intercom, and security. I am not a technology girl. When I was married, that was my husband’s job. As a single woman it occurred to me, “Who needs a husband when you can have Control 4?” I’m getting wired and stepping into the 21st Century! In the 2020s, I’m making my home a smarthome.
Resolution #4 Finish Decorating My Home in Venice
Getting an apartment in Venice 2 years ago was hands-down the best decision I’ve made in my life. It’s my happy place. But maintaining my business in Berlin, Germany, whilst spending the majority of my time in Venice has meant that over the last 2 years I haven’t gotten everything done that I wanted to in Venice. I felt like my feet were straddling two nations as I hadn’t fully left Germany mentally as much as I wanted to nor fully settled into Venetian life.
In December I finally fully closed up life in Germany. I will go to the States to Martha’s Vineyard for 3 – 4 months this Spring and Summer while I switch my visa status so I can fully start my new life. But for my Venice apartment this means it’s time to get serious. I still need living room lights and art for my living room wall, as well as to finish my kitchen design so that it fully functions the way I want it to.
In Italy, we say “Piano, piano” slowly, slowly, step by step, but I’m ready to put a bit more kick in my step. I’ve been “making do” in my kitchen without if fully finished the way I wanted it.
Having just been to the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show “making do” is no longer an option. In French the expression for window shopping is lécher les vitrines… literally licking the windows. I was licking all the windows at KBIS fantasizing about making my home more my home. Two of the brands that sponsored my KBIS Design Hounds trip caught my attention: Thermador and Nobilia.
After “making do” Thermador’s tagline “Beyond Luxury Appliances” had me at Hello. You can get your design inspiration on here: https://www.thermador.com/us/experience/inspirational-design. They offer seamlessly integrated sleek design perfect for a contemporary lifestyle. And while I may work in antiques, I like contrast. A sleek modern kitchen contrasted with Rococo and Gustavian decor. Afterall, it’s all about the mix. Meanwhile Nobilia’s nod to history impressed me. Nobilia kitchens are known for their modern design, exceptional quality and their extremely good price to value ratio but their origins employ many of the ideals of the Bauhaus movement harmonize the distinction between the fine and applied arts while reuniting creativity and industrial design.
Resolution #5 FOCUS; Where Focus Goes Energy Flows
I’m becoming more intentional about how I spend my time. Every year I set a word of the year. Last year I chose Ready. This year my word is Intentional. I want to be more intentional about living a balanced life, increasing revenue for my business, and organizing my time. If I get more organized, I can focus more on what brings me revenue and when setting my priorities I’ll be able to know exactly where to best spend my time so I have more balance! I don’t see 2020 as a year for going forward, but rather a year for putting the 2010’s to bed.
Resolution #6 Give Myself Permission to Quit
One of the things I’m thinking as I’m in a difficult period personally is “What do I need to eliminate from my life?” I have a lot of goals. What I’ve learned is if you find you’re not progressing on a goal… maybe that goal is not as important as you thought it was. Sometimes we put goals on our list that are not our goals – they could be our husband’s, a friend’s or an employee’s. If you’re not making progress there’s a reason. Time available is certainly one of those reasons, but sometimes it’s that the goal doesn’t matter enough. I want to learn Italian. I also want to go to the gym. I don’t have time for both classes at this moment in my life. I chose the gym because I felt it was better for my mental health. My objective is to be CONTINUALLY reevaluating my business and personal goals and deciding if I want to Quit a Goal, Delay a Goal or Progress on the Goal.
Resolution #7: Consider Compromises and Ask for Help
For me, the last few months as work and life became too much and my blog took the hit. But… did it have to? When I ask myself that question “Is a monthly personal blog really my goal?” My answer is yes. But… why then did I let it slip through the crack? Because of time. One of the best exercises you can do for your business is to make a list of every single task you do. Then highlight those things that REALLY only you can do! You’ll be surprised how much you can ask for help on.
As owner of the company, I set the vision for the brand, and I am the voice of the company. There is no Diva without I in Antiques Diva. I want to write personal blog posts, but… if my goal really is providing consistent content I could have taken my manicured hands off the wheel and asked one of my Diva Guides for help writing a blog while I was working on starting the podcast. By being so focused on what I had to do (that’s ego talking) I missed an opportunity to provide content for you and missed an opportunity to let a member of my team shine. Lesson Learned. Sometimes when focusing on a goal you have to make compromises – and ask for help – to meet your objective.
One of the most important services we offer at The Antiques Diva & Co is our Antique Dealer Training and Mentoring Program where we work with you to help you not only evaluate where your business is currently but help you to get where you want to go. In the program we meet you where you are. It’s customized according to your store and your inventory – but more importantly, according to your strengths and weaknesses. One of the exercises I’d encourage you to do is make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. When you look at the strengths use that list to evaluate where to best spend your time. What are you naturally good at? What are your weaknesses? These are areas of your business where you may need additional training or additional help.
Resolution #8 Look for Help in Alternative Ways
I’ve always had an interest in esoteric subjects but in 2020 I’m taking more of an interest in learning about these topics that interest me. I first began dabbling in crystals by accident. I was designing my jewelry collection The Republic of Toma and met one of the editors from Thai Tatler magazine who commented that my choice of stones was interesting. That my stones told the story of my soul.
I found it a curious comment and inquired what she meant:
“Rubies and Citrines: Power, Success, Passion and Money. You’re starting a new venture designing jewelry and you’ve chosen stones that will guarantee your success. But Rose Quartz means love. You’re looking for love. Either externally or inside yourself. Aquamarine is a stone of courage. Its calming energies reduce stress and quiet the mind. Your mind is very noisy I think.”
Her comment left me frozen. In designing jewelry had I literally put my heart on my sleeve? When I looked at the motifs I designed, snakes, frogs, etc… they were all symbols of transformation. This started me on a journey researching stones and their meanings.
As humans we have intuition. Intuitively we are drawn to things we like. But our intuition leads us to what we like or don’t like, what we need or sometimes what we’re afraid of. I remember once going to the stone quarry in Italy and talking with one of the geologists about stones. I asked if he believed that stones had special powers assuming as a scientist he’d laugh at the notion. Instead he responded, “If your body needs potassium, it craves a banana. Why not Rose Quartz for love?”
While at KBIS, visiting our sponsor Compac: The Surfaces Company – the leading company in high quality decorative surfaces – I thought for the first time about the materials I’m using in my home. I’ve always wanted only real materials – granite, real wood etc, but it occured to me that just as the stones I choose to wear in my jewelry give me additional help with the problems I’m facing so then would the stones I choose in your house have the same effect. This is Holistic living.
Their stall at KBIS was filled with various marbles and quartzes. Looking up their properties, I learned that Marble is a grounding stone. It is the idea of security, strength and stability. It provides for the strength of self control and mastery of our thoughts. It enhances the powers of serenity, which is why it makes for a soothing meditation stone. Meanwhile Quartz is the most powerful healing stone of the mineral kingdom with various quartzes bringing different healing properties.
When you think of seeking help from alternative means, it impacts the entire way you live. I bring fresh flowers and plants into my house because they bring life. I use aromatherapy to enhance my mood. I often use various scents in my diffuser, but only recently did I consider what those scents meant. Here lately as I’ve been choosing Geranium Oil in the diffuser and out of curiosity I looked it up. Guess what? It reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, fatigue, and tension! Definitely what I need during this difficult life period. And intuitively I knew it. In my bedroom I spritz my bed each more with lavender spray. Not only does it transport me to Provence, but it also has a calming, sedative quality and is known to promote rest and relaxation, helping it to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Antiques Diva Provence Tours
Speaking of Provence, that reminds me, before I close I want to let you in on a special offer on our Antiques Diva Provence Tours.
Book our 3 day Wholesale Trade Antiques Fair Tour
in the South of France April 6-9, 2020
and we will give you 1 extra day free!
4 days for the price of 3
We will introduce you to one of our favorite antique fairs
La Foire Aux Antiquités et à la Brocante de Barjac.
This is a 750€ savings
Learn more about The Antiques Diva & Co Provence Tours here.
Have a question about our Provence tour? Ask Toma!
Thanks so much for reading, and see you next time. I promise I won’t make you wait 3 months! In the meantime, make sure to catch up on on my podcast, The Business of Antiques.
Toma – The Antiques Diva
Special thanks to my sponsors of the Design Hounds trip to Las Vegas with Modenus and KBIS: Mr Steam, Control 4, Thermador, Nobilia and Compac Surfaces.
As I write this month’s blog I’m sitting at Le Deux Magots in Paris waiting as my 16 year old twin nieces explore Saint Germain des Pres and I take a moment to catch up on office work. They are visiting from Oklahoma. We’ve spent the afternoon at the Musee D’Orsay and my nieces spent hours staring at paintings they’d only seen on calendars. Meanwhile I’ve a blog to write. The advantage of my life is I can work from anywhere. Closed – or rather Ferme – signs dot the doors of the smaller shops in the neighborhood. My favorite cheese shop is closed. So is that little jeweler. As is an antique dealer I can’t afford but must “lèche son fenêtre” each time I’m in town. Tout Paris is en vacance.
It’s August, which means the French flee the city in droves for their summer holiday. This tradition – leaving Paris in the summer – has been going on since the Middle Ages when every August the French monarchy drained the moat to clean the moat walls. The stench was so overwhelming it drove Parisians from the city into the surrounding countryside. This started an annual tradition of the Parisians leaving Paris during the month of August.
Whenever I’m in France I hear the word reverberate across the clay pot chimneys on the rooftops like in Fiddler on a Hot Tin Roof.
Like most things in France, the tradition has lasted through the centuries – long after the moat was filled in Parisians continue the tradition. Today the city practically closes down during the first few weeks in August. But we have come to visit Paris as part of our summer vacation. I’ve written time and time again about the young ladies and gents in the 17th to 19th Century who took their Grand European Tour to learn the leading art, culture and traditions of their time. Today I’m taking my twin nieces on a modern day Grand European Tour. When my ex-husband and I chose not to have children I had one condition. “If we are not going to have children,” I told him as a negotiating tactic, “then I want to invest in my nieces and nephews.”
The summer of their 16th birthday we bring my nieces and nephews to Europe. It’s a rite of passage into adulthood and forming a friendship with their Auntie. My friends joke I’m Auntie Mame – Mame is a flamboyant, exuberant woman, who hosts frequent parties with eclectic, bohemian guests. Her nephew Patrick is quickly introduced to his aunt’s free-spirited and eccentric lifestyle. My sister has 6 kids and this summer the last of the nieces – twins – turn 16 at the end of August. And for 1 and a half months we are traveling – I am taking them on a Modern Day Grand European Tour. The rules of Auntie Toma’s house are simple – we can go anywhere, we can do anything but you have to explain to me WHY you want to do it. Give me a logical explanation – articulate yourself, your wants and your dreams – and the sky is the limit. Let’s make those dreams come true. In the meantime, I teach my nieces l’art de vivre – the art of living like a diva.
At home in Venice we went to the Rialto Market and bought fish which I taught them how carve and cook whole, debone and serve with flourish. In Berlin visiting their uncle, my ex, we dined in the dark at the “blind restaurant” where all the waiters and waitresses are blind and the diners eat in darkness. Now we are in Paris… that bastion of civilization. As Hemingway wrote, “If you are lucky enough to live in Paris as a young man then wherever you go for the rest of your life Paris goes with you… afterall Paris is a moveable feast.” I was one of those lucky ones. Living in Paris in my 20’s – my friends joked at the time I was the ultimate BoBo – Bohemian Bourgeois. Living in a 5th floor walk up on the Rue de Seine, taking cooking lessons at Le Ritz Escoffier and spending every franc on antiques found at the brocantes. Those years living in Paris, on the Rue de Seine, shaped me into the lady I became in my personal life – but also gave me the lifeskills and professional contacts to launch my business The Antiques Diva & Co. When I look back at my life in France it reminds of reading Julia Child’s biography and watching her life unfold in Julie & Julia.
One of my nieces – Jazlyn, the redhead – wants to be a chef and while the girls are here this summer we’re on a gastronomic tour of the continent and beyond. Next stop – London. Then Greece. Then it’s back to Italy to take the train throughout the country then up through Austria, stopping in Salzberg before the girls fly back home to Oklahoma. It’s a trip of a lifetime – follow along on Facebook and Instagram @TheAntiquesDiva. This trip will shape them, the way they live their lives, pursue their dreams and their idea of the world.
The Business of Antiques
The role of Auntie comes naturally to me… And in many ways Auntie is the role I play with my clients. Some call it Auntie. Others say Fairy Godmother, making their dreams come true. Bippity Boppity Boo. At The Antiques Diva & Co we offer antique buying tours in 16 countries helping clients source antiques overseas – translating, negotiating and helping clients ship their purchases home – but for years we’ve been unofficially mentoring our clients, helping them not only stock their store, but also giving behind the scenes advice on everything from marketing and branding, to sales strategies, and inventory management tips. When we started the Antiques Dealer Training and Mentoring Program (ADTP) earlier this year it was an instant success. We offer one-on-one customized training as well as workshops. And are currently working on planning our NYC Fall Antiques Dealer Training Workshop in October and another Antiques Delaer Training Workshop with the opportunity to source antiques abroad in Provence in April 2020 – contact me for details!
During these sessions – whether at our workshops or in our one-on-one consulting – we get intimate with our clients, discussing their business in depth. We delve into what they consider their failures and their successes. We point out successes they are not aware of and we give warning flags where danger lies ahead. In workshops we pull out from each client what we consider to be the Key Learning Points that others in the group could learn from their peers. We encourage our co-trainers to disagree with one another as advice is given so the clients get multiple perspectives and advice. In the group sessions we give as much customized advice specific to the clients needs as we can, while the private sessions 10 sessions are devoted entirely to you and your business. We brainstorm, but perhaps the most important thing we do is we hold you – the client – accountable.
Accountability. I have a love/hate relationship with that word.
For the last year I’ve been going to the gym. Faithfully. I have shown up whenever I’m at home in Venice and not traveling for business. (I still stink at working out when I travel). I don’t show up because I have a burning desire to exercise. I show up because I have a date with my trainer. And I don’t want to disappoint him. (Sidenote: if you’re in Venice, Italy and looking for a Personal Trainer I recommend Club Delfino at Zattera). My trainer has been integral to my success in my workout plan. I wouldn’t have done it on my own.
This July I visited the nutritionist at my gym and I told him that I wanted to start a new diet plan – not a diet, quick fix, lose lots of weight immediately kind of plan, but a holistic approach to eating healthy for life. We looked at my current diet. We did all sorts of tests so I knew not only my % of body fat, but how much water I retained and my muscle mass (the good news working in antiques means you have to be pretty muscley and my muscle mass was great). And then, after disecting everything we agreed on, a plan that I think can work for me. When I’m deciding between having dessert or not, having the fish or choosing the lamb, I think about my nutritionsist and the weigh-in I’ll have at the end of the month.
The hardest thing you can do is face the facts. I did not want to know the % of body fat I had. But doing so helped me get real. It helped me understand what my problems were and what I could do about them. It gave me a roadmap for the next year for my health. With your business it’s similar. You need to have a road plan. And sometimes having a 3rd party assess your situation as well as give ideas is the best thing you can do. It’s not easy but it’s a recipe for success. And I like success, which means it’s essential for me to put the right people and tools in my life.
When I started Antiques Diva I didn’t have a business plan. Over the last 5 years I’ve slowly started assembling what I now refer to as the Antiques Diva Bible. But it’s a living bible. The contents change. They are updated. I try to make them as clear as possible so they are not open for misintepretation. And I evaluate: does this really work for me? I challenge my own beliefs about my company. And sometimes I have to make changes – websites need updated and logos changed. Even core values in the company change as the times change. Most of all – the needs of our clients change. And when I give my company regular physicals, we improve as a company.
Is your antiques business healthy? When was the last time you evaluated it? Our Antiques Dealer Training and Mentoring Program reminds me of working with my physical trainers and nutritionist to create a plan for healthy living. With our Antique Dealer Clients,
- we create action plans together
- we create goals and set dates for check ups
- we give encouragement
- we give tough love
We point out what they are doing wrong but tell them how to fix it. In conjunction with the mentoring program we’ve launched a slew of other services – from Marketing Services for Antiques Dealers – to one of the services I’m most excited about… a Digital Marketing Audit for Antique Dealers. Subscribers to our AD&CO Newsletter (subscribe here) received a special discount in the last newsletter — a 500 EURO savings if they booked a Digital Marketing Content Audit for Antiques Dealers service by August 1. For new subscribers to the newsletter we’re extending this offer until September 1, 2018. Don’t know what a Digital Audit is? Or why you need one? Read more in the newsletter.
Whereas you might be reading your Diva news on my blog, did you know that in addition to the normal social media sites Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, that I’m also active on LinkedIn? You can find me @TheAntiquesDiva. An article I wrote last month titled Becoming CEO of My Life – Not Just My Business was wildly popular as I explained not only how I took control of my personal life but also addressed that question, How do you get it all done? If you’ve enjoyed the business tips for antique dealers I’ve shared recently on the blog and in our newsletter, I recommend you follow along on LinkedIn as we share more business advice for antiques dealers there.
As I close, I offer you the advice I offered my nieces just this week:
Find what makes you happy. And do it.
This year blogging has started making me happy again. For several years I struggled with blogging – it felt like an obligation instead of a joy. Which is why I took control this year and changed the way I was blogging. Making the posts more personal, but also blogging less but giving more of myself each time when I do write. This week I had the opportunity to dine on the rooftop of a fabulous apartment in Paris with longterm blog readers Ron & Debi Lily. When you write a blog you wonder, Does anyone read this? Am I writing words and sending them out in to outer space where they will never be seen again? Chatting with Debi she told me, “I bought that book you recommended.” She remembered a few details of my life over the years. And it made me feel so good to know that she was a loyal reader through the years. Maybe it’s because I’m traveling with teenage girls, but I’m thinking of that book, “Are you there god, it’s me Margaret?”
Dear Reader, if you’re out there, drop a line and let me know. I want to know what you want to hear about on the blog. What questions you have? What questions I can answer? I want to know how I can better serve you.
I want to share a few pics from a recent trip to Giverny with my nieces – Monet’s home an hour from Paris. It’s such a great example of following the beat of your own drum. Monet lived during the Victorian times when furniture was dark and heavy. While everyone else was modestly covering their legs, Monet painted his dining room bright yellow. He did it because it made him happy. He didn’t care what others were doing in home fashion – he did what he liked. He did what appealed to him.
Monet became Monet because he was uniquely himself. For my nieces, that’s the best role model I can image. For you as an antiques dealer it should be your mantra. Do what makes you happy! Become your own Monet.
Thanks for being there.
Toma – The Antiques Diva
When I was in my 20’s and had first moved to Paris, I opened a new journal and I wrote one sentence. I’ve started a million other journals since then, living a million different lives, as my journey took me the last two decades from living in Paris to Amsterdam and Berlin before making Venice home – but in that particular journal, there is still only that one sentence. The rest of the journal is blank. I didn’t know what words would follow – but I knew I was writing my manifestation. My mantra. The life I would live.
I want a life less ordinary.
My mom often reflects, “Your life is interesting, but it’s not easy.” She sees past the glamour of my life to the day to day toils of living abroad. Here there are inconveniences you don’t face in Oklahoma where I grew up. Radiators that never seem to heat the apartment causing me to sleep under fur coats in the winter. She sees me carrying groceries home in the rain over bridges and up flights of stairs. She’s regaled with stories of the acqua alta filling my magazzino and me frantically elevating storage items so they’re not ruined by the famed Venetian floods. More than once our Skype has been interrupted when the electrical fuse blows because I turned the tea kettle on forgetting I was running the washing machine. She sees the minor – but yet – practical – inconveniences of my life abroad. And while my life may not be convenient by American terms, darn it’s sexy.
I joke I can tolerate anything but two things – ugly decor and to be bored. And – my life is many things – but it’s always beautiful and it’s always interesting.
It’s this sentiment that made me smile when I saw the theme of this year’s Biennale di Venezia – “May You Live In Interesting Times.” The quote refers to 1966 when Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech saying, “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.” Anything is possible.
I found myself reflecting on this sentiment during the opening week of the Biennale as I attended the #DiorBall- also known as the #TiepoloBall – organized by the Venetian Heritage Foundation for their 20th anniversary. Held in the Baroque 17th-century Palazzo Labia, the ball was a reenactment of the 1951 Beistegui “Bal Oriental” – dubbed the ball of the century. Both in 1951 and this month at the event, all of European society floated down the Grand Canal clamoring to get in. Among the original guests in 1951 were Christian Dior, Salvador Dalí and Orson Welles. Now, the guests were Sienna Miller, Tilda Swinton and Sandro Kopp, Peter Marino, Monica Bellucci… and… uhm… me?!?! alongside my dear friend Steven Moore of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. At times like this, I pinch myself. How did I get this life I’m living? With 380 guests in attendance, it was a formal sit down dinner catered by the Gritti Palace. And just as at the original event, the guests were charged to dress as if in a Tiepolo painting – tableaux vivants – so they became part of the decoration. As we climbed the stairs after being dropped by our water taxis and private boats at the palazzo we were presented in the main salon of the palace in the room where Giambattista Tiepolo painted his masterpiece The Banquet of Cleopatra. It was magic… (You can read more about the night in Vogue.)
Behind the scenes at the Venice Biennale Dior Tiepolo Ball
When debating what to wear to a ball hosted by one of the world’s greatest fashion houses where everyone I knew was going to be wearing haute couture… I decided to focus on the accessories. After all, “if” as Oprah says, “there’s one thing I know” – I know it’s all about the accessories. My dress was pretty – an emerald green empire waist strapless gown that I’d worn once before but on my head – I wore a swan. Yes. You read that right – but don’t take my word for it, watch Paris Mode TV to catch a glimpse of my feathers!
The jewelry was all my own design, Republic of Toma. Around my neck, I wore a ring of interconnecting pearl frogs with black diamonds for eyes. In life – not just in romance – you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get what you want. That means sometimes you have to go through failures and times in your life that things don’t go your way to get what you want.
At my table in the SeaRoom, I sat at one head of the table with my escort Steven across the table parallel me. At the very moment the Frenchman from Van Cleef & Arpels sitting to my right asked, “Why do you live in Venice?” and I responded matter of factly, “Because it makes me happy,” a photo was snapped. On my face is a look I rarely see. A look of quiet contemplation. I manifested this life. I build this life. A life less ordinary. I have found my home. Ca’ Toma.
In Dior’s autobiography, he wrote about the 1951 event, describing that evening as “the most beautiful” he had ever seen and that he “would ever see” and the event “a true work of art.” As my friend Steven Moore was on the water taxi heading home after an amazing week in Venice to England he texted me, “No detail was left unattended. No matter how small. We seemed to float along as if in a dream. I kept thinking I was going to wake up, but sometimes dreams do come true.”
You and only you have the power to make your dreams come true.
What are you dreaming?
Antiquing in the South of France
Coco Chanel said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” Two photos, taken a week apart capture the essence of me. In one I’m wearing a White Swan fascinator on my head at the Dior Ball in Venice. In the other, I’m wearing a white motorcycle helmet while sitting in a sidecar of a WWII era Ulta motorcycle antiquing in the South of France putting finishing touches on our newly revised Antiques Diva Provence Tours. (lol. Sidecar optional :). #WatchThisSpace we’re working on organizing our next training program for antique dealers held at a special retreat in the South of France. The photo is not about the helmet – though that is a great accessory – It’s about the adventure. We’re visiting Carpentras and Ville Neuve les Avignon, Aix en Provence and of course Ile sur la Sorgue. The deballages – in Avignon, Montpellier and Bezier – are still at the top of our #mustshop Provence list for antique dealers – but we’re also adding in appointments in private homes, and a surprising amount of chic new concept stores that show you that antiques can be super sexy. I’ve fallen in love with Marseilles recently – a city that wasn’t my favorite and now suddenly feels like home. It’s a city where Europe and Africa meet, allowing you to take a journey within a journey.
Journeys Ca’ Toma
Perhaps that journey within a journey is also what I like about reading. Summer is coming and we’ve our cabana booked in Lido and my stack of summer reads is mountainous. My bookshelves are overflowing with biographies, business books, travelogues and simple inspiration/motivation. It can take me months to finish a book as I don’t want to reach the end of the author’s journeys. I’m sad when it’s time to say goodbye, like parting with a dear friend who I don’t know when I will see again.
The last few books on the list start revolving around Venice… As Joann Locktov writes, “I Dream of Venice.” (If you’ve not read Joanne’s books then you must add her newest book to your reading list.) Hmmm… this makes me ponder… Joanne is another American woman making a mark on Venice.
As an American woman living here, I find it fascinating is that Venice has a history of being influenced by American women. There is Peggy of course. But the Countess Elsie Gozzio saved Fortuny, allowing it to become what it is today. And it’s practically impossible to write a chronicle of the 20th C without including the salons of Princess Winnaretta Singer de Polignac – yes, that Singer of sewing machine family fame. When she married her husband Edmond she bought him the Palazzo Contarini Polignac as a gift. And then there was Isabella Stewart Gardner who of course rented the nearby Palazzo Barbaro in 1890 becoming a patron of the arts. Today these American women who left their mark on Venice surround my home here. I live across the Grand Canal from the Guggenheim and the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac. My grocery store stands in the shadow of the Palazzo Orfei (today known as the Palazzo Fortuny on the Campo San Beneto) and the Palazzo Barbaro is a mere stone’s throw away.
Colnaghi: Private Exhibit at Abbazia di San Gregorio
During the Biennale Opening Week, I attended countless parties – but one of my favorites was the invitation from Parisian interior designer Chahan Minassian, Richard Nathan and Jorge Coll, the Spanish art dealer, and the CEO of Colnaghi, one of the world’s oldest and most significant art galleries. In the historic Abbazia di San Gregorio, Chahan Minassian created his signature atmosphere incorporating Colnaghi master paintings with vintage and modern furniture and design showing how one lives with art and antiques. The collaboration is “the home of a 21st-century traveller” illustrating the lifestyle of a modern-day collector. And much like the Rothschild home I featured in last months blog, the Abbazia di San Gregorio encapsulates the timeless spirit of the Grand Tourist in a contemporary setting. Just as in love and in science, in interiors opposites attract. The juxtaposition of contemporary furnishings set amidst medieval architecture and art spanning the centuries is simply sexy.
While the exhibit is private, Colnaghi will take private appointments to shop the exhibit where all the art is for sale. Of the Grand Tour connection, Jorge Coll of Colnaghi explains,
“Throughout this project, we want to show that a collection is not just a pool of assets: its real value lies in its connection with the life of a collector and is built from memories, experiences, friendships and discoveries. Building a collection is a voyage of discovery and, as with every voyage, the traveler needs guides if he or she is to arrive at the right destination. The collector needs to have good people to do research, to create the right relationship with the experts and dealers to ensure that what is collected is something that he or she can feel proud of and enjoy, something that will live on into the future.”
A Private Tour of Abbazia di San Gregorio
Over the years on The Antiques Diva blog, I’ve written frequently about the Grand Tour – and last month after my visit to see Alessandro in China, I introduced the Silk Road into my dialogue. His book detailing his journey bicycling from Venice to China comes out soon and I’m anticipating its release. Silk is the thread that unravels in my mind as my mind shifts from the Colnaghi private exhibit in Venice to the Palazzo Fortuny. While you can’t visit the Fortuny factory itself – the process is still a tightly woven secret – you can visit the 15th C Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei where one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century lived and created. Mariano Fortuny was a 19th/20th C Renaissance man and perhaps one of the people from heaven I’d most like to meet. While we think of Fortuny for fabric – his stretch and influence go beyond textiles. He was a pioneer photographer, an inventor of theatre and stage lighting plus he patented a plethora of inventions, among them a machine for pleating silk which he used to create his Grecian-style “Delphos” dresses. In his will, Mariano spelled out his wishes that the factory no longer makes the Delphos gown after his wife Henriette’s death.
15th C Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei where Mariano Fortuny lived
Knowing the rarity of these gowns, my friend Nancy Heckler donated her mother’s Delphos gown to the museum. (You can find out more about Nancy’s mother’s foundation by visiting the janetcramerfund.com). When the curators opened the box and unfolded the pleated Japanese silk dress they wept. The dress now is on display in a room layered in antique and oriental fabrics alongside more exotic artifacts and patterns from Africa, Central America, and Polynesia. The room is indeed another tribute to the Grand Tour and beyond. It’s a glimpse into the objects that inspired an artist from around the world – and perhaps a glimpse into one of the greatest minds on the intellectual and artistic scene at the turn of the 19th century.
I always joke that I wish my friends could see into my own mind. While I’m far from an intellectual, my mind is nevertheless a beautiful place. I dream in colors that Pantone hasn’t classified yet. As I begin the process of writing my book I’m seeking the words to describe that cavern in my head. In the end – art is often merely about just that. Expressing ourselves. I visited the Förg in Venice exhibit at the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac – one of the official collateral events of the Biennale. The curators of the exhibition have layered Gunther’s art over the family’s own tapestries which lined the walls of the piano noble. As we were leaving the exhibit which is held in a private home a member of the Polignac family stopped my friend Steven Moore – one of the worlds leading porcelain experts – to ask his opinion. And back up the stairs we climbed, to see a collection of tiles on the palazzo balcony walls. My friend named the artist he believed who had created the tilework and as we stood on the balcony overlooking the mouth of the Grand Canal again I smiled that smile of quiet contemplation and felt that perhaps finally – nearly 20 years later – I had the words to write in that journal after my one sentence, “I want a life less ordinary.”
Until next month,
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
I’ll ring in the New Year with my favorite Prosecco. I first became aware of the Prosecco house Bisol when I visited the winery earlier this year in Valdobbiadene for my birthday in the nearby Veneto region just an hour north of Venice. When I discovered it was the house Prosecco at the Gritti palace my good taste was reconfirmed. At my house, the glasses are vintage champagne coupes – a Christmas present from my mom several years ago. They aren’t the standard flute but rather champagne bowls and rumor has it (I don’t know if the story is true) that the shape of the round coupe is inspired by Marie Antoinette’s bosom! Along with my friend and co-host Steven Moore of the Antiques Roadshow who is visiting for the New Years celebrations I’ll be serving ‘cicchetti‘, small Venetian tapas-like hors-d’oeuvres, and of course, my Paris favorite: caviar on toast with a dollop of crème fraîche; served #DivaStyle from my antique 17th-century Spanish secretary which I’ve styled as a bar cart!
With New Year’s Eve right around the corner, the timing is perfect for Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More’s 3rd article in our series on holiday tablescapes and entertaining design inspiration! Here are Mimi’s tips on stocking the bar for holiday entertaining and how to style your bar cart with antiques – do NOT miss Mimi’s barmoire!
Felice anno nuovo!
Stocking the Bar for Holiday Entertaining
Photos by Eric Gray Photography
Nothing calls for celebrations and cocktails like the holidays. There’s no better way to make spirits bright than with a well-stocked bar and a well-mixed drink! Both are a must for anyone who enjoys entertaining at home. Read on to see how you can mix and a-mingle in the jinglin’ glass… and shake and stir your way through the holidaze with ease.
Stocking the bar can be both affordable and easy. There are several essential elements that need to be included for it to be considered a success. Since many of us may have limited space and/or limited funds, choosing wisely is very important. No matter your budget, the first rule of our guide, The Art of Stocking the Bar, is to buy quality ingredients. From bourbon to bubbly, the wines and spirits you choose to stock will set the tone for your bar and the type of cocktails you can concoct. You don’t have to go top shelf, and remember price doesn’t always mean quality. You do want to cover all your beverage bases, however, so we suggest you start with the following:
Wine & Spirits
- Champagne or Wine
Once you’ve taken stock of what you need to mix up some classic cocktails, like a French 75 or an Old Fashioned, add what you like to the above essentials. If it’s tequila, popular for shots and margaritas, you should definitely have a reposado and an añejo. If you’re a fan of whiskey, be sure to include a good Scotch whiskey, made from malted barley in Scotland, a bourbon, an essential American whiskey for the southern gentleman (that’s also great for sipping), and a classic rye from Canada. You may also want to add in some liqueurs like Cointreau, Campari, and both sweet and dry Vermouth, a key ingredient in iconic cocktails such as the Martini and the Manhattan.
Whether shaken or stirred, with a twist or with a chaser, all cocktails need mixers and garnishes. Which ones you decide to stock will depend on the drinks you want to make. When displayed in small glass bottles, mixers add a splash of color to your bar and make pouring a breeze. Garnishes, on the other hand, can take a boring French Blonde from oh to oh la la. They also give you something to nibble on while sipping your drink. These are our choices for basic mixers and garnishes:
- Club soda
- Tonic water
- Sodas – Coke, Sprite, 7-Up
- Ginger Ale
- Juices – orange, lemon, lime, cranberry, tomato, apple, pineapple
- Angostura Bitters (technically not a mixer — only a dash or two to add a bit of flavor to a drink)
- Simple Syrup (made by dissolving equal parts water and sugar over heat — will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator)
- Peels and Wedges – lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, grapefruit
- Fruits Soaked in Booze
- Spices – cinnamon, celery salt, clove, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, salt, pepper
- Veggies – pickled corn, asparagus, okra, beets, and cocktail onions; celery stalks
- Herbs – mint, rosemary, and basil
You have your booze, your bitters, and your bacon. When it comes to bar tools, only a few items are truly necessary to make a tasty toddy. Our favorite bar tools (and accouterments) include:
- Shaker, Mixing Glass, and Strainer
- Jigger – for all your measuring needs… try a 1 oz and 3/4 oz combo
- Bar Spoon – for all your stirring, mixing and layering needs
- Citrus Peeler and Handheld Citrus Press
- Ice Bucket and Tongs
You’ll also want to add your favorite cocktail recipe books, old or new. My favorite is The Coupe by our friend Brian Hart Hoffman. Brian has a fabulous coupe collection and offers tips for collecting coupes and styling a home bar, as well as drink recipes from some of our fave bars. We also keep monogrammed bar napkins and pretty hand towels readily available for spills and quick clean ups!
Next up… glassware. I love glasses like I do chairs — their different shapes and sizes, curves and angles. How you present your cocktails is almost as important as how you mix them. Having the proper glass for each cocktail isn’t a necessity, but it makes pouring and serving more fun. These glasses (and some red Solo cups) will see you through any soiree you might be planning:
- Coupe – our choice for serving cocktails that are shaken or stirred
- Champagne Flute – tall, slender, and fun… break out the bubbly
- Wine – white or red, and stemless — a real crowd pleaser, especially when serving batch cocktails
- Shot – that tequila isn’t going to shoot itself… and they’re fun to collect
- Highball – for any variety of liquor and mixer that your heart desires
- Rocks Glass – a short tumbler for making spirits bright… with ice or neat
Style and Location
Last, but definitely not least, is the style and location of your bar. We all want a home bar that’s welcoming and appealing to our guests, but make sure it’s fun and easy for you. Whether you mix Margaritas from a brass bar cart, or transform an antique placard into a barmoire — like we did — you can always personalize and elevate your cocktail hour.
Try these ideas for a stylish home bar that will shake things up a bit:
- Turn a console into a drinks station when space is limited. A pretty tray will keep a cocktail shaker, pitcher, and liquor bottles in one place, leaving plenty of room for setting up glassware. The tray also proves handy in keeping everything looking organized as well as making things easier to move around when needed.
- An antique chest or buffet makes an ideal bar. Place crystal glasses and decanters filled with your favorite aged liquors on an antique brass or silver tray to make spirits really shine. Add a lamp, artwork and flowers to bring color and height. You can store napkins, tools, extra glasses, and your favorite recipe books in the drawers or cabinets below.
An antique bar cabinet looks just as beautiful open as it does closed, especially when you set the bar high! That’s exactly what we did when we recently removed a built-in desk from our kitchen during a renovation and replaced it with a gorgeous Louis Philippe period placard that we had at our store. Originally a dark cherry wood, Laurent bleached it and added a lime wax before installing it. We turned the center section into a bar to store our collection of antique French ice buckets and antique and vintage glassware, and called on Santa’s elves at Barri Thompson Interiors once again to sip and style the day away just in time for the holidays! It was nothing less than magical, proving once again that mixing in antiques will always #raisethebar!
Antique and Vintage Glassware
Cheers to that!
Today in part 2 of our tablescapes series, Mimi is making s’mores on a mohair rug – #DivaStyle. The Christmas s’mores bar Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More shares below is simply divine – both the recipes themselves and the stunning photographs. Perfect for holiday entertaining – or any time you want a simple, elegant dessert that is dramatic, fun and easy!
Dreaming of a White Christmas S’mores Bar
Photos by Eric Gray Photography
Last week, we were all merry and bright for our Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch. This week, we’re going dark(er) and decadent for a winter picnic like no other. For our second tablescape, Dreaming of a White Christmas S’mores Bar, we’re taking the art of picnicking to a whole new level. Instead of roasting chestnuts on an open fire, we’re toasting marshmallows on an open fire and making s’mores… on a mohair rug.
I don’t know about your weather, but ours has been more than a bit frightful lately. The kind of weather that makes you want to stay inside and snuggle up by the fire. If you have a small home or studio apartment, I’m going to show you (with a little help from my friends at Barri Thompson Interiors) how to get creative and host a fun holiday soiree picnic-style around your coffee table. You’ll definitely have your guests Dreaming of a White Christmas…
A Closer Look
A walk on the wild(er) side. The luxurious look and feel of the natural undyed, mid-century Turkish Angora woven blanket from Paige Albright Orientals that Barri chose to cover the homeowner’s custom-made chunky white coffee table was just what we needed to spice up our picnic, along with a spiced rum cocktail, of course. I know most of you probably don’t have a tiger-striped mohair rug laying around — but if you do… If you don’t, you definitely want to add it to your list! IT’S. THAT. DAMN. FABULOUS!
Let Them Eat Cake
S’mores are the quintessential dessert — they require no baking! You’re free to choose as few or as many ingredients as you like, leaving plenty of time to concentrate on the tablescape and signature cocktail. For this place setting, Barri mixed and matched selections from the homeowner’s collection of modern tableware. She selected a white charger that really stood out against that fabulous mohair rug and anchored the black La Chamba pottery. The salad plate was adorned with fresh cut greenery, while the place card from Target was tied to the “bowl with one handle,” which was filled with marshmallows, tiny chocolate bits, and pieces of butterscotch. The coating of powdered sugar we added to the marshmallows (to keep them from getting sticky) added a slight shine to them, and we placed a sparkly napkin ring in the center of them for an extra pop of shimmer and shine! Because more is more, and we love shiny finishes, we chose Gold flatware by West Elm. Spiced Rum Old Fashioned cocktails were served in smoky gray rocks glasses from West Elm.
Since the S’mores Maker, filled with graham crackers, white chocolate peppermint bark, and marshmallows, had to be in the center of the table, Barri used gold mercury glass votives to magically light up the space. She randomly placed them on the table creating an oh-so romantic atmosphere. Votives give off a soft, beautiful glow, and because they shine the light upward, they make everyone look good. Voila! Who can complain about that? Just for kicks, she grabbed an antique wooden saddle stool that she saw sitting in a bookcase and placed a moss nest with a glitter ornament on it. She then added some vintage sleigh bells… for a very “beautiful sight!” Often, it’s the simplest things that make the biggest impact.
Barri also threw various pillows from PAO around the room. Incredibly stylish and versatile, they made for perfect party seating and snuggling. The neutral colors of the pillows, as well as the butterfly chair with the taupe Mongolian sheepskin cover, also from PAO, added just the right amount of texture… and had us dreaming of this White Christmas for days!
The best thing about s’mores is there’s no wrong way to make them. Here are a few of our favorite combinations that will have your guests asking for s’more.
Mimi’s S’mores Recipes
Classic S’mores Recipes
- Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
- Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
- Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
- Oreo Cookies
- Creamy Peanut Butter
- Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
- Ritz Crackers
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
Sweet and Salty S’mores
- Ritz Crackers
- Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moremallows
- Cookies and Creme S’mores
- Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
- Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Crème Candy Bar
- Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows
What’s your favorite? Let us know!
Our next tablescape is a Holly Jolly Dinner Party. Instead of toasting marshmallows on a mohair rug we’ll be toasting “A day when cheer and gladness blend, When heart meets heart, And friend meets friend.”
Your home is a reflection of who you are – your travels, your passions, your lifestyle. As The Antiques Diva, I always incorporate antiques and vintage pieces into my home, mixed with modern and far more practical items for everyday living! When I entertain, I enjoy using antiques I’ve collected in new ways that showcase their beauty, but at the same time demonstrate that antiques are anything but old-fashioned and stuffy. Living with antiques is an art and a passion – and I love to share my home and #DivaLifestyle with my guests, especially during the holidays.
Today we’re starting a series of blog posts by Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More full of #designinspiration and tips on using antiques and vintage pieces for holiday tablescapes, bar carts and entertaining! Mimi is thinking pink! Are these tabletops not the most stunning Christmas shades of pink you’ve ever seen! I’d love to be invited to this ladies brunch!
Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch
‘Tis the season… to deck the halls, the walls, and the tables! Whether you’re celebrating all that’s merry and bright with an intimate group of friends or hosting a large family gathering on Christmas Eve, you always want to make sure your holiday tabletop shines. This year, I called on a few of my favorite friends for some sparkling inspiration. WOW! Did they ever deliver! You might have seen some sneak peeks if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the three table settings (plus a bar) that we created, along with detailed photos. So… put on your sleigh bells, pour yourself some bubbly, and fa la la la long…
TABLESCAPE #1 WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS TIME LADIES BRUNCH
When it comes to setting a festive table, especially one in shades of pink, like my Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch, no one does it better than Barri Thompson Interiors. I met Barri shortly after moving to Birmingham, and we became fast friends. When Laurent and I purchased our home, there was no question who would be our designer. Barri’s love of color and her enthusiasm for design is contagious. I recently asked Barri and her assistant Melinda Musgrove (one of the floral designers on the C. Wayman Floral & Events Team for Cardi B’s baby shower before joining BTI) to design not one, but THREE, holiday tablescapes for a photoshoot. They didn’t hesitate to say yes! Photos by Eric Gray Photography.
Barri embraces the romantic appeal entertaining at home has. It’s a well thought out affair for her, where “fancy” doesn’t mean complicated. She brings her signature modern style to each tablescape, yet she has the uncanny ability to mix in vintage and antique pieces — making things that probably shouldn’t work together look enchanting. Non-traditional details help to define her Christmas tablescapes, which are made festive with fresh flowers, boughs and greenery from the yard, signature drinks, and a break from the usual red and green colors associated with Christmas.
A pink and green color scheme. The green plates used as chargers make the mix and match place settings, in various shades of pink and green, pop when placed directly on my bleached walnut table. The vintage Tulu rug and the bright colors and bold pattern on the antique Louis XVI style chairs also stand out against the wood.
The table is set à la française — French style, with the tines pointing down. Barri chose to use heirloom silver passed down to me from a great aunt, Pyrex chargers, a gift from my mother, beautifully detailed antique Limoges dishes, and Raynaud Festivite salad plates. As you can see, my love of antiques and vintage is not limited to furniture!
Barri has such a discerning eye. She took the dainty little Limoges butter pats and placed two yummy macarons in each. What a delightful surprise! She also mixed the stemware, using Parklane by Mikasa and Manhattan Gold by Union Street. Blush pleated metallic napkins and chandelier napkin rings by Deborah Rhodes, were used to add extra shine.
Melinda placed a 19th century Limoges fruit bowl that is part of my china collection in the center of the table to hold a large glitter bottle brush Christmas tree surrounded by pale pink peonies, silver brunia and gumball pink hypericum berries. She ran a glitter garland down the center of the table and filled in with the live berries and more silver brunia, adding champagne colored bottle brush trees inside glass on each side of the centerpiece for height. Blush colored rope taper candles from Greentree Home in antique silver candle holders add additional height and provide elegant light.
Will any of you be hosting a holiday fête this season? If so, these 5 tips will help make you the hostess with the mostest:
1. Decide On A Color Scheme Or Theme — Think outside of the box with new color combos to create a fresh tablescape. Consider color combinations other than the traditional red and green. Dishes and glassware, as well as florals, are great ways to bring color to your table.
2. Get Creative — Take a cue from Barri and use things in unexpected ways like she did with the butter pats. We’ve been trained to set forks on the right and knives on the left, but holiday tablescapes give us the freedom to step away from tradition. Play with the napkins. Move them around until you find the perfect spot. And never feel like you have to cover a wooden table! The texture of the wood just creates another layer.
3. Make It Personal — Work with what you have. Don’t think you have to go out and buy everything new. You can’t go wrong with a mix of modern and antique tableware, or high end and low end. If you have a fabulous collection of sterling napkin rings or colored coupes, use them! Mix Limoges with Pyrex like we did! We played around with my china and crystal and swapped plates and glasses and candlesticks in and out many times before we settled on what we used.
4. Keep It Fresh — Go big on fresh flowers, garlands, and greenery. Natural elements are key to making a holiday tablescape memorable. Tuck sprigs of greenery into the tablescape or use them to adorn plates or candle holders.
5. Add Some Sparkle — Metallic finishes just draw people in. Whether its metallic threads in linens or glitter ornaments, everyone loves a little sparkle!
*All other table accessories except sterling candlesticks are from Table Matters.
Don’t miss our next tablescape, Dreaming of a White Christmas. We’re roasting marshmallows and making s’mores… on a mohair rug.
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
3 Smart Methods For Using Books as Decor
I’m of the same mind as Cicero on this one… I think that having books in your home is essential. I have a habit of picking up books while traveling. My favorite souvenirs are antique, hardbound novels by an author who had written in the particular city I am visiting. I bought Jack Kerouac in Oregon, Hemingway in Paris, and Robert Louis Stevenson in Scotland. Rekindling beautiful memories while going about your daily rituals, is a classic DIVA move!
Unlike other holiday purchases, like a ridiculous T-shirt or another coffee mug, a well-cultivated library can be used in multiple ways around your home.
#1 Books as a Knife Holder
Some of the most practical pieces in our home can be an eyesore, so I love this charming solution to an annoying issue.
I keep my knives separated by size and shape, making the division provided by the book covers ideal. Depending on your needs, the covers can be glued together for additional stability, however, it isn’t necessary.
- Books – You could use vintage cookbooks, but I like to have my cookbooks easily accessible. Instead, I used 3 books I have thoroughly read that were not completely precious to me. The books should have a hardcover and I recommend something quite long- the thicker the book, the more stable the base.
- Rope – I used a piece of old rope (this, in particular, was a Ralph Lauren rope-belt with leather tipped ends that I picked up at a thrift store for one dollar).
Note: Make sure you dry your knives properly before putting them away, as the water easily damages the books.
#2 Books as Floating Shelves
- I bought these floating book mounts on Amazon:
- The mounts are easily attached to the wall and create a whimsical ledge on which the most beautiful pieces of your library become additional space for lamps, eyeglasses by your bedside, or even a fabulous hat.
- Choose within a theme: books you intend to read, your favorite books, books which evoke strong memories, or even books that provide a pop of a complementary color to the space.
#3 Books as Pedestals for Antiques
I am a Stylist, not a Librarian, so I have no problem organizing my library by color. If your brain works differently than mine, you may stack books by author or subject.
- Simply stack a group of books from large to small.
- Place the books absolutely anywhere! I like to use them as a solution for hiding cords or unsightly details at home. I stack them to cover an unruly lamp cord, or in empty spaces that are easily accessible to a potential reader. Truly, ANYWHERE!
- Place some of your favorite objects on top, to highlight your treasures and collections and help elevate them into art.
I love incorporating vintage clothing into my wardrobe – it’s wearable art! While I often drape a boldly colored scarf around my neck or bag to add a punch of color, I also decorate with silk scarves! In my own home, I tied brightly colored Hermes scarves around pillows on my white leather couch. I’ve been shopping for a special vintage scarf to frame and hang in my boudoir – one I can easily take down and wear when the mood strikes! #DivaTip: Hermes scarf display kit attaches your precious scarf using magnets, so the material is never damaged!
Mark Hill told me the silk Christian Dior silk scarf:
was a personal gift c1955 from Christian Dior himself to concert pianist Marion Stein when she was the Countess of Harewood – it seems he gave such scarves to his favoured clients at the time, with each one personalised with the name of the recipient. Stein’s husband, the Earl of Harewood, was 6th in line to the British throne at the time, so he had to ask permission to marry her! They drifted apart when the Earl fell in love with another woman and, after her divorce, she married Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal party. Yes – this is the same Jeremy Thorpe who is currently being played by Hugh Grant in the BBC’s ‘A Very English Scandal.’
The only other examples of this scarf (given to and named for other clients of Dior’s) that I can find are in the Henry Ford Museum and the Musee de la Mode in Paris.
A unique mid-1950s Christian Dior cream silk scarf, screenprinted in black, brown, orange, blue, and yellow with a design inspired by Prehistoric cave paintings, and the wording “ce carré de soie a été réalisé pour Christian Dior d’après les peintures des Grottes de la Dordogne et spécialement imprimé pour Madame le Comtesse de Harewood.” (This square of silk was made for Christian Dior after the paintings of the caves of the Dordogne eand specially printed for Madame the Countess of Harewood), also screenprinted ‘Charin – Paris’, 83cm by 86cm.
As it is unlikely that the descendents of the other recipients will sell such a piece, this is a rare opportunity to own a very personal gift from Christian Dior, who was at the height of his career, to a lady with a fascinating life.
Lot 322: A UNIQUE MID-1950S CHRISTIAN DIOR CREAM SILK SCARF, SCREENPRINTED IN BLACK