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,
While taking my summer vacation in the Amalfi Coast this summer one of my favorite things I did – besides merely lounge poolside in my BoxerinBlue swimwear under the wafting smell of the lemon trees – was visit the Ruins of Pompeii, which I talked about in a recent blog post when I announced my furniture collection – The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray.
Pompeii continues to fascinate – Mount Vesuvius had erupted in a phenomenal fashion straight off a Hollywood movie script – perfectly preserving the ancient town of Pompeii and the surrounding countryside in ash. The result – while devastating at the time, burying the people alive – did preserve the works of arts for centuries allowing us to see frescoes from the time of Jesus. (Segway from religion to sex… ) While the frescoes in the brothels were… uhm… especially interesting… what continues to fascinate me is the lush decadent lifestyles they lived in ancient Roman times. When I think of 2000 years ago, I imagine people walking around barefoot and yet in Pompeii the rich were living in villas I’d be happy to call home today.
Pompeii was to Rome like the Hamptons are to New York. And these villas surely must have been where the profession of interior designer came about. The wealthy employed sculptors and painters and other artisans to create an atmosphere that reinforced their position in society. In addition to proper sewage, they had gyms and swimming pools, libraries and courtyards with gorgeous mosaics… but for me… it’s all about the frescoes. The villas were painted ceiling to floor with motifs that were anything from actual images of other villas to architectural elements such as porticos or even cards, rivers and coastlines as well trees, fruits, flowers, birds… But my favorite room, a kitchen in one of the villas, reminded me of my own home. The walls of the kitchen were painted with swimming fish found in the sea nearby.
At my home in Venice, I live in a small apartment a stone’s throw from the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, on a side canal just off the Grand Canal. Soon after I got an apartment here I found myself dreaming of water – which apparently is a trait of Venetians. Water is as much a part of daily life in Venice as is air and breathing. Meanwhile fish swim in the canals outside my kitchen window, they are served in every restaurant and I even have pet goldfish (Frank Sinatra Jr and Frank Jr Jr – fans of the TV series Friends will catch the joke in the name of the later). Wanting to connect the interior of my apartment to my surroundings, I decided to commission the artisans from Porte Italia to come and paint fish swimming down my entry hall. I chose to do the entire entrance in a dramatic high gloss black paint – painting the ceiling as well as walls which makes the space feel infinitely larger.
A fan of Fornasetti, I had the artisans nod towards Piero’s style. The fish swim towards a reflection pool in the middle – aka, an 18th C Gilded Mirror with the original mottled and melting mercury glass. The mirrors frame design is straight out of a fresco design in Pompeii, a basket overflowing with pomegranates and roses. This mirror created most likely between Louis 15 and Louis 16 reign reflects the notion we discussed in a recent blog – where does design inspiration come from? Everything we see and feel and do, influence who we are and our design aesthetic. Louis 16th furniture makers were heavily influenced by Pompeii, just as I was heavily influenced by Louis 15 and 16th when designing my furniture collection – The Antiques Diva Collection for Aidan Gray, which debuts this week at High Point Market.
Fall 2018 High Point Market I’m speaking on 2 panels that broach the subject of Design Inspiration. I’ll be Facebook Living both events – so don’t worry if you’re not able to be there in person, know you can always catch it online on my personal page Toma Clark Haines.
Inspiration Behind the Designs – Saturday October 13 2-3pm
Surya Showplace 4100
Join interior and product designers Mary Douglas Drysdale, Michel Smith Boyd, Toma Clark Haines (“The Antiques Diva”), Xander Noori, and Keon Khajavi-Noori as they discuss where they seek inspiration, how they overcome the dreaded creative block, and give tips and tools for recharging your creative batteries.
Designing Women of the World – Sunday October 14 1.30 to 2.30pm
Suites at Market Square Seminar Room SAMS T 1014
How do you prioritize travel as a busy designer and business owner? How do you prepare for design inspiration at a particular destination? How does getting outside of your local marketplace help your business? Join our traveled designers as they discuss these questions and many more, while giving tips and inspiration on how to incorporate travel into your design process. Panelists include Adriana Hoyos, Tina Nicole, Toma Clark Haines, Sandra Espinet, and Aviva Stanoff with Deb Barrett as moderator. Reception and book signings to follow.
Until then, Be Inspired.
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
Cocktail hour is de riguer, ca Toma. Whatever the time of day, my antique Spanish secretary is stocked and ready to indulge. In January I shared with you one of my favorite cocktails, a French 75 – what I call Coco Chanel with a Dagger. While I’ll always be a champagne girl, since moving to Venice, I’ve adopted a new favorite aperitivo: a Spritz! sweet, bitter, citrusy, sparkling and slightly salty, a Spritz is delightful any time of day!
Nearly every trace of Austria’s occupation of Venice in the 19th century is gone, except the Spritz! Made with white wine and sparkling water, Hapsburg soldiers brought ‘sprizzen’ to Venice. While keeping the name, Venice added the attitude and the color with a dash of bitter orange flavored liqueur.
When in Venice, expect to pay around €2.50 – unless you too are addicted the Gritti Hotel, where I happily pay €15 for the ambiance and views. Your Spritz can also be made with Aperol or Campari – slightly sweeter or more bitter. While Aperol is my favorite, Select is perhaps less well known around the world so I want to share with you my recipe for a summer Venetian Spritz – Select style! If you prefer Campari or Aperol, just substitute bitters!
Speaking of substitutions, of course ca Toma I substitute the white wine with prosecco!
Venetian Spritz Recipe
• 4 ounces prosecco
• Sparkling water
• 1 ½ to 2 ounces Select
• Orange slice
• 1 green olive
In a white wine glass over three or four ice cubes, pour the prosecco, a splash of sparkling water and the Select -, in that order so the Select sinks to the bottom. Garnish with a slice of orange and an olive.
Book an antique buying tour to Italy – and be sure to include Venice on your itinerary, I’d love to introduce you to Toma’s Venice!
Toma – The Antiques Diva
With my job as CEO of The Antiques Diva® & Co travel is my job- organizing and leading antique buying tours in 15 countries in Europe, Asia and America – I’m sometimes on the road for 3 months at a stretch and regularly buy round-the-world airline tickets -they save me money and time, and often help me score upgrades to 1st class. I literally live out of my suitcases!!! I bounce from hotel to AirBnB to friends’ guestrooms, taking clients on With my job as CEO of The Antiques Diva® & Co travel is my job- organizing and leading antique buying tours in 15 countries in Europe, Asia and America – I’m sometimes on the road for 3 months at a stretch and regularly buy round-the-world airline tickets -they save me money and time, and often help me score upgrades to 1st class, like my recent flight above to Argentina. I literally live out of my suitcases!!! I bounce from hotel to AirBnB to friends’ guestrooms, researching new tours and making new antique vendor contacts, taking clients on tour and meeting with the press, speaking at conferences, and sourcing the world’s best antique vendors. All this travel means I’ve become a whiz at packing. In fact my suitcase (er, make that “suitcases” depending upon the number of shoes I pack) practically packs itself. Previously I’ve shared with you some of my packing tips learned from my experience on the road the past 20 years. Today Rome Antiques Diva Guide Désirée shares some of her travel advice. (Désirée is our one of our vintage fashion experts: she has amazing fashion style and knowledge and secret resources in vintage fashion with her background as a costume designer and makeup artist. You must must book a Rome vintage fashion tour!)
10 Pieces of Travel Advice from a Diva Guide
#1 Enrich your in-between moments.
Travel can be hard- you are away from everything familiar to you. Flying can be overwhelming and long periods of sitting can be unbearable. Travel with the things that make you happy. Wear your favorite wrap or shawl and bring cozy socks on the plane. Download movies, or research the in-flight movie list and make a plan (you don’t want to end up watching a talking animal movie because you were sick of flipping through your choices). Pick up amazing treats and eats at the airport. I love to buy macaroons in the Paris airport and eat them on the plane. I also bring stationary and catch up on correspondence on the flight. Plan for all of these details and it gives me little things to look forward to throughout the journey.
#2 Get your ZZZZZ’s under control!
Toma Clark Haines says it’s the secret to her high energy! Learn to sleep with earplugs and a sleep mask and you can sleep anywhere in the world. Develop a plan for jet lag, so that you can make the most of your time on holiday.
#3 Carry an empty water bottle on airplanes.
Fill your bottle once you get through security and keep it with you. Staying hydrated may seem like unoriginal advice- but it is an essential part of traveling well.
#4 Bring something to read.
I love using my Kindle because it is so light, but even if you have to carry your belongings on your back, a book is always worth it.
#5 Keep a piece of citrus fruit in your carry-on luggage.
When I have reached ‘that point’ in the flight where the space and the food and the people are getting to me, the smell and flavor of an orange is a huge boost to my mood and my immune system.
#6 Disaster-proof your trip.
Bring extra passport photos and clearly mark your luggage. Passport photos are so easy to pick up in any big city, don’t wait until you need them, to buy them. Mark your bags with fun luggage tags and easily identifiable details. And finally… take a photo on your phone of your luggage at the airport. If something doesn’t arrive, it will be much easier to describe your bag to the customer service representative.
#7 Know the culture of tipping at your destination.
For example, in Italy leave yellow change (small copper) for a cup of coffee and a couple of euros for a meal. This is an easy detail to research before you leave home and will keep you from insulting the customer service at your destination.
#8 Learn a few words of the native language.
It helps open up the dialogue with the locals. Make interacting with you as painless as possible. I have found that most people are very receptive to my efforts. There are always exceptions.
#9 Know yourself.
Understand what you CANNOT live without and bring it with you. I always bring my own chapstick and shampoo because I am picky. However I am easy going about food and am willing to try almost anything twice (once for adventure, twice to be sure). If you are really picky about food, bring some rations with you so that you won’t be miserable.
#10 Book a tour with a DIVA!
Chances are a guide from The Antiques Diva® & Co knows just the best nooks and crannies of a city you are visiting and can give you an insiders view. This will save you TIME which is our most precious resource – especially while traveling.
DREAMING OF A TRIP TO ITALY?
BOOK AN ANTIQUES, DESIGN INSPIRATION OR VINTAGE FASHION TRIP
Ciao, Bella! Today Antiques Diva Guide Désirée is taking us antiques shopping in Rome! Whether you’re shopping for vintage fashion, antiques or seeking design inspiration, Italian design is guaranteed to deliver! From dodging Vespa’s in the hustle and bustle of Roman and Renaissance cities to cruising the softly undulating hills of the Tuscan countryside, Italy is brimming treasures just waiting to be uncovered. This is the perfect country to plan a multi-day, bespoke Italy antique tour, going from Rome to Milan to Florence to Venice to Siena or a hilltop village in between; finding the best prices on mid-century pieces, contemporary ceramics and glass and a gorgeous selection of rustic farmhouse and more traditional antiques. Our Italy Antiques Diva Guide will take the guesswork out of where to go, creating well-researched itineraries for you, as she picks you up from your hotel and escorts you through this enchanting nation, translating and negotiating on your behalf the entire time. Because our guides are locals, they have relationships with vendors and know exactly where to take you based on your style and budget, maximizing your time and money while on tour. Today, Rome Antiques Diva Guide Désirée is taking us behind-the-scenes on a recent tour.
Toma, The Antiques Diva
I’m excited to introduce our new Rome Antiques Diva Guide, Désirée Marie Townley, vintage fashion, couture and costume design and makeup artistry expert, and author of the popular blog THE CUT AND THE CLOTH. In addition to leading Rome antiques and vintage shopping tours, Désirée will be a regular contributor here on The Antiques Diva® & Co blog. With her trained eye for detail and world travels, she brings an artistic perspective to sourcing antiques and vintage fashion. If you’re attending our 5th Annual Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch on Jan 21 (and I hope you are!) You can meet Désirée and some of our other Diva Guides in person. If not, book an Italy antiques buying, vintage fashion or design inspiration tour! Today Désirée is sharing a few tips she learned 1st hand for chic and stylish touring in Paris.
Chic Packing for Paris
Paris is its own cliche… full of things you have seen in movies and read about in books. There is a reason that descriptions and images of these streets are so widely used- this is one of the most incredible cities in the world. The more familiar the city becomes to me, the more I love her. It is impossible for me to be bored or hungry here.
To increase your pleasure of traveling to any city, I recommend engulfing yourself in cinematic and literary references to the culture. For Paris, I recommend:
• Watch: Paris Was a Woman to fall in love with the history of Paris in the 1920’s
• Watch: Midnight in Paris directed by Woody Allen, for fun
• Read: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway because it is a classic
My sister had recently turned 30, and as a gift, my parents decided to bring her to Paris to meet me. I had to give her something memorable for such an important birthday so I sent a box containing a Chanel handbag with a note that said, “The French respect Chanel. Meet me in Paris with this bag on your arm”. So she did. My whole family did.
DREAMING OF A TRIP TO ITALY?
BOOK AN ANTIQUES, DESIGN INSPIRATION or VINTAGE FASHION TRIP
In between my packing up my Berlin apartment and planning The Antiques Diva Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch on January 21, 2018, I’m making a list of all the weekend trips I want to take once I’m settled in Venice. Although Venice has my heart, I’ll confess to a love affair with all of Italy. Today, I’m reminiscing on some sidetrips to Firenze while on Antiques Diva® Italy tours…
I personally tend to stay more frequently south of Florence than within the city itself because I like the Tuscan countryside – two of my favorites that are expensive but worth the $$$ are Borgo San Pietro and Il Borro.
If you’re only in Florence two days you want to stay in the city and make the most of being there, so you can walk everywhere and be in the heart of it all! Now you know I love a good hotel – a fancy 5 start hotel has me at hello! HOWEVER, I will tell you that if you’re only sleeping in the room and looking to save money so you can spend it on antiques – The Ritz Florence has huge clean rooms BUT don’t mistake this with the real Ritz, there is no association – it’s a bargain hotel with that I’ve stayed at for 65€ a night, good location, good views, sparse rooms. NOTHING remotely fancy – basic basic basic – but a good bargain.
If you’re looking for something a bit nicer, but still budget, Casa Howard at around 150€ a night is 4 stars and has a good number of Italian antiques.
If money is no object I love the Four Seasons – guests live better than the Medici’s! (and they should given the $$$).
Antiques Diva offers an antiques and design 1-day tour in Florence that covers a huge area if you’re interested, but you can meander Oltraarno on your own and get some great window shopping in. Learn more about Antique and Mid-Century Sourcing in Florence
If you want to go to any museums pay the fee to book in advance. The queues in Italy are outstandingly long – it’s worth the surcharge to prepay to stand in the short line. Remember ALL the small shops close at lunchtime – so plan accordingly and eat a fabulous lunch.
Naturally you’ll want to stroll along Via Tornibuona, where the well-known fashion designers such as Prada, Loro Piano, Pucci, and Cavalli have their shops. And if you’re a bargain hunter like I am, plan a trip to the Designer Outlet Mall in Val di Chiana. Learn more about Fashion Shopping in Florence
I’m presently flying from Bangkok en route to Oklahoma (don’t you love in-flight WiFi?) to spend Thanksgiving with my family for a too-short but so much needed holiday weekend. After visiting my workshop in Thailand to finalize my TCH Collection: Couture Jewelry before our official January 17, 2018, Paris launch; I’m heading back to the US for a speaking engagement in Jacksonville, FL: London Calling: 2017 Art and Antiques Show. Then I’m off to Berlin to pack up my apartment and the movers arrive to transport everything I own to my new life in Venice…. Imagine moving all your possessions via boat down the Grand Canal!
YES! I’m moving to Venice! It’s official. I’m becoming Venetian. I’ll start off 2018 with a new home in Italy! And I’m fortunate to already have a slew of friends in Venice – in fact, last November I celebrated with locals as well as friends and colleagues who traveled to Venice specifically to come to my fête!
Thanksgiving in Venice
Just like back home, the day before Thanksgiving starts with a last-minute run to the market. Of course when you’re in Venice that means shopping in one of the many open-air markets to get your vegetables! (hmm… they even had a nice selection of Thanksgiving seafood!) We forgot to order our turkey – and were saved by the local supermarket who actually had just one turkey in stock!
So many decisions…
The crab looks fresh, antipasti perhaps? When dining at friends’ houses I’m often asked to bring my stuffed mushrooms… Could I do crab stuffed mushrooms for a Venetian twist on my classic?
Now to find my gondola in the parking lot…
T’was the Night Before Thanksgiving…
My dear friends Derrick Ricketts, VP of Dallas Market Center, and John Cohn flew in from Texas to celebrate Derrick’s Birthday Weekend (you know they were not about to miss this Thanksgiving meal!). In the middle of the night before Thanksgiving I heard such a clutter, I arose to see what was the matter! With me in my cap (and Derrick in his kerchief), we dashed the down the stairs to discover that John had jetlag and decided to prep the turkey.
The next morning we spent the day rearranging the Venetian sunroom to accommodate our dinner party. Our guest list was only 8 – but knowing this is Italy and Italian friends always bring friends, we sat 4 extra chairs for guests. Meanwhile just as we’re seeing if we can squeeze in one more seat… I got a phone call from Georgina – the head chef for Currey & Co – she’s seen on Facebook that I’m celebrating in Venice! “My son is in Florence for university – and we’re so sad he’s missing his first Thanksgiving while living abroad.” Needless to say, I made room for an extra seat so Max could take the train in from Florence and join last minute! Isn’t that the spirit of Thanksgiving – opening your home to friends and those in need of a warm meal? We found room for Max to stay the night sleeping on the couch after our unorthodox Thanksgiving dinner!
The house where we stayed in is an Airbnb property, and previously was the residence of the mother of Diva Guide Orseola.
And speaking of Diva Guides – Diva Guide Gail our UK Agent flew in from her home in Bath, England, for her first Thanksgiving meal!
Everyone pitched in to help! This was all about community effort! And in fact, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Community!
Venetian Diva Guides Chiara and Orseolo guaranteed that the vino sampling started early… and lasted until late! In Venice, they have a saying. “Water rots the wood.” Naturally, that means you have to drink Prosecco!
The tacchino needs more basting, then back in the oven!
The contorni are underway,
Ready for the main course with a turkey platter! But this isn’t just any turkey platter – this is a turkey platter that Antiques Roadshow Host Steven Moore brought me as a present from Burleigh pottery where he is the Creative Director. I’m not allowed to tell about the platters royal lineage… but let’s just say our turkey was served on a platter with pedigree. While Steven lives in England he’s practically Venetian royalty himself. He’s here in town whenever he gets the chance having declared himself an honorary Venetian.
Our Thanksgiving in Venice buffet.
Thanksgiving dinner by candlelight.
And of course, this Oklahoma-bred Diva insisted on starting with her Mama’s deviled eggs! After all, it’s not Thanksgiving without deviled eggs!
In case you’re wondering what we did with that crab? We had crab pasta for lunch early in the day! When in Italy, do as the Italians do!
A traditional turkey dinner, with all the trimmings.
Saluti! From our FriendsGiving in Venice; thank you to my circle of friends …
In all, we ended up with 12 at the table – a combination of Americans, Venetians, Brits even our Belgian AD&CO Logistics team!
Our Venetian Thanksgiving ends with taxis to the airport.
Wishing you the happiest Thanksgiving with family, or FriendsGiving with the family you’ve created, from my house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
Toma – The Antiques Diva
Shhhh… I have a secret I want to share: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m besotted with Venice. On the blog, on social media, in person – at any opportunity I want to talk about Venice, dream about Venice – and visit Venice. Living in Berlin, it’s just a short flight away, and I’ve been known to pop in for a tour with a client, a meeting with a new secret source, or to attend a fabulous design salon… and always a prosecco with our two divine Venice guides, Chiara and Orseola. Last year I started taking Italian lessons – because it’s a beautiful language, and I want to be able to greet my friends in their own language. My love affair with Venice is only growing stronger – so I’m taking the plunge! I’m going to experience la dolce vita for more than a few days – I’m packing up my Berlin apartment and moving to Venice very soon. For a few years – I’m going to continue my Italian affair, indulge my passion and live in this beautiful city that makes my heart so happy. There are so many reasons I’m passionate about Venice, the following story is one of them. Ci vediamo…
If famous socialite and art addict Peggy Guggenheim were alive today, she would stumble out the back door of her 18th C palazzo – the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni – facing the Grand Canal and meander over bridges and through calli, campi and campielli’s in her neighborhood – the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice. As she was window-shopping her way past clothing boutiques, jewelry stores antique shops and art galleries, something would catch her attention in the window of a little shop – a shop that wasn’t there before – at Dorsoduro 868.
She would pause peering in the storefront window of the pop-up shop for Porte Italia Interiors. Her manicured hand would come to cover her mouth as she studied the exquisite craftsmanship and details of the hand-painted traditional Venetian furniture. And I am certain she would sigh… “Porte Italia.” And she would come inside the pop-up shop, opening per se, the Door To Italy.
Porte Italia Interiors, whose headquarters are based north of Venice in Ronchi dei Legionari, has roots reaching back in the past. Their goal was to create furniture inspired by those famous Venetian antiques – the painted furniture of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that in years past had enlivened Venetian interiors. Traditionally the locally made painted furniture in Venice – like the city itself – was more exuberant, whimsical and over the top than its European counterparts. Bright colors, exuberant silhouettes and whimsical motifs were the name of the game.
Today Porte Italia continues this tradition – employing locally trained artists from Venice Accademia of Arts – to create quality hand-painted furniture that can become the antique of the future. Founded by Enrico Lenarduzzi, this family-run business continues its tradition with son Emilio joining the leadership team at the small company which employees 35 local artists, decorators, frame makers, artisans, blacksmiths and carpenters. Each member of the team is dedicated to bringing the past alive in new interiors.
Each piece in their collection is custom made – and the company specializes in working directly with interior designers. Designers mail the company samples of the fabric to be used in an interior – and Porte Italia creates custom furniture to coordinate with the tissues used.
And like their Venetian forefathers who always had their eyes focused out to sea, Enrico and Emilio are also looking globally for expanding their business. An average week has this father-son duo jetting from Italy to the Middle East to the United Kingdom and then popping across the pond to America. Their client list includes everyone from sheiks and sultans to princes and princesses – rumor has it that Camilla has purchased one of their tables – to rock stars and legends. One of the largest collections of Porte Italia furniture in the United States is actually in the home of a Back Street Boy!
Currently seeking relevant distribution channels in the United States, Porte Italia is bringing Italy to the world. Their collection included painted doors, panels, mirrors, sofas, chandeliers and even frescos. Perhaps their bed collection has been the most popular piece in their collection – making the cover of Architectural Digest magazine as well as decorating 5-star hotels such as Ashford Castle in Ireland and the Castello di Casole in Tuscany, both members of the Leading Hotels of the World.
Discover Porte Italia
- SAN MARCO, 3359 SAN SAMUELE, VENEZIA – ITALY
- +39 0481 476096
Feature image by José Manuel Alorda
Toma – The Antiques Diva
I’m delighted to share with you a guest post by JoAnn Locktov. JoAnn is sharing stunning photographs by talented architects in her new book, Dream of Venice Architecture. You know I’m smitten with Venice and welcome any opportunity to visit with clients, meet with our Antiques Diva® secret sources, or just stroll along the canale or savor a macchiato and work at a small café and relish my surroundings. Our Venice Diva Guides Orseola & Chiara have opened many Venetian doors for me, the architecture at the Fortuny Museo is a favorite of theirs. The lovely photos and charming commentary in Dream of Venice will transport you to this special city. If you haven’t been, you must schedule a trip to Venice very soon. And if you haven’t visited recently, you must return. Until then, I invite you to Dream of Venice Architecture.
Venice. Venezia. La Serenissima. The city has inspired artists, musicians, writers, lovers, and poets for over a millennium. The beauty of Venice is well documented. Originally through painting and verse, and now through photography, movies and if we’re lucky, our own eyes. But have you ever wondered what makes Venice so mesmerizing? Can we attribute her appeal to one element? Is it the Lagoon light, the dancing reflections, the patina of age, or the subtle hues of salt-washed color?
Venice is an urban oasis. The natural water that you find everywhere, is delineated by the construction of palaces, churches, boatyards, gardens, and bridges-some iconic and many that are humble. We wanted to know if this city that originated over 1,500 years ago could still be relevant to our contemporary lives. This is what we found out. Come take a passeggiata with us and wander through the memories of architects, architectural writers, and the evocative images of the award winning filmmaker and photographer Riccardo De Cal.
All photos and excerpts from Dream of Venice Architecture
Published by Bella Figura Publications
For so many people, cities are captured by the visual memory of an iconic panorama but for me Venice is a wholly visceral experience where what we see is so much less than what we perceive or feel. In Venice, there is all at once the sound and smell of the water, the chiaroscuro of confined passageways that give way to expansive campi, the constant rise and fall of crossing so many bridges and the twisting irregularities of its labyrinthine streets. A place of great intensity; I know no other city where one must navigate by way of intrinsic memory rather than conscious understanding.
Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA
Every entrance has a four-digit number, always applied onto the frame in a uniform stenciled typeface. A few years ago I happened to be passing by the house numbered 1937, which featured a particularly distressed and ominous-looking door. Suddenly I had a strange vision that the horrific memories of the year 1937—Guernica, Kristallnacht, Stalin’s Great Purge—are hidden behind that locked portal. It took a good half-a-bottle of wine before I could let this disquieting fantasy go. Yet ever since, I cannot rid myself of an impression that every Venetian door represents a particular year; that the city is, in fact, a museum that contains all human history and all our future as well. This would of course explain why the doors are so mysterious and forlorn: why they are always locked; why nobody seems to be ever entering or coming out.
Venice may be too hot, too cold, too humid, too crowded or too easy to get lost in, but “her streets, through which the fish swim, while the black gondola glides spectrally over the green water” — as Hans Christian Andersen eloquently stated — release us to imagine alternatives to the general standard of urban living. Venice is not on the sea but of the sea, eclipsing the tale of Atlantis with a modern mythology both repeated and rewritten with every tide.
Just inside the windows, several pet bird cages were hung above a grand piano, and these, plus the lure of crumbs from the damask-covered tables where guests were eating their morning brioche, attracted small flying birds from the square. As we sipped our coffee, birds darted through the windows, soared around the ceiling twenty feet overhead, then hopped and chirped about the rug at our feet. It was pure enchantment. Those first few days in Venice were one of the transformative experiences of my life.
Venice: the ageless city. How can we take measure of her to a finite time, she who is crystallized by the juxtaposition of styles, of forms, of places, of spaces…
When you walk through Venice at night, in the silence, in the darkness, the canale fills you with anguish, fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, as if you’re seeing a sleepless dormitory town, full of ghosts and dark clouds…
Inside the places on the ground floors you imagine unmoving ghosts reclining on large tables surrounded by chairs with the light filtering through from the outside—thus faint, so very faint, in the depths. The gondolas are moving slowly as the water laps the shore; the silver blades almost black and you think they are open funeral carriages ready for the reclining ghosts in the rooms.
When I hear the voice of Venice, my mind wanders into that nebulous space where time momentarily stops and I am quietly propelled into an intimate dialogue with my own free floating thoughts. The voice of Venice thankfully reminds me that there is an arena in which fantasy and reality can collide, coexist, and comfortably accommodate contradictions. Venice, for me, is a metaphor for unexpected creative possibilities. This notion never fails to captivate me.
Louise Braverman, FAIA
For the architect, the recognizing of a city is nearly always expressed through emerging elements: a bridge, a monument, a tower, a neighborhood or a geometric structure. In the end, nearly all of us reason like collectors of snow globes, those that are found in all souvenir shops, and show the stereotypes of different cities.
It is rare that landscape is used as the substantial element of a city, its GEOGRAPHY. But Venice is the exception.
For all its floating qualities, Venice is heavily laden with history, stone, and gravity. Though its marble monuments aspire artfully upwards, they are ultimately more preoccupied with down than up. One counterpoint to all this weight is the prominent windvane poised lightly atop the Punta Della Dogana. This figure of Fortune, presiding over the Bacino’s daily ballet of watercraft, pirouettes between architecture and flight. It has for centuries signaled the comings and goings of Adriatic weather that tints this city’s beguiling atmosphere. For some, perhaps, it pivots to the ebb and flow of dreams as well.
Max Levy, FAIA
The main facade of the Fortuny palazzo faces the Campo San Benedetto. It is adorned with the characteristic ogee arches of Venetian Gothic, a classification of the Gothic architecture that originated as an ecclesiastical style in northern Europe where it can be dour and forbidding. Venetian Gothic is neither. Adapted to residential construction and suffused with Byzantine and Moorish influences, it is light, graceful, and whimsical—almost feminine. The right setting for the fashion maven who was known as the “Magician of Venice.”
Palazzo Fortuny, Orseola and Chiara’s favorite
Ciao, and pleasant dreams of Venice
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®