Chicago! Chicago! What a Wonderful Town!

Dear Diva Readers,


Ever since I visited The Windy City in November to speak at the Merchandise Mart – the worlds largest wholesale design center – I’ve been toe tapping and singing Frank Sinatra’s Chicago, Chicago, What a Wonderful Town!


I presented along with interior design principals Tom Konopiots and Michael Stornello of Vincere, LTD., interior designer Brion R. Judge of B.R Judge Design and Betsy Nathan owner of Pagoda Red on The Art of Antiquing – The Accessibility and Secrets of Sourcing Antiques Abroad.  Interior designer maven Justin Shaulis was our guest moderator flown in from NYC to moderate the event!

Art of Antiquing Panel

Caption: The Chicago Art of Antiquing Panelists

In case you’re not already familiar with my panel cohorts I want to take a moment to tell you about this gorgeous crew!

betsy nathan pagoda red

Caption:  Betsy Nathan Pagoda Red

Earlier this week on Wednesday I posted about Pagoda Red’s sensational store owned by Betsy Nathan.  After years living in Beijing developing important relationships with Chinese collectors and artists from every corner of the mainland, Betsy Nathan opened the doors of Pagoda Red in 1997 eager to share her unique connections and viewpoint.  Over the course of 16 years, Pagoda Red has established two galleries and an online marketplace that have become the premier sources for exemplary Chinese antiques and art.  Pagoda Red partners closely with a highly selective worldwide clientele of interior designers, collectors and others with a taste for incredibly unusual and beautiful things.

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Caption:  Representing Vincere Ltd. – a Chicago based Design Firm – both Michael Stornello and Tom Konopiots joined the panel

With nearly seven years of experience on a significant collection of interior design projects at Vincere, Michael Stornello brings his passion and his perseverance to every client assignment. Each finished design reveals this enthusiasm. He is committed to making sure that every project retains its own essence, with an ongoing dedication to sourcing new products, as well as distinctive antiques and vintage pieces. While each project may reflect its own sensibility, a firm grounding in the fundamentals of design, including proportion, space, texture and light, is a unifying feature and a hallmark of Vincere’s designs. Prior to founding Vincere, Michael served as Executive Vice President, Development, for King World Productions (now CBS Television Distribution).

Tom Konopiots is a principal at Vincere, Ltd., a Chicago-based interior design firm. True to Vincere’s mission, he focuses on client individuality, and translating this individuality into a residence that fits the client perfectly. With great attention to detail, Tom employs a creative approach to all design requirements and challenges. With experience developing luxury single-family homes in Chicago, he has a deep understanding of how floor plans, furniture layouts, and finish choices interact, and he uses this knowledge to compose a cohesive, collected, and handsome home. Tom holds an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

brion r judge

Brion R. Judge grew up in Rhode Island in a home filled with American and English antiques, Persian rugs and miles of Chinese porcelain. Through his extensive travels in Europe and the Far East Brion has cultivated a signature style that is classic and clean while maintaining a sense of timeless elegance and sophistication. His travels have also enhanced his appreciation and understanding of a wide array of decorative styles. Brion makes sure that every antique he procures for his clients is a perfect match to their tastes, style and environment.”

justin shaulis

Our moderator, Justin Shaulis, is an interior designer who develops projects by balancing classic and modern forms that are inspiring through their architecture and refreshing in their layered design. His influence and aesthetic varies depending on the collaboration with the clients and the context of the project. His diverse background includes a rural Pennsylvanian upbringing, an Architectural Degree and his extensive travels usually centered around antiques. Justin was the design host for HGTV’s Home Rules.

andrew joseph

Last but not least I need to thank the man behind the scenes – Andrew Joseph, of Andrew Joseph PR – a full service communications firm specializing in shelter, design and lifestyle brands. Andrew worked with the George Smith Showroom to host this sensational event!  I fell in love with several pieces in their collection – where very sofa, chair, chaise and stool is lovingly made in their workshops in the North of England.


Special thanks to Betsey Grenzebach, the showroom manager for hosting the event and making it such a fabulous time!  While it was a morning event – Betsey’s hospitality was such that guests stayed til nearly 3pm!

Chicago, Chicago, What a wonderful town!!

The Antiques Diva®
(seen here goofing around with Andrew Joseph and Justin Shaulis after the panel discussion)

Toma Clark Haines

Last Minute Christmas Gifts: New Classic Interiors

Dear Diva Readers,

top:5px;float:left;color:white;background:#781300;border:1px solid darkkhaki;font-size:100px;line-height:90px;padding-top:1px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>After visiting Alessandra Branca’s Chicago Shop last week I’ve got Branca’s Signature Red on my mind…. And nothing says Christmas to me as much as big bold swaths of red!  Living in an Alessandra Branca-designed house would be like having Christmas all year long.  Last year, Branca’s book New Classic Interiors topped my Christmas list and I was delighted when my husband took my multitude of hints and “surprised” me with it.  This book is one of my favorite decorating books and it was definitely a gift that kept on giving all year long! 

If you’re looking for a last minute Christmas gift for a diva decorating lover on your list, Branca’s book New Classic Interiors is ideal for giving oodles of design inspiration.  Ideal for diva decorators!

Happy Reading,

The Antiques Diva ®

USA Edition: Chicago Chic – Alessandra Branca

Dear Diva Readers,

top:5px;float:left;color:white;background:#781300;border:1px solid darkkhaki;font-size:100px;line-height:90px;padding-top:1px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>For years I’ve worshiped at the design altar of Alessandra Branca, licking the pages of the publications in which she’s appeared.  But my adoration neared obsession after I listened to an interview with her on my favorite blog/podcast The Skirted Round Table with Linda Merrill .  Branca is simply my favorite interior designer and when a long layover on a flight home for the holidays had me meeting up with friends in Chicago I had one request  – I wanted to visit Branca’s decorating store!

With friends La Reine (blogger of She’s Shopping Now) and Lady Lotus in Branca’s Chicago Shop

Branca’s Chicago shop – located at 117 East Pearson Street – exceeded all expectations and my expectations were high.  The fact that they showered my friends and me with bubbly minutes after entering the store added to the ambiance, but even without the prosecco I was in Branca heaven – swathed in black and white stripes and deep European red décor.  Her style is – like her – Italian, but her years lived abroad in the USA give her European Décor a  fresh American twist.

Branca’s Chicago shop is magazine ready, perfectly staged for the pages of House Beautiful or Traditional Home.  Her combined mix of antiques and upholsteries in simple tickings juxtaposed with rich silk damasks has an exotic flair while her daring use of pattern pushes me beyond my comfort zone to take chances I might not have taken on my own.   Alessandra paints with pattern, and her varied colors range from steel grey and shocking pink to Pompeian red and sun-drenched ochre, the shade of old stone and stucco walls seen everywhere in Rome, the city where she grew up.

These Italian roots define Alessandra’s work – growing up in Italy, Branca’s concept of color was formed by Giotto, Raphael, and Caravaggio and her sense of scale shaped by Bramante, Borromini and Bernini. Today, these Italian roots are readily apparent in Branca’s work.

Notice how Branca’s palette can be found in Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus”

Branca’s book”>New Classic Interiors is one of my favorite design books  and visiting her store felt like I had opened the cover and stepped inside for an actual tour of its pages.  Better than the book, everything I saw in the store was for sale, Chez Branca!

Happy Shopping,

The Antiques Diva®

What do you Crave?

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 132px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE CRAVE COMPANY?

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>The CRAVE Company publishes the most unique and stylish guidebooks on the market, celebrating women entreprenesses in cities around the world, showcasing some of the most creative, interesting, and gutsy proprietors of businesses you need to know about. Originally started in 2001 by Melody Biringer, the first CRAVE guide was “CRAVE Seattle, The Urban Girl’s Manifesto,” published in 2002. Before long women were calling their girlfriends for shopping and lunch expeditions based on Crave Seattle’s recommendations and a movement was born.


to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 155px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />In 2005, CRAVE expanded from Seattle into more than 15 additional markets, delivering an excellent excuse for girlfriends to get together across the world. Now prominent in US and international cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Vancouver, and Amsterdam, the CRAVE team is hard at work developing new CRAVE guides, bringing entreprenesses together and spreading the word about women-owned businesses.

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 302px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />


I’d like to extend a Special Thank You to writer, photographer and expat-expert Shirley Agudo for recommending me to be profiled as 1 of 150 Women To Know in Amsterdam! Shirley is the most inspiring person I know, serving as a role model, mentor and friend. Shirley’s latest book Bicycle Mania, has taken the whole of Holland by storm and within mere months of being published is already on its 2nd printing. Meanwhile her career as a photographer has flourished and you can see her work at galleries such as tographs/Home.html” target=”_blank”>Eduard Planting’s Fine Art Photography.

I also owe Crave Amsterdam Special Projects Manager Cristina Stoian my heartfelt appreciation for including me in the book! Cris has been a delight to meet and is quite possibly the most well-connected woman in Amsterdam, knowing who’s who and connecting those who need to know one another! Even more importantly, Cris is down-right fun – a Diva in her own right – and within minutes of meeting, I knew we were going to be friends! When Cris isn’t hard at work interviewing Crave candidates and coordinating a massive publishing and networking project in Amsterdam, she works as a portrait photographer, capturing souls on camera!


I’m certain just hearing about The Crave Company you’re already excited about the concept! Let me ask you something – when you’re traveling in a city, what are you looking for in the stores you visit?

  • Do you love quality goods
  • Do you expect exceptional service
  • Do you want to be pampered
  • Do you appreciate attention to detail
  • Do you enjoy supporting local, female proprietors
  • Do you have absolutely no time to waste
  • Do you long to get out and explore the city

If these points sound familiar, then let The Crave Guides introduce you to fabulous new designers, to miracle-worker masseuses, to confectionery queens, and to tours/” target=”_blank”>antiquing divas! In essence, The Crave Company will introduce you to amazing women around town who will help satisfy your next craving – whatever you’re looking for!


Hester van Eeghen Fashion/Leather Design Center

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 237px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Hesther van Eeghen is considered one of the most influential Dutch designers of the 20th C with her work selling around the world in Germany, the USA, the UK and Japan as well as gracing the shelves of a many a museum! Long term Diva Readers might recognize Hester’s name = to-sell-bags.html” target=”_blank”>I featured van Eeghen’s work when Sotheby’s auctioned off a special purse collection for the Foundation: Hester van Eeghen Leather Design. Every two years, the Foundation organizes a competition in collaboration with the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam as a stimulus for designers who work with leather.

Friday Next

to 10px; WIDTH: 248px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />This concept store
for interior and lifestyle is Amsterdam’s latest hotspot offering not only a trendy selection of renowned brands and small, exclusive upcoming designers but also interior decorating and styling service as well as an onsite café for lingering in the hippest locale in Amsterdam! Visit Friday Next today!

Can’t wait to get the inside scoop and to learn about more Crave Ladies?

Pre-order your Crave Amsterdam Book!
by emailing”>

Advance Purchase Price 15 Euro + Shipping & Handling
(regular retail price 19.95E)

What do you Crave?

The Antiques Diva™

(There’s me craving champagne at right!)

Guest Blog: Souvenirs de la Reine: Charmed, I’m Sure

Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>The brains and beauty behind my favorite blog to be born in 2009 – She’s Shopping Now – is back Guest Blogging on The Antiques Diva™ site, sharing more tips in her series “Souvenirs de la Reine”.

In case you missed her past guest appearances writing on this topic, make sure to read:

Part 1: Guest Blog: Souvenirs de la Reine: The Beach
Part 2: Guest Blog: Souvenirs de la Reine: le porte-cigarettes

Keep Shopping & Keep Making Memories,
The Antiques Diva™

(seen right making memories while shopping with La Reine at NYC’s GreenFlea)


Dear Diva Readers,

The past few months everyone has been wearing long, swingy, charm necklaces. You’ve seen them: crystals dangling, sparkly keys glittering, little hearts and suitcases tinkling. I’ve priced them: they’re either scary expensive or so cheap and plasticky I’d never wear them. So I’ve created my own charm necklaces and found a way to re-live mes souvenirs.

to 10px; WIDTH: 300px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />A while back I shared with the Antiques Diva the gorgeous vintage platinum necklace sprinkled with diamonds (only $100!) that I scored at the Merchandise Mart Antiques Show in Chicago. And recently, on a visit to Omaha, I rifled through a tangle of discounted jewelry piled in an ashtray at le Marche and found a very long simple 1930’s gold chain.

Now I simply had to style them up – Diva Style!

When I moved away from Paris, my friend Rebecca of Chic Shopping Paris gifted me a pair of dangling earrings she made from antique Baccarat crystals she had found at brocantes. Sadly, in one of many moves I lost one of the earrings (actually it’s the movers fault – they lost one!) Et voila! The lone earring now swings enticingly from the platinum neck chain.

to 10px; WIDTH: 300px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />After leaving Paris we moved on to Copenhagen. When we moved on once again, this time returning to the USA, left in my coat pockets were handfuls of Danish kroner, useful for buying a paper or coffee when I was out walking my dog Mignette. Several of the kroner have holes in the center (they come that way: I didn’t have to drill). Brilliant! 3 kroner now dangle from my gold neck chain reminding me of the years I lived in Denmark as an expat.

The ideas are endless!

to 10px; WIDTH: 300px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />What about the silver quatrefoil key to the door of my beautiful apartment in Paris? The giant Baccarat crystal I found at a Paris brocante? The ivory Chinese good luck charm I bought at an antique shop in Singapore? A seashell picked up on the beach in Sanibel? The fleur-de-lys and tassel earrings I picked up at The Greenflea in NYC?

I can easily swap out one souvenir for another. These souvenirs are no longer hidden in my drawers and tucked away in my memories. They’re displayed, talked about, and loved. And best of all, they make me look fabulous. Some things can’t be bought. Like memories.

Until Next Time,
La Reine
(otherwise known as “Moi” on the She’s Shopping Now blog)

Can’t get enough of these great ideas of La Reine’s? Visit her blog for more fun posts like this one! And while you’re at it, follow her travels on Twitter!

She’s Blogging Now…

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 83px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Dearest Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>I’ve got exciting news for you! My friend La Reine, who has made numerous guest blogging appearances on The Antiques Diva site, is blogging now in her new shopping blog “She’s Shopping Now”.

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 300px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />She’s Shopping Now is written by a woman just like you – she’s a wife, a mom, a sister, an aunt, a daughter and a BFF…which means she has lots of stuff to buy which means she’s always shopping for gifts, groceries, clothes, furniture, book and STUFF in general. It just so happens my friend La Reine moves more than any person I know – Chicago, New York, Paris, Miami. She even did time in Syracuse and St. Louis and has moved 6 times in the last 5 years which means she has to do creative shopping since she’s often shopping for people who live thousands of miles away from where she is. Plus, she travels a lot, so her passport and wheelie are always ready to go, and when she travels, she shops! And while La Reine does do her fair share of shopping for herself, she is a GREAT gift giver (I’m lucky to say I’m often on the receiving end!) and she’ll give you more shopping ideas than you ever knew possible!

Some sinister marketing geek installed cookies on La Reine’s pc to track what she purchases online but no cookies can track all La Reine’s purchase when she walks the streets, trolls the internet, skims the magazines and newspapers, watches commercials and checks out the billboards. That is except you! You, dear Diva Readers, can watch La Reine’s every purchase in her new private shopping blog — She’s Shopping Now!

Bonne Shopping!

The Antiques Diva™
(seen right with La Reine book-ending friends The English Rose & Lady Lotus while shopping Worth Avenue in Palm Beach!)

Old – Not Necessarily Antique – Kimono Shopping in Tokyo

THE ANTIQUES DIVA™ TOURS – CLOSED FOR ANNUAL VACATION DURING AUGUST – REOPENS SEPTEMBER While my tour guides are taking a much needed holiday and I’m away for the month of August sipping champagne at sunset on a Mediterranean Cruise (after taking a driving tour of Italy), I haven’t forgotten you, my loyal readers, in my absence. August 2008 you’ll enjoy a multitude of guest blogs, pre-posted light blogs and miscellaneous reader questions. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more great addresses and shopping tips this fall! All email inquiries or posted comments will be responded to come September!


Dear Antiques Diva,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>A recent blog entry from one of your readers who was on vacation in Singapore made me think about how much I love all my Asian treasures. After living in Tokyo for a year and a half and traveling to Japan, China and Korea numerous times, my house is filled with Far East memories. One of my favorite pieces, and definitely the most admired, was purchased on a trip to Tokyo last August. It’s a colorful silk kimono I display on the wall in my living room.

I realize that most of your readers prefer antique clothing, but I always found the Asian pieces to be out of my price range since the ones I preferred started at several thousands of dollars. But last year a Japanese friend of mine alerted me to a surprising fact. If the kimono is just “old”, then it is not nearly as valuable as an antique one (or even a brand new one, strangely enough). “Old” seems to be in a vague category that is more likely considered used clothing. But given that Japan is an established civilization, “old” could be anywhere from 10 years to 100 years old. to+be+to+become+an+antique%3F/” target=”_blank”>Some of us without the proper vernacular would probably call a 100-year old kimono “antique”, but I guess that’s not correct.

Under the guidance of my friend, I found that the selection and price range for “old” versus “antique” was very pleasing. I found racks of choices in several shops around the to/aoyama.html” target=”_blank”>Omotesando area, and would have seen even more if I wasn’t too lazy to walk further. My favorites included Oriental Bazaar (5-9-13 Jingumae), Gallery Kawano (4-4-9 Jingumae) and tokyo/attraction-detail.html?vid=1154654670127″ target=”_blank”>Chicago (6-31-21 Jingumae).

Oriental Bazaar is a four-story souvenir shoppers dream. If you can get past the dishes, furniture and chopsticks, then head downstairs into the kimono area. They sell both new and “old” pieces, with each priced individually from $150 – $400. I found the employees to get a bit tense when you touched anything without assistance, but otherwise they were helpful.

Gallery Kawano is staffed by two lovely Japanese ladies who will rush to help you pull numerous kimonos off the shelves and racks. The pieces are good quality and prices hover around the $300-$400 mark. They also sell lovely obi (the sash worn around the kimono) if you’re looking for something smaller or less expensive. After a bit of persuasion, they even offered to hold one for me until my husband could see it the next day.

Chicago is a bizarre shop featuring 1950s American clothing. If you walk down the long staircase (thinking to yourself that this cannot be the place!) and wander through the huge basement into the very back left corner, you will find hundreds of old kimono, yukata (worn while sleeping) and obi. The selection changes frequently, but the day I went there were even several wedding kimono. Prices ranged from $20 to $500, depending upon quality, color and amount of wear and tear.

My husband made the final decision after I had narrowed it down for him, so in the end we bought our kimono at Chicago. This piece is about 80 years old and cost $300. Since I had budgeted $500, that left me with enough to also throw in a couple of obi with gold threads, which I use as decorative table runners.

Happy Shopping, Antiques Diva™ Readers!

Lady Lotus