Dear Antiques Diva,
e met briefly at an AWCA coffee club a few weeks ago. I checked out your blog and I love it! Your writing is so readable and funny. But now, I have to contact you on a more serious matter. We are Americans living in Holland and have just received our moving shipment with all our furniture belongings from the USA.I need to buy an antique armoire or cabinet to hold my husband’s vast flat screen TV and all of his electronics equipment. I always find it funny that men think electronics should be displayed – they think they’re so beautiful! But not surprisingly, I disagree. Hence the need for a cabinet. Is it okay to convert an armoire? What do you do with your TV? Do you proudly display it or tuck it away? Could you offer some suggestions on where I might go armoire shopping in the area around Laren? As I have a baby I can’t do much lengthy browsing. I know more or less what I want, dimensions, wood color, etc. But other than that, I am totally clueless about where to start… do you have any recommendations?
Karla from Laren
Dear Karla from Laren,
ou pose the age-old question housewives have been asking since the 1950’s when started replacing fireplaces as the typical living room focal point. Maybe more to the point, your letter brings to mind one of the many differences between men and women. Man’s view tends to be “he who has the most toys wins”, so in an effort to prove himself he creates an electronic altar proudly displaying his wealth and gadgetry. “Les femmes”, the so-called weaker sex, tend to tuck the unsightly wizardry away as they go about their home fluffing pillows and making their abode comfortable and attractive. We ladies are wired to nest, while men are just wired.
What should I do
with my TV?
The question remains – How do you deal with TV’s and audio visual equipment when decorating your home? For the sake of argument, let’s consider leaving the television in full view. As your man has purchased a flat screen TV you can wall mount it above your mantel making a temple to the silver screen.
I’ve seen some of my favorite designers (and numerous friends) use this technique to much success. Adding an interesting screen saver to turn the TV into art when it’s not in use always seemed a little cheesy – à la the television fireplace – but there are some great television art DVD’s available that have made me reconsider my stance. If you’re a frequent television viewer you might consider this option. If you tuck your TV away into an armoire, the doors will have to be open each time you watch the telly – frequent viewing means the armoire doors are frequently open and in the way.
My ideal television center would be a plasma lift “pop up” television fitted into a converted antique buffet. As I haven’t convinced my husband to dole out the dollars for this, I’ve simply vetoed television in our living room! That said, we have three TV’s elsewhere in the home – one in front of the treadmill, another small one in the kitchen that can easily be tucked away when entertaining and the third is my personal “Dilemma TV” located in the master bedroom. I call this “the Dilemma TV” because I’ve been looking for the perfect armoire to house it for the last 2 years. Though I’ve found plenty of armoires I like, I have found none perfectly proportioned for the room that have also been able to accommodate the girth of our television.
My “Dilemma TV” illustrates one of the many problems of converting an antique armoire into an entertainment center. As I’ve been struggling with this same issue for years and don’t have a good answer to your question on my own, I immediately sent an email to a few Roving and Regional Reporters asking for their help! Lady Lotus was the first to respond and she is definitely not a fan of converting an armoire to an entertainment center. She writes, “ It substantially devalues them, so unless you are planning on never re-selling your armoire, it’s a bad move. It just seems weird to me to take a gorgeous piece and always have it hanging open for TV viewing. But I guess if the piece is a really good deal and/or the change will improve the look (i.e. the shelves were already in bad shape), then what’s to lose? I did add some extra shelves to one of my armoires to hold my husbands clothes! I bought the expanding shelving at Wal-Mart and they fit on top of the original wooden shelves. When I remove them, there will be no damage to the piece.”
Upon seeing Lady Lotus’ reply, La Reine, who loves the look of her converted armoire-cum-entertainment center immediately shot back with an opposing view: “Personally, I like TVs and stereos in armoires. Leaving the door open doesn’t bother me! I did it for 6 years when we lived in Paris (although it is interesting to note that, upon returning to live in the USA, La Reine now has her flat screen wall-mounted). You simply close the doors whenever you want. My armoire came with big strong heavy shelves so it was not an issue. Our ebonist (a French furniture repairman/carpenter) took out one of the back panels for the cabling so we didn’t have to drill holes. He also told me the single armoire, “le homme debout”, was becoming scarcely available on the market becau
se everyone wanted them for TV cabinets. They also often have an upper and lower door, rather than 2 side-by-side doors, and a drawer beneath the upper shelf which is convenient for cable boxes, etc.”
The net boasts numerous tips on how to best convert an armoire for use as an entertainment center. So now, Karla, after hearing a few of the pluses and minuses you’re ready to go shopping! In your letter you mention that you are limited by time and location – and asked for tips nearby the town where you live. For readers who aren’t familiar with Laren, this is a positively posh, Dutch village packed full of the type of shopping you’d expect to find if you were in St. Tropez or St Moritz rather than a sleepy Amsterdam suburb. But then again, this isn’t any suburb – it’s quite possibly the best suburb in The Netherlands! Unfortunately for Karla, I couldn’t remember one outstanding antiques shop in town that would suit her needs, but if she asked me where to buy sexy lingerie (Wolford), great clothes () or household decorations (KA International or Flamant) I’d have a plethora of addresses! With a black book void of antique addresses in Laren, I called upon my friend, Ms. Holland, who first introduced me to Laren, and even she came back empty-handed!
Ms. Holland, ever resourceful, suggested hitting the internet to limit Karla’s time outside the home. “In my opinion, she should check out the local auction houses — Zadelhoff in the nearby town of Hilversum and de Zwaan in Amsterdam. The site Kijkdag (listing the auction houses viewing days) might be helpful. I was surprised to find so many antique armoires at the recent auctions at such low prices.” Hopping on Ms. Holland’s suggestions, I did a little research and discovered that both Ebay and Marktplatz had a decent selection of armoires and cabinets worth browsing. In my online search, I used “Meublen” and “Antiek Kast” as my search words.
Ms. Holland continued with a few addresses that are slightly further afield, “The Spiegelkwartier is one stop shopping as it is Amsterdam’s Antiques District.” The prices aren’t always the best, but the quality is! As Laren is located between Amsterdam and Utrecht, you can also consider going to this other lesser-known city. I was thrilled that Ms. Holland turned me onto Daatselaar and Godhelp Antiquairs on the Korte Jansstraat, a high-end antiques dealer who will be presenting next month at PAN Amsterdam.
Fearful that some of their gorgeous items might be higher priced than you’re interested in paying for a TV cabinet, I also want to suggest a few shops with lower prices in the ‘t Gooi area where you live. In Hilversum, I like the shop Ons Winkletje Antiek. They have a beautiful William III antique mahogany armoire from circa 1850 – at 1,475 Euros, the price is fair as far as I’m concerned. Also in Hilversum, you could try , M. Siegers Antiek en Kunst or La Vie Brocante in Huizen and Over Gooi in Kortenhoef. I also love the antique shop De Weldaad, located on a farm off a tiny road near a windmill outside the town of Abcoude. This shop has a very specific Swedish Country/French Country feel and most of their items are painted pine coming from antique scavenging trips the owners have made through Eastern Europe.
Though The Belgian Beauty was away on holiday when I emailed asking for help, I’m certain she’d agree with me that antique armoire shopping might make a great excuse to take a weekend getaway! The best part of living in Holland is that Europe is your playground – hop in the car and head 3 hours south to the , Belgium for the weekend. If all else fails, I suspect your best bet in quickly finding an armoire is at a large flea market such as this. Getting your desired armoire home to Holland might take some serious negotiation, but it’s worth the trip! Besides, you’ll be able to photo document your baby’s first trip to Belgium antique shopping making great memories for the scrapbook! In the center of the Tongeren flea market there is a so you and your husband can take turns popping out to the flea market one by one or come home to the hotel frequently should the baby not be agreeable to the shopping plans!
As you’re new to Holland, Karla, you might not yet be familiar with the magazine Antiek & Verzamel Krant, containing the most complete antique and collectors information f
or Holland. While the magazine is only written in Dutch, addresses and dates are quite easy to decipher even if you don’t speak a word of the language! If we’ve any readers with a shop suggestion to help Karla in Laren find an Armoire, please post your comments below (or email The Antiques Diva ™ at ).
Lastly, remember my “Dilemma TV”? I’m aghast to admit that it temporarily resides on an IKEA TV stand awaiting my final purchase. Between you and me, after two years of searching for the perfect armoire that can not only house my TV but will also suit my bedroom décor, I’m considering chucking the whole idea of buying an antique and heading to the Woon Mall.
The Antiques Diva ™