Dear Diva Readers,
High Point Antique and Design Center and over the years we’ve chatted about her extraordinary niche service she offers as a custom slipcover designer. While Linda’s Product Design studies began formally at North Carolina State University, her passion for fine fabrics began at an early age on the back roads of eastern North Carolina. Many hot summer afternoons were spent in the back of Mama’s Ford Fairlane, traveling from one fabric store to another, searching for fine fabrics and silver linings. Today she continues the tradition with her Raleigh based company Pencil Me In,traveling across North Carolina, fashioning classic cotton and linen slipcovers for fine furniture. Recently Linda took her travels a bit further afield and went shopping with Antiques Diva style in Italy with our locally based guide, Susan.hen Antiques Diva client Linda Meeks offered to write a blog about her recent Antiques Diva Tour I jumped at the opportunity. Linda has attended multiple talks of mine at
Linda writes about her Antiques Diva Italy Tour:
“On instinct, I contacted the Antiques Diva & Co as soon as Barton (best friend, photographer and muse) ordered cheap airline tickets and a copy of Rick Steve’s guide to Italy. You see, since hearing Toma Clark Haines speak at High Point Furniture Market Fall 2014, I knew I was destined for a fabric reconnaissance with one of her guides. Enthralled with Rick Steves’ “Europe through the Back Door” travel style, I was convinced that seeing the marketplaces that the creatives and makers move through would carbonate my experience in Italy, and I needed a guide.
Toma connected me with Antiques Diva guide Susan Pennington and it was a match made in Sienna. My wish list for Susan was simple: 1. I’d like to see and hear Italians trade wares and secrets and learn a few swear words, 2. Take in the country air, and 3. Come home with a good find and a memory or two. When tour day arrived, Susan met us at our hotel and led us through the narrow streets of Sienna, dashing in and out of secret source shops, dodging Vespas and divulging tips about the local culture. Our morning excursion included an array of haberdasheries, galleries, and consignment shops in search of linens, passementerie, buttons, furniture, and art. Then we embarked on a road through Chianti, lunching in a hill town en route to Florence.
Next stop on our itinerary was a bit of luxury. Of course I can’t tell you the name or it would not be a secret source. But I will tell you it was neither a furniture showroom, workshop, carpenter’s shop, or architectural design studio, but a harmonious fusion of all the aforementioned. A place that honors the Florentine craft traditions, this unique space specialized in items restored, reinterpreted and reimagined for the home. Exactly what I encourage my clients to do with their heirloom furniture and fabrics every day! Here in this place Susan led the way as we climbed the attic to dig in the secret archives of waitlisted projects. And there it was! The perfect example of a Florentine footrest, aged green and tiny gilded bees. Susan negotiated the purchase and arranged to have it shipped (along with other linen & lace finds) to my workshop in Raleigh, NC, where it will be reimagined with a Florentine inspired slipcover and a story to tell.
After a long day of scouting and scavenging, and double gelato, Susan left us with assignments of more secret sources to scope on our own. Now confident in our sleuthing skills, we affirmed that whether in North Carolina, Sienna, or Florence, it is in the unexpected places and on the Back Roads that we find the EXTRA that makes the ordinary EXTRAORDINARY. And so as Back Door travelers, we have memories of: listening to Susan translate our trades in her lovely British/Italian, enjoying a scenic drive through the country, and discovering THE FIND. But did we hear any swear words? I don’t know!”
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Linda! We’re so happy you enjoyed your time in Italy and that you came away with a treasure (and I promise we’ll get you a list of ‘ approved swear words” – note to the reader, Diva Guide Susan would never mutter a curse word… but the vendors on the other hand… Mamma Mia….
For more information on taking an Antiques Diva tour, or learning to cuss in Italian :), email us at email@example.com.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
hile at The Antiques Diva & Co we’re known for our customized private antique buying tours throughout Europe – our contacts go beyond “just antiques”. Our local Diva Guides are our greatest assets because they know their regions like the back of their hand… and they have contacts beyond your wildest dreams! Many of our clients are interior designers, which means finding antiques is just one thing on their long to-do list to finish their projects. In Italy our local Diva Guide Susan has not only antique sources but so much more! Her little black book of artisans and skilled craftsmen is bulging with brilliant ideas. In addition to sourcing antiques we can also help with new custom Italian furniture either from reclaimed or new materials that can match or coordinate with your antiques.
Locally based Tuscan Diva Susan explains, “We know that being a decorator or buying for your private home is very different to being an antiques dealer. How often does one look at a piece and say, ‘If only it was a little shorter, a smidgen wider…’ Sometimes the European measurements just don’t match up. Or perhaps you found the perfect table but need twelve chairs instead of just four. With this in mind, it occurred to us on our travels that for you as a designer, maybe we can help with this dilemma.”
Over the years we have gotten to know and become friends with lots of interesting artisans – Italy is famed for its design, taste, and talented craftsmen. Albeit this latter category is a rare and dying breed so we have traveled far and wide to seek out the best small family-run businesses that have been passed down from generation to generation to ensure our clients find the artisans for which they are looking. Passion and pride play a fundamental role in their dedication and success.
We have a source that is fantastic at making high-quality ‘antiqued’ furniture. In particular they have a beautiful range of marquetry dining tables, chairs, and cabinetry and will make bespoke pieces just for you. This eliminates your problems with length, width, height, and style of legs or finish. And better still, we know from past clients that their prices are a fraction of those in the USA.
The father & son business we work with specializes in painted furniture of fine artisan quality. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for old! The furniture consists of Italian style chests, buffets, cupboards, as well as sconces and chandeliers. The plus is that you can choose the color and the hardware. They use Farrow & Ball, so you will know exactly how the color will turn out, and their standards are high.
Tuscany in particular is well known for its ironwork. Our blacksmiths—and truly they are much more than that— are a family of 3 brothers, their father, and nephew. Together they are quite a force, designing and creating some of the most handsome hand-forged wrought iron around, many taken from centuries old designs, but others surprisingly contemporary. They also love to make original and unique pieces of furniture using old wood and adapting older pieces.
These are just a few of our friends to whet your appetite. We have many, many more sources throughout Europe that can customize, restore or even build pieces to your specification. In fact, we have connections that can customize centuries-old fireplaces or even help you adapt antique staircases, gates, and fountains for your projects! We guarantee that your clients will be delighted with the end result because we have worked with these craftsmen for years.
If you would like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour in any of our 8 tour countries, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
uongiorno…. No, make that Buona Sera! When the day is done – to close out the work day and start the evening – the Italians like to indulge in an aperitivo before dinner. While technically the purpose of the aperitivo is to stimulate the appetite, (how else would a European’s stomach know it’s time to eat dinner?) it’s really just a wonderful excuse for friends to gather from between 6:00 to 9:00pm to socialize whilst partaking in a few savory snacks before commencing with a 3 course dinner. I still wonder how they stay so thin!
Aperitivo’s are simple – you’ll find a variety of olives, cheeses, and breads being served alongside a dry cocktail or prosecco, which is a favorite pre-dinner sparkler in Italy. In some cases, meats and cheeses paired with puff pastries and other finger foods are set out as tempting treats that could very well spoil dinner if you’re not too careful!
In the spirit of opening our three day VIP tour in Italy, The Antiques Diva & Co embraced the Italian phrase, “Facciamoci un aperitivo” (Let’s have an aperitif!). Each night on our recent VIP TOUR in Parma, Italy we hosted a Prosecco Aperitivo at the Grande Hotel de la Ville for our guests before dinner! Plenty of Prosecco and savory snacks were served while lively conversation ensued as we we discussed the days purchases and plunderings. Some of our VIP designers on this special VIP tour included Tobi Fairley, Mark Cutler, Jon Call, and Denise McGaha.What a fun group we had!
When we bring clients on an Antiques Diva Tour, it’s not just about the shopping, it’s about the entire European experience!
The Antiques Diva®
PS: To book an Antiques Diva Tour or inquire about our Buying Services so you can source antiques abroad virtually, email email@example.com
Dear Diva Readers,
Red Shed Tours as their on-the-ground step-on guides for their Tuscan Group Tour… and I couldn’t help but to share with you our insider Antiques Diva tips from San Gimignano on how to make your own Tuscan Tour!esterday we were in one of my favorite villages in the world with a group from Texas, helping
Our Tuscan Antiques Diva Guide Susan Pennington writes in today sharing with you all the Diva Details for an afternoon in the “Manhattan of Tuscany”! Okay – this place is a far cry from NYC – but believe it or not it was once shadowed by over 70 towers surrounding the village!
San Gimignano was built by powerful sparring families vying for importance and status, built during the medieval period and massive economic boom for the city, which sat on the pilgrim’s trail from Rome to Canterbury. It was also famed for its spices, in particular saffron. Today only 9 of those towers still stand but it is still as impressive as it was 900 years ago!
If you’ve got an afternoon on your own in San Gimignano you’ll have a ball! From Porta S. Giovanni runs the main street. Initially overwhelming, the town is actually a great place to shop for ceramics, baskets and leather ware, the prices are surprisingly competitive with other towns and considerably cheaper than Siena. There are lots of art galleries, contemporary jewelers, ceramic shops as well as all sorts of wonderful things made from olive wood…perfect Tuscan things to take home.
But make sure you make it all the way up to the duomo. Not least for the mouth watering ‘gelateria’ in the corner of the square. From the duomo take Via S. Matteo which leads down to the gate.
About two thirds of the way down is ‘Le Antich Essenze’ at n° 61. Here they make and sell their own hand-made soaps; totally natural with locally grown herbs, fruits and flowers, wheat, sage, olive oil and lavender.
Almost opposite at n° 70 is ‘Ieri & Oggi’, run by two sisters, Silvia & Roberta. They have beautiful linens, towels and fabrics, many of which are hand worked by themselves with croqueted borders and embroidered designs in typical Tuscan style. A little further down on the right is a small alley (via San Martino), almost immediately on the right as you enter is a tiny little studio ‘Barceloneta’ where Lucia decorates furniture. As you might imagine from the name of the shop, she’s Spanish, not Italian, but has great style and that’s what counts!
Just a little further down Via San Matteo at n° 81 is Mario Curini, a cavernous antiques shop with all sorts of things from repurposed pieces to delicate blown glass, medieval chests to wrought iron torchieres.
Thankfully here not everything closes at lunch time but you might like a little snack attack. Here are a few of our favorite Antiques Diva dines:
Trattoria Chiribiri. Pass thru’ the main archway S. Giovanni, go up the steps immediately to the left just thru’ the main arch. Piazza della Madonna, 1 A tiny place but with big food!
‘Ristorante Dorando just off the main square in vicolo dell’ Oro, 2 is set in an old cellar and quite charming. Tel: 0577 941 862 closed Monday
Le Terrazze just beside the hotel ‘La Cisterna’ in the square by the same name is a little more formal, set on the first floor it commands magnificent views over the surrounding countryside… the food is good too!
There are also lots of bars where you can find a great sandwich and ‘Enoteca’s’ which offer not just wine for tasting and purchasing but also light traditional fare such as wild boar salami, ‘pecorino’ sheep cheese, cold cuts and conserved vegetables, such as grilled bell peppers, olives and porcini mushrooms.
While in San Gimignano make sure to also stock up on your Tuscan food-finds! There are so many pastas, dried herbs, sausages and wines for sale at the various gourmet shops in town that this an ideal place to stock your cupboard.
The Antiques Diva & Your Tuscan Antiques Diva Susan
Dear Diva Readers,
he ancient Tuscan city of Arezzo with its Roman ruins, medieval walls and renaissance architecture was home to many famed architects and artists alike – Piero della Francesca, whose murals adorn many of Italy’s great churches and Giorgio Vasari, creator of the Medici corridor that runs across the Arno – to name just two of Arezzo’s famous artisans. Arezzo has always been a magnet for art lovers. Susan P, my Antiques Diva & Co colleague in Italy offering Antique Shopping Tuscan Tours explains, “It’s no less so today – when the first weekend of the month the town centre is transformed into one huge flea market with over 500 vendors.”
Antiques Diva Tuscan Tour Guide Susan P shopping in Arezzo
Susan advises Italian Flea Market pilgrims to browse the stalls climbing up to Piazza Grande and San Francesco at your leisure, taking time to chat with the vendors, lingering over their Italian accents. “You’ll enjoy the cast of characters hawking their wares,” she explains with a twinkle in her eye. “The vendors love to share stories of their treasures – some of which are even true!” she adds, noting “Some stories the vendors tell have to be taken with a pinch of salt.” But what salt it is… regardless of pedigree, the treasures in Arezzo abound – whether vintage pieces from mysterious scientific instruments to antique toys and furniture, fascinating paintings and religious relics to second-hand crockery, glass, kitchen and cooking items. The market is filled with all varieties of silver as well as a slew of vintage and antique ceramics and yellow-paged books perfect for decorating your shelves. In short, Italian Diva Guide Susan P promises, “It’s impossible to go home empty handed!”
On my last trip to Arezzo, this Little Piggy came home with me!
“Oh the things you will see,” sighs Susan P, Tuscan Antique Shopping Tour Guide
“And that’s just the Flea Market in Arezzo,” she exclaims, “There is much more to discover once you venture off the main arteries from a gallery of small antique shops, to lampshade makers and great hardware stores.”
BOOK A SPECIAL ANTIQUES DIVA PRIVATE SHOPPING TOUR IN AREZZO!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Arezzo 2015 Dates:
January 3-4, 2015
January 31 – February 1, 2015
February 28 – March 1, 2015
April 4-5, 2015
May 2-3, 2015
June 6-7, 2015
July 4-5, 2015
August 1-2, 2015
September 5-6, 2015
October 3-4, 2015
October 31 – November 1, 2015
December 5-6, 2015
The Antiques Diva®
(seen below, shopping in Tuscany)
Dear Diva Readers,
n today’s blog I want to introduce you to La Dolce Diva – Susan, our Diva Guide leading antique shopping tours in Tuscany! Susan is a dazzling Brit living in Tuscany and is a dream-come-true! She’s quite possibly the most affable person I’ve met, with an easy smile, a lifetime lived exploring antiques, a quirky nature and an eye for style! Susan describes herself as “British by birth, Welsh by choice, Mid-Atlantic by nature, and Italian by adoption”.
Meet Susan – La Dolce Diva! The Antiques Diva® Guide in Tuscany!
Susan tells about Growing up in Britain…
“For as long as I can remember, design and decoration have been a part of my life. As a small child I spent hours playing with the doll’s house that my father had made for us, staging the rooms, making and hanging curtains, stitching tiny cushions, adding bits and pieces… My dad was quite a craftsman; he made the tiny furniture and electrified the house with a huge battery. I loved Lego too; building houses, gardens, rooms. I was also an avid fan of ‘Pelham Puppets (very British!) and would pour over catalogues deciding what I would like, then save my pocket money. When I had enough I carefully filled out the form with my order and rushed down to the post office to buy the postal order and send it off. Those were agonizing days when I would wait eagerly for the postman to arrive. I recall one Christmas when we received a theatre – how excited we were, painting the cut out wooden scenes with my sister, then creating grand plays and shows for our family and friends. I continuously moved the furniture around in my bedroom. I recall when I was around 10 years of age my room was to be redecorated and I was allowed to choose the wall paper, though what I chose was not exactly what my mother had had in mind; a dark blue ground with green and white snowdrops… but I loved it. As I got older I would accompany my father to visit British country homes and gardens, he was a great historian and purveyor of fine things. Subconsciously the seeds had been sown and germination started.”
Susan tells about starting her career as a Buyer at Harrods in London
“I left Wales for the bright lights of London to pursue a career in retailing, where better place to start than the renown store of Harrods. For our final assignment we were asked which department interested us most – much to raised eyebrows I nominated the antiques department. There was a warm and friendly, small close-knit team, the buyer was delighted to have a little go-fer, and soon I was attending auctions, bidding and buying… upon his direction of course. I loved the auction room – the excitement and thrill of the sales. One summer I went to visit my sister in New York and couldn’t resist attending one there and not long after found myself as a permanent fixture in one of the British auction houses in the city, eventually becoming a specialist in 19th & 20th Furniture and Decorative Arts.”
Bright Lights… Big City! Susan tells about living in New York City & working in antiques
“After six wonderful and formative years in the boom of the mid 80’s, working with dealers and collectors it was time to leave the hustle and bustle of New York City. Through a strange series of circumstances, I found myself in Tuscany. It was merely by chance and most certainly a random choice that I made, with six months to spare between jobs and ironically not quite knowing what to do. Back home in my native Britain I had picked up a very English magazine… not to be named of course, but well-known for its knitting patterns and traditional recipes, but perhaps above all, for being the place to look for short term jobs abroad, little box ads for nannies and au pairs. It was exactly one of these ads that caught my eye; it read… ‘come to Tuscany and work two hours a day’…. Hmmm, what an invitation, who could refuse?”
Susan tells how she moved to Tuscany nearly 20 years ago and became La Dolce Diva!
“I found myself on a beautiful 3000-acre agricultural estate in the heart of Tuscany just outside of Siena and in love in more ways than one. I was fortunate enough to become part of an Italian family and over the last twenty years have had a hand in developing an ‘agriturismo’ business; a multifaceted task which amongst other things has involved the refurbishment and renovation of over a dozen buildings.”
Susan tells about Antique Shopping in Italy
“The most fun part of working on an estate in Italy was of course decorating the houses… the resources in Italy are fabulous, the natural elements such as terracotta, marble, stone, beautiful ceramic tiles, rich fabrics, tassels and ties and of course an excuse to indulge in my preferred past time. Shopping takes a little time and patience and a lot of talk and schmoozing… the Italians are famed for that and it’s an integral part of the culture that must be embraced. My tastes are eclectic, ranging from fine period antiques, silver and paintings to vintage clothing and re-purposed agricultural tools and equipment. I still love to frequent the auction houses too. Of course it’s even better and more fun in company and I’m more than happy to share my secrets!”
The Antiques Diva®