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Designing a Life Less Ordinary | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva & Co

Designing A Life Less Ordinary

When I was in my 20’s and had first moved to Paris, I opened a new journal and I wrote one sentence. I’ve started a million other journals since then, living a million different lives, as my journey took me the last two decades from living in Paris to Amsterdam and Berlin before making Venice home – but in that particular journal, there is still only that one sentence. The rest of the journal is blank. I didn’t know what words would follow – but I knew I was writing my manifestation. My mantra. The life I would live.

I want a life less ordinary.

Venice: Designing A Life Less Ordinary | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva 0036

My mom often reflects, “Your life is interesting, but it’s not easy.”  She sees past the glamour of my life to the day to day toils of living abroad. Here there are inconveniences you don’t face in Oklahoma where I grew up. Radiators that never seem to heat the apartment causing me to sleep under fur coats in the winter. She sees me carrying groceries home in the rain over bridges and up flights of stairs. She’s regaled with stories of the acqua alta filling my magazzino and me frantically elevating storage items so they’re not ruined by the famed Venetian floods. More than once our Skype has been interrupted when the electrical fuse blows because I turned the tea kettle on forgetting I was running the washing machine. She sees the minor – but yet –  practical – inconveniences of my life abroad. And while my life may not be convenient by American terms, darn it’s sexy.

I joke I can tolerate anything but two things – ugly decor and to be bored. And – my life is many things – but it’s always beautiful and it’s always interesting. 

Venice Biennale

It’s this sentiment that made me smile when I saw the theme of this year’s Biennale di Venezia – “May You Live In Interesting Times.” The quote refers to 1966 when Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech saying, “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.” Anything is possible.

I found myself reflecting on this sentiment during the opening week of the Biennale as I attended the #DiorBall- also known as the #TiepoloBall – organized by the Venetian Heritage Foundation for their 20th anniversary. Held in the Baroque 17th-century Palazzo Labia, the ball was a reenactment of the 1951 Beistegui “Bal Oriental” – dubbed the ball of the century. Both in 1951 and this month at the event, all of European society floated down the Grand Canal clamoring to get in. Among the original guests in 1951 were Christian Dior, Salvador Dalí and Orson Welles. Now, the guests were Sienna Miller, Tilda Swinton and Sandro Kopp, Peter Marino, Monica Bellucci… and… uhm… me?!?! alongside my dear friend Steven Moore of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. At times like this, I pinch myself. How did I get this life I’m living? With 380 guests in attendance, it was a formal sit down dinner catered by the Gritti Palace. And just as at the original event, the guests were charged to dress as if in a Tiepolo paintingtableaux vivants – so they became part of the decoration. As we climbed the stairs after being dropped by our water taxis and private boats at the palazzo we were presented in the main salon of the palace in the room where Giambattista Tiepolo painted his masterpiece The Banquet of Cleopatra. It was magic… (You can read more about the night in Vogue.)

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Behind the scenes at the Venice Biennale Dior Tiepolo Ball

When debating what to wear to a ball hosted by one of the world’s greatest fashion houses where everyone I knew was going to be wearing haute couture… I decided to focus on the accessories. After all, “if” as Oprah says, “there’s one thing I know” – I know it’s all about the accessories. My dress was pretty – an emerald green empire waist strapless gown that I’d worn once before but on my head – I wore a swan. Yes. You read that right – but don’t take my word for it, watch Paris Mode TV to catch a glimpse of my feathers! 

The jewelry was all my own design, Republic of Toma. Around my neck, I wore a ring of interconnecting pearl frogs with black diamonds for eyes. In life – not just in romance – you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get what you want. That means sometimes you have to go through failures and times in your life that things don’t go your way to get what you want.

The Dior Tiepolo Ball in Venice: Designing A Life Less Ordinary | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva

My dress was pretty – an emerald green empire waist strapless gown that I’d worn once before but on my head – I wore a swan.

At my table in the SeaRoom, I sat at one head of the table with my escort Steven across the table parallel me. At the very moment the Frenchman from Van Cleef & Arpels sitting to my right asked, “Why do you live in Venice?” and I responded matter of factly, “Because it makes me happy,” a photo was snapped. On my face is a look I rarely see. A look of quiet contemplation. I manifested this life. I build this life. A life less ordinary. I have found my home. Ca’ Toma. 

In Dior’s autobiography, he wrote about the 1951 event, describing that evening as “the most beautiful” he had ever seen and that he “would ever see” and the event “a true work of art.” As my friend Steven Moore was on the water taxi heading home after an amazing week in Venice to England he texted me, “No detail was left unattended. No matter how small. We seemed to float along as if in a dream. I kept thinking I was going to wake up, but sometimes dreams do come true.”

You and only you have the power to make your dreams come true.
What are you dreaming?

Antiquing in the South of France

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Antiquing in a WWII era Ulta motorcycle in the South of France

Coco Chanel said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” Two photos, taken a week apart capture the essence of me. In one I’m wearing a White Swan fascinator on my head at the Dior Ball in Venice. In the other, I’m wearing a white motorcycle helmet while sitting in a sidecar of a WWII era Ulta motorcycle antiquing in the South of France putting finishing touches on our newly revised Antiques Diva Provence Tours. (lol. Sidecar optional :). #WatchThisSpace we’re working on organizing our next training program for antique dealers held at a special retreat in the South of France. The photo is not about the helmet – though that is a great accessory – It’s about the adventure. We’re visiting Carpentras and Ville Neuve les Avignon, Aix en Provence and of course Ile sur la Sorgue. The deballages – in Avignon, Montpellier and Bezier – are still at the top of our #mustshop Provence list for antique dealers – but we’re also adding in appointments in private homes, and a surprising amount of chic new concept stores that show you that antiques can be super sexy. I’ve fallen in love with Marseilles recently – a city that wasn’t my favorite and now suddenly feels like home. It’s a city where Europe and Africa meet, allowing you to take a journey within a journey.

Provence Designing A Life Less Ordinary | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva

Journeys in Provence

Provence Flea Market

Journeys Ca’ Toma

Perhaps that journey within a journey is also what I like about reading. Summer is coming and we’ve our cabana booked in Lido and my stack of summer reads is mountainous. My bookshelves are overflowing with biographies, business books, travelogues and simple inspiration/motivation. It can take me months to finish a book as I don’t want to reach the end of the author’s journeys. I’m sad when it’s time to say goodbye, like parting with a dear friend who I don’t know when I will see again.

The last few books on the list start revolving around Venice… As Joann Locktov writes, “I Dream of Venice.” (If you’ve not read Joanne’s books then you must add her newest book to your reading list.) Hmmm… this makes me ponder…  Joanne is another American woman making a mark on Venice.  

As an American woman living here, I find it fascinating is that Venice has a history of being influenced by American women. There is Peggy of course. But the Countess Elsie Gozzio saved Fortuny, allowing it to become what it is today. And it’s practically impossible to write a chronicle of the 20th C without including the salons of Princess Winnaretta Singer de Polignac – yes, that Singer of sewing machine family fame. When she married her husband Edmond she bought him the Palazzo Contarini Polignac as a gift. And then there was Isabella Stewart Gardner who of course rented the nearby Palazzo Barbaro in 1890 becoming a patron of the arts. Today these American women who left their mark on Venice surround my home here. I live across the Grand Canal from the Guggenheim and the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac. My grocery store stands in the shadow of the Palazzo Orfei (today known as the Palazzo Fortuny on the Campo San Beneto) and the Palazzo Barbaro is a mere stone’s throw away.

Living Room Abbey Designing A Life Less Ordinary | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva

Living Room of the Abbey

Colnaghi: Private Exhibit at Abbazia di San Gregorio

During the Biennale Opening Week, I attended countless parties – but one of my favorites was the invitation from Parisian interior designer Chahan Minassian, Richard Nathan and Jorge Coll, the Spanish art dealer, and the CEO of Colnaghi, one of the world’s oldest and most significant art galleries. In the historic Abbazia di San Gregorio, Chahan Minassian created his signature atmosphere incorporating Colnaghi master paintings with vintage and modern furniture and design showing how one lives with art and antiques. The collaboration is “the home of a 21st-century traveller” illustrating the lifestyle of a modern-day collector. And much like , the Abbazia di San Gregorio encapsulates the timeless spirit of the Grand Tourist in a contemporary setting. Just as in love and in science, in interiors opposites attract. The juxtaposition of contemporary furnishings set amidst medieval architecture and art spanning the centuries is simply sexy.

While the exhibit is private, Colnaghi will take private appointments to shop the exhibit where all the art is for sale. Of the Grand Tour connection, Jorge Coll of Colnaghi explains,

“Throughout this project, we want to show that a collection is not just a pool of assets: its real value lies in its connection with the life of a collector and is built from memories, experiences, friendships and discoveries. Building a collection is a voyage of discovery and, as with every voyage, the traveler needs guides if he or she is to arrive at the right destination. The collector needs to have good people to do research, to create the right relationship with the experts and dealers to ensure that what is collected is something that he or she can feel proud of and enjoy, something that will live on into the future.”  

Read more about the Collection here.

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A Private Tour of Abbazia di San Gregorio


Over the years on The Antiques Diva blog, I’ve written frequently about the Grand Tour – and last month after I introduced the Silk Road into my dialogue. His book detailing his journey bicycling from Venice to China comes out soon and I’m anticipating its release. Silk is the thread that unravels in my mind as my mind shifts from the Colnaghi private exhibit in Venice to the Palazzo Fortuny. While you can’t visit the Fortuny factory itself – the process is still a tightly woven secret – you can visit the 15th C Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei where one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century lived and created. Mariano Fortuny was a 19th/20th C Renaissance man and perhaps one of the people from heaven I’d most like to meet. While we think of Fortuny for fabric – his stretch and influence go beyond textiles. He was a pioneer photographer, an inventor of theatre and stage lighting plus he patented a plethora of inventions, among them a machine for pleating silk which he used to create his Grecian-style “Delphos” dresses. In his will, Mariano spelled out his wishes that the factory no longer makes the Delphos gown after his wife Henriette’s death.

15th C Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei where Mariano Fortuny lived

Knowing the rarity of these gowns, my friend Nancy Heckler donated her mother’s Delphos gown to the museum. (You can find out more about Nancy’s mother’s foundation by visiting the When the curators opened the box and unfolded the pleated Japanese silk dress they wept. The dress now is on display in a room layered in antique and oriental fabrics alongside more exotic artifacts and patterns from Africa, Central America, and Polynesia. The room is indeed another tribute to the Grand Tour and beyond. It’s a glimpse into the objects that inspired an artist from around the world – and perhaps a glimpse into one of the greatest minds on the intellectual and artistic scene at the turn of the 19th century.

Förg in Venice exhibit at the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac | Designing A Life Less Ordinary | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva

Förg in Venice exhibit at the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac

I always joke that I wish my friends could see into my own mind. While I’m far from an intellectual, my mind is nevertheless a beautiful place. I dream in colors that Pantone hasn’t classified yet. As I begin the process of writing my book I’m seeking the words to describe that cavern in my head. In the end – art is often merely about just that. Expressing ourselves. I visited the Förg in Venice exhibit at the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac – one of the official collateral events of the Biennale. The curators of the exhibition have layered Gunther’s art over the family’s own tapestries which lined the walls of the piano noble. As we were leaving the exhibit which is held in a private home a member of the Polignac family stopped my friend Steven Moore – one of the worlds leading porcelain experts – to ask his opinion. And back up the stairs we climbed, to see a collection of tiles on the palazzo balcony walls. My friend named the artist he believed who had created the tilework and as we stood on the balcony overlooking the mouth of the Grand Canal again I smiled that smile of quiet contemplation and felt that perhaps finally – nearly 20 years later – I had the words to write in that journal after my one sentence,  “I want a life less ordinary.”

Until next month,


Venetian Spritz Recipe | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva

Cocktails, #DivaStyle: Venetian Spritz Recipe

Cocktail hour is de riguer, ca Toma. Whatever the time of day, my antique Spanish secretary is stocked and ready to indulge. In January I shared with you one of my favorite cocktails, a French 75 – what I call Coco Chanel with a Dagger. While I’ll always be a champagne girl, since moving to Venice, I’ve adopted a new favorite aperitivo: a Spritz! sweet, bitter, citrusy, sparkling and slightly salty, a Spritz is delightful any time of day! 

Nearly every trace of Austria’s occupation of Venice in the 19th century is gone, except the Spritz! Made with white wine and sparkling water, Hapsburg soldiers brought ‘sprizzen’ to Venice. While keeping the name, Venice added the attitude and the color with a dash of bitter orange flavored liqueur. 

When in Venice, expect to pay around €2.50 – unless you too are addicted the Gritti Hotel, where I happily pay €15 for the ambiance and views. Your Spritz can also be made with Aperol or Campari – slightly sweeter or more bitter. While Aperol is my favorite, Select is perhaps less well known around the world so I want to share with you my recipe for a summer Venetian Spritz – Select style! If you prefer Campari or Aperol, just substitute bitters! 

Speaking of substitutions, of course ca Toma I substitute the white wine with prosecco!

Cocktails, #DivaStyle: Venetian Spritz Recipe

Ca Toma with a Spritz and watching Netflix at my 17th-century Spanish secretary turned bar in my Venetian kitchen

Venetian Spritz Recipe 

• 4 ounces prosecco
• Sparkling water
• 1 ½ to 2 ounces Select
• Orange slice
• 1 green olive

In a white wine glass over three or four ice cubes, pour the prosecco, a splash of sparkling water and the Select -, in that order so the Select sinks to the bottom. Garnish with a slice of orange and an olive.

Book A Tour with The Antiques Diva & CoBOOK AN ANTIQUES DIVA Buying Tour to Italy 

Book an antique buying tour to Italy – and be sure to include Venice on your itinerary, I’d love to introduce you to Toma’s Venice!


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Porte Italia Interiors, Venice | The Antiques Diva

Porte Italia Interiors, Venice

The Antiques Diva at Carnival in VeniceShhhh… I have a secret I want to share: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m besotted with Venice. On the blog, on social media, in person – at any opportunity I want to talk about Venice, dream about Venice – and visit Venice. Living in Berlin, it’s just a short flight away, and I’ve been known to pop in for a tour with a client, a meeting with a new secret source, or to attend a fabulous design salon… and always a prosecco with our two divine Venice guides, Chiara and Orseola. Last year I started taking Italian lessons – because it’s a beautiful language, and I want to be able to greet my friends in their own language. My love affair with Venice is only growing stronger – so I’m taking the plunge! I’m going to experience la dolce vita for more than a few days – I’m packing up my Berlin apartment and moving to Venice very soon. For a few years – I’m going to continue my Italian affair, indulge my passion and live in this beautiful city that makes my heart so happy. There are so many reasons I’m passionate about Venice, the following story is one of them. Ci vediamo… 

Peggy Guggenheim in VeniceIf famous socialite and art addict Peggy Guggenheim were alive today, she would stumble out the back door of her 18th C palazzo – the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni – facing the Grand Canal and meander over bridges and through calli, campi and campielli’s in her neighborhood – the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice. As she was window-shopping her way past clothing boutiques, jewelry stores antique shops and art galleries, something would catch her attention in the window of a little shop – a shop that wasn’t there before  – at Dorsoduro 868.

She would pause peering in the storefront window of the pop-up shop for Porte Italia Interiors. Her manicured hand would come to cover her mouth as she studied the exquisite craftsmanship and details of the hand-painted traditional Venetian furniture. And I am certain she would sigh… “Porte Italia.”  And she would come inside the pop-up shop, opening per se, the Door To Italy.

Porte Italia Interiors


Porte Italia Interiors, whose headquarters are based north of Venice in Ronchi dei Legionari, has roots reaching back in the past. Their goal was to create furniture inspired by those famous Venetian antiques – the painted furniture of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that in years past had enlivened Venetian interiors. Traditionally the locally made painted furniture in Venice – like the city itself – was more exuberant, whimsical and over the top than its European counterparts.  Bright colors, exuberant silhouettes and whimsical motifs were the name of the game.

Today Porte Italia continues this tradition – employing locally trained artists from Venice Accademia of Arts – to create quality hand-painted furniture that can become the antique of the future. Founded by Enrico Lenarduzzi, this family-run business continues its tradition with son Emilio joining the leadership team at the small company which employees 35 local artists, decorators, frame makers, artisans, blacksmiths and carpenters. Each member of the team is dedicated to bringing the past alive in new interiors.

Painted Interior Arts by PORTE ITALIA INTERIORS

Taking care of every single detail… painted interior arts.


Each piece in their collection is custom made – and the company specializes in working directly with interior designers.  Designers mail the company samples of the fabric to be used in an interior – and Porte Italia creates custom furniture to coordinate with the tissues used.

Painted Interior Arts by PORTE ITALIA INTERIORS

Precious details, bespoke Venetian creations. 


And like their Venetian forefathers who always had their eyes focused out to sea, Enrico and Emilio are also looking globally for expanding their business. An average week has this father-son duo jetting from Italy to the Middle East to the United Kingdom and then popping across the pond to America. Their client list includes everyone from sheiks and sultans to princes and princesses – rumor has it that Camilla has purchased one of their tables – to rock stars and legends. One of the largest collections of Porte Italia furniture in the United States is actually in the home of a Back Street Boy!

Porte Italia Interiors bed collection

From the wonderful 5 star hotel “Castello di Casole,” Tuscany, Italy. Handmade in Italy and entirely hand-painted inspired by the authentic Venetian techniques. 


Currently seeking relevant distribution channels in the United States, Porte Italia is bringing Italy to the world. Their collection included painted doors, panels, mirrors, sofas, chandeliers and even frescos. Perhaps their bed collection has been the most popular piece in their collection – making the cover of Architectural Digest magazine as well as decorating 5-star hotels such as Ashford Castle in Ireland and the Castello di Casole in Tuscany, both members of the Leading Hotels of the World.

Porte Italia VeneziaDiscover Porte Italia 

Feature image by José Manuel Alorda


Toma – The Antiques Diva 



Dream of Venice Architecture | 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
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Ciao, and pleasant dreams of Venice

Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva® 

Venice Salon Recap

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;”>A s many of you know I recently attended a very special event hosted by my two Diva Guides in Venice, Orseola and Chiara of O&C Antiques. These ladies delivered once again by creating a fabulous Salon style evening where artists, designers and collectors came together from all over the world for a few hours of thoughtful discussion while viewing some very special pieces of art and antiques. The mobile Salon (last year I attended their event in Berlin) encourages guests to learn about the pieces which have been curated by Orseola and Chiara, all the while enjoying antiques, art, music and scintillating conversation with like-minded people. The great part is that every piece, be it a rare antique or modern art piece, is available for purchase.

Venice Salon Recap Italy Antiques Diva Guides with Toma Clark Haines

While everything at the Salon was gorgeous, I wanted to highlight five of our favorite pieces here on the blog to give everyone an idea of the type of objects these ladies are bringing together – better yet – it just so happens these are still for sale so even if you missed the salon you still have the opportunity to shop it!

First up is the sleek RM58 Classic chair originally designed by Roman Modzelewski in 1958. This fiberglass chair is one of the earliest Polish designs of polyester-glass laminate furniture and has no counterpart from that time, either in Poland or the rest of the world. One of the original chairs was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and was displayed at the “Cold War Moder: Design 1045-1970” exhibition which was the first to explore the works in modern design, architecture, film and pop culture developed in the context of the Cold War, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. This design is currently available in red, black, white, yellow, and green and is priced at 934€.

Venice Salon Recap RM58-classic-black chair

A digital print on photographic paper by Costanza gianquinto also caught my eye. Every shot this artist takes represents a moment which lends itself to the story of his mind, an esoteric and symbolic path that enables him to sneak in his perception. In the artist’s own words, “I do not take pictures in order to create, I do photography to communicate, to release myself. I seek to express what I imagine in a tangible way, to discover what makes me worried and what trickles down from the scraping walls of my thoughts. There is not reasonable research, neither an obsession or cruelty but only the sweet
tones of aromas and vibes that lay soaking while they wait to be discovered.” The untitled print is priced at 750 € and would make a fantastic addition to a private collection.

to” src=”×200.jpg” alt=”Venice Salon Recap Untitlet Print ” width=”300″ height=”200″ />

A 1964 fresco on plywood titled, immagine n°509 2b, by artist Gino morandis is another show-stopper. I love the colors and composition of this piece. It is priced at 2500 €.

Venice Salon Recap fresco from Gino Morandis

Dating back to the first half of the 17th century, a pair of miniature Italian portraits of Bianca Cappello and Giovanni di Bianca Cappello added depth to the Salon. These very special enamel on copper portraits of the Florentine School are priced at 4800 €.

Venice Salon Recap Miniature Italian Portraits

Venice Salon Recap Miniature Italian Portraits

I was thrilled to see the work of a friend displayed at the Salon as well. Dutch designer Mariska Meijers is a multi talented artist, boasting her own fabric lines and wallpaper designs. She also paints and offers all of her designs at her showroom in Amsterdam. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Salon was seeing her stunning Venetian style lamp shade in Bold Cubisn Parisian Pink (298€) atop an antique lamp base (300€). The juxtaposition of the modern shade and the antique lamp seemed to sum up the feeling of the evening. Mixing the past with the present and curating objects from all time periods is the name of the game and Orseola and Chiara have a flair for winning at that game.

Venice Salon Recap Lamp by Mariska Meijers

If you’d like more information on any of these pieces or on future Salon events, email us at

The Antiques Diva®

Salon in Venice by O&C Antiques

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;”>Do you have plans for Halloween? If not, you are officially invited to join me in Venice! I’m thrilled to be the special guest at the 2nd Salon hosted by our Venetian Diva Guides, Orseola and Chiara of O&C Antiques. The first Salon event they hosted in Berlin last year was themed around “Drama,” and showcased a wide range of antiques and modern art including ancient textiles, precious jewelry, works in mixed media, and photography. This Salon which will take place on October 31 at 6:30 PM is called “FOHAT,” and will be in a gallery space in Venice. Guests will have the exclusive chance to see and buy gorgeous pieces of contemporary art and antiques showcased together for the first time.

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Salon in Venice by O&C Antiques Italy Antiques Diva guides Chiara and Orseola

The Salon will feature a selection of antique art objects (O&C Antiques, ANTICHITA’ MARCIANA, Antichita’ Pittarello, Trame d’incanto – Venice), contemporary art (John Kleckner – Berlin, Marco Thiella – Venice), photography (Costanza Gianquinto – Venice) modern art (Gino Morandis, Alberto Gianquinto) design (Mariska Meijers – Amsterdam, NO WÓDKA – Berlin) and a music permormance (Francesco Enrichi – Venice), in an extraordinary visual and conceptual dialogue between objects and time. The event will be curated in collaboration with Venice Actually and Luca Caldironi.

Salon in Venice by O&C Antiques invitation

If this sounds like the type of event you want to attend, RSVP to to be registered and to have more details about the event. Of course, if you’d like more information on future Salon events or if you’d like me to source pieces for you, please contact me! These international Salons are a truly unique way to acquire one of a kind artworks and antiques. I cannot wait to spend the evening sipping champagne, discussing unique objects, and possibly purchasing something for my own collection!

Ciao for now,

The Antiques Diva®

Design & Wine at Palazzo Rocca

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 50px; line-height: 40px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>A
s we’re looking ahead to a new fabulous 6 day tour called “Design & Wine”  , which will start April 30 2016 in Italy, I can hardly contain my excitement for each part of this experience which will be a combination of dazzling design destinations and delectable wine, food, and antiques. Adam Japko, founder of The Design Bloggers Conference , Jeremy Parzen, founder of Do Bianchi  , and me have worked very hard to put together an itinerary that will thrill the senses and inspire the creative mind.

PalazzoContariniCorfù0I’m particularly pleased to announce that we will be kicking off this tour with welcome cocktails and dinner in a 16th century palazzo called Palazzo Rocca in Venice! This Venetian Gothic fortress palace happens to still be privately owned and is also the place where Prince Charles and Princess Diana stayed in 1985 when they visited Venice.

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Set on a stretch of the Grand Canal between the museum of Ca ‘Rezzonico and the Academia Bridge, the palazzo is a unique magical place—truly a landmark on the Grand Canal— and seems to float on the water. Accessing the palazzo by water, one can simply pull up to the private dock and step into a grand reception hall. If you arrive on foot, you are welcomed into a private courtyard which leads to the same reception room that spans the entire building. Either way, upon arrival at this palazzo, one can’t help but be awed by its beauty.


We’re so thrilled to welcome guests of our tour to this historically significant place which has played host to important figures including royalty, nobility, poets, composers, and great thinkers throughout the centuries. Inspiration is sure to flow as we discuss the interesting historical treasures relating to the art and architectural attributes of the palazzo, all while enjoying a glamorous cocktail party in what is considered the most exclusive and aristocratic Gothic palace on the Grand Canal.

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For more information on the upcoming Design & Wine tour or to reserve your spot today, email us at Space is limited so advance reservations are required. We’d love to have you join us on this fabulous 6 day tour of beautiful Italy!


The Antiques Diva®

Venetian Glass Chandeliers

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 50px; line-height: 40px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>Venetian glass has long been a highly sought after commodity, adding artistic touches to interiors not only to Italian residences but also all over the world. Perhaps one of the best known and most appreciated products made of Venetian glass is the chandelier. These intricately detailed pieces seem to float when hanging and they create an atmosphere of fantasy, whimsy and grandeur all at once.




Many clients that take an Antiques Diva Buying Tour in Italy will stop and stare when they first see these marvelous creations. They’re mesmerizing! The skill of Venetian craftsmen leaves you speechless when you think about each tiny piece being made by hand!




Sometime around the year 1700, Venetian glassmakers began making chandeliers from Murano glass. Murano glass comes from the island of Murano in Venice and had been used to make lovely items for centuries before this. Being known as the most beautiful and pure glass in the world, Murano glass would be molded and sculpted into flirtatious forms often incorporating flowers, vines and leaves. Glassmakers also used various shades of colored glass to enhance these chandeliers and make them look even more like bouquets of flowers.





Whether transparent or colored, many Venetian glass chandeliers have arms covered with blown glass. This requires tedious attention and many hours to craft each small piece by hand to seamlessly fit together. While these chandeliers are still crafted in Venice, purchasing an antique is most certainly a good investment that not only retains but gains in value. Often these antique chandeliers come with provenance, having previously hung in palazzos, theaters and other important historical buildings. On our Venetian tours we’re able to visit palazzo’s where you can buy chandeliers straight from the palazzo’s frescoed ceiling…. In essence it’s magic. Diva Style.


If you would like more information on our Antiques Diva Buying Tours or Buying Services, email us at We’d love to help you source the perfect antique Venetian glass chandelier!


The Antiques Diva in Venice with Venetian Diva Guide Orseola

Ciao Bella!

The Antiques Diva®

Bringing Antiques into the Present

to3.jpg”>to3.jpg” alt=”Venetian Antiques, Italian Antiques, Decorating with Antiques, O&C Antiques” width=”400″ height=”600″ />

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 Venice researching an article I was writing on O&C Antiques I had the opportunity to spend time in the Venetian home of Orseola Barozzi Rizzo. Visiting her family home tucked away near the San Toma Vaporetto stop I was reminded of how Europeans live everyday with the past a part of their present. In one corner of Orseola’s living room, on the edge of her 13th C courtyard which was once part of the local convent, she assembled a collection of pieces from the past used for the present. The Italian Chair is from the 18th C nestled against a 17th C armoire from Bologna. Positioned behind the chair on the radiator cover an 18th C Venetian Ecclesiastical alter candlestick shares space with a 16th C copper Tuscan Amfora – a jug once used for carrying water. Beside it sits an Indian gilt pedestal and above the setting – crowning it – Fritoer hangs on the wall. This 19th C plate from the Veneto was used originally for serving sweets. I loved how in one corner of the room each item came from the past but was very much a part of the present.

Diva-scovery: G. Benevento – Venice, Italy

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 300px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>This Venetian haberdashery opened in 1883, a family business that for the last 100 years has been handed down from father to son over 4 generations. Very few changes have been made – the store still stands on the Strada Nova (a little larger that in was when it began thanks to renovations by the founder’s son during his reign) and it still sells the same great inventory of fabrics, tassels, trims and bows, using the original counter and antique tools to roll out fabric and trims. Long considered an institution in Venice, it’s been awarded several medals for staying in business throughout WWII and is now one of the longest running family businesses in the province. Best of all, the prices are incredibly reasonable, making G. Benevento a must-shop stop on your Venetian travels!” target=”_blank”>G. Benevento
Cannaregio, 3991
30121 Venezia, Italy

Phone: +39 (0)41.5220901


to 10px; WIDTH: 300px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Until Next Time, Happy Shopping!

The Antiques Diva™

P.S. Do you have a Diva-scovery you’d like to share? Perhaps a favorite antique shop, an excellent brand or divalicious home decorating store? Whether you’re in Paris, Texas or Paris, France (or anywhere else around the globe) I’d love to hear your Diva-scoveries!! Email me

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The Antiques Diva & Co offers custom planned Antiques Buying Tours for tourists and trade professionals. Whether you’re looking to buy one specific piece or wanting to fill an entire container, our personal shopping antique buying guides share their vast knowledge of secret sources to take you to all the right places.

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