Interior Designer Louis Navarrete: 5 Antiques I Could Use Anywhere
I’ve always had a love for old things, the passage of time, wear and tear, scars – all of this has been of interest since my earliest memory. We lived in a very old house in Cuba, a 17th-century building with old pasta floors and beamed ceilings. Most of it kindly neglected after the revolution but impeccably tidy. We moved to the US to a modern apartment not at all to my liking and so as a teenager I began buying old bits; Japanese Imari, an old French chair; my bedroom was a little museum in my mother’s Danish Modern home. I studied dance, but before becoming a professional working in Monaco I became friends with an antiques dealer who owned The Ballet Shop on the Upper West Side; I’d spend hours rummaging thru stacks of old Romantic prints and silver gelatin photos of famous dancers. Turns out that Norman Crider was a baton twirling ice skater, quite a character who was awarded the Order of National Merit and Philanthropy in France and founded the Antiques Center of America; as he had 3 shops he’d sometimes need a little help. Eventually I’d assist him setting up his booth at the Armory Show where he would display paste jewels once owned by Hollywood Royalty… I remember him saying after a little composition went up “oh dear, you have an eye” and so I cultivated that eye as I danced my way thru Europe and South America.
The best part of being an ornament is that you’re invited into people’s homes, houses decorated by Colefax and Fowler, Mongiardino, all the greats and so you see and you learn how to mix fearlessly. I remember Castaign’s shop in the 80’s, the last period of high style decorating. That’s why antiques are so important, they remind us of what visual quality should be. Luckily there are still many people who appreciate that quality. Speaking of older, when I hung up my ballet shoes I attended Parson’s and was fortunate to have worked with Bunny Williams and Thomas Jayne who use antiques in all of their projects, so it was another layer of training and when I went off on my in own in 1992 I knew what I was looking at. I opened a small shop along with artist Ric Best called from House to Home in Asbury Park and then Flourish in Philadelphia as well as a small booth at the now defunct Center 44; today I sell my finds to a few high profile designers and those who know where to find me. Luckily the Antiques Diva is a great resource for those in the know.
That’s why antiques are so important, they remind us of what visual quality should be.
My take on vintage and antiques is that if something has been around for a few decades or a few centuries, the chances are that with a little care they’ll outlive us all. And even the worst antique is probably better made than the best mass-produced repro. You also won’t see yourself coming and going in your friend’s houses. Stylistically I tend to gravitate to the neoclassical though that can span a very long period of time. Here are 5 items I’d be happy to use just about anywhere.
1. A pair of Regency marble-top consoles. I love Regency, it’s not as stiff as Empire and the scale can be a little more forgiving so these pieces are suited to city living. These particular tables could be used in an entry flanking a doorway or they could live on either side of a sofa with some mod little low tables in front of them or even as additional servers in a dining room. Add a modern painting or a simple mirror above and you’re pretty much set.
2. The now much-maligned cabinet once used to house our clunky TVs were once actually used as storage. Working with clients in NYC and environs not everyone is blessed with miles of closets. I tend to go for the very plain or the very interesting. Here’s a Biedermeier cabinet that’s not too deep, so while it makes a big statement with it’s architectural presence, all columns and rusticated detailing, you could center this on a wall opposite a seating area or perhaps in your bedroom or a study to hold papers and oversized books. At one time a cabinet like this would have cost a small fortune. Best time to buy this type of furniture is now.
3. A pair of faux painted classical planters. I have a thing for non-furniture items. I think the biggest rookie mistake is to buy upholstery and tables all from one source. The quickest way to look ‘done’ and be done in is to fill a room with store bought blandness. These planters could transform any space, they could flank a doorway or a window and as they’re large they could easily be placed on stone plinths in your double height living room with some palm trees. Why not be just a decadent, you know you want to. And it will give your room much-needed height. They could also go to the side of a fireplace to hold logs. So many uses!
4. I have a thing for the Grand Tour. My first time in Florence I visited a shop that was filled with 19th-century bronze casts and models of great sculpture and I was hooked. I buy them whenever I see them and they’re not that easy to find. Group them if you have a center table, use them singly on a modern cube or coffee table, you can’t go wrong. This Atlas was used by Kelly Wearstler in a recent project.
5. While I always mix modern and contemporary art with my antiques there’s no reason one couldn’t use an ancient textile here and there. Tapestries are not something the average person ever thinks about, but imagine this late 18th-century example in a very clean lined room, or in an entrance hall. The borders alone are enough to fill you with countless hours of joy. I also tend to like religious theme, not for everyone, but here is Moses finding water in the desert, talk about a refreshing subject.
And so those are the five items I’m thinking about right about now. Hope you’ve enjoyed them.
Featured image: Room by Louis Navarrete Decoration for Holiday House 2014
Louis Navarrete Decoration
834 Riverside Drive 5B
New York City, NY 10032
Born in Cuba, Louis was always interested in houses and their contents. After emigrating to the US, he studied ballet with renowned teacher David Howard and danced professionally across Europe with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, in the US with The Joffrey Ballet and in South America with Ballets del Zulia. A career ending injury afforded him the opportunity to attend Parson’s where he studied Environmental Design and Interior Decoration under the tutelage of ex Parish-Hadley alumni. He worked as design assistant to Thomas Jayne and Bunny Williams before embarking on his own in 1992. Louis is an expert on design with a keen eye for antiques and has developed a wide range of connections which allows him to source anything you might be in search of, at various price points.