Art & Antiques
EUGENIA UHL photographs
Buying art and antiques is not always as easy as it might sound. Many buyers have purchased a piece only to get home and find that it doesn’t fit in with their décor. We asked local experts for advice on where to begin if you are in the market for art and antiques. While buying what speaks to you is always advised, our professionals’ insider tips on where to shop and how to pull things together will go a long way toward ensuring that your selections shine.
As an interior designer and owner of the Magazine Street design shop, Shades Of Blue, Mary Lou Fewell suggests her clients browse magazines – especially local ones – to find images of art and antiques they like. “They can see houses like theirs and what people have done with them,” says Fewell. If you’re a shotgun owner, she advises studying how a similar shotgun has been modernized, for instance. Designer Anne Hammett of St. Romain Interiors in Madisonville, lays the groundwork for a space by using what the client already has first, then helps clients bring in art and antiques by showing them the diversity of merchandise she carries in her shop (antiques as well as contemporary art and accessories). When purchasing art, she counsels clients to choose original works versus giclées; when buying antiques she advises looking for styles and quality that will outlast trends. Designer Erin Jacobs, owner of Abode, starts by creating a space plan and putting the “bigger, more expensive pieces you use every day” in place, then shows clients plenty of options to see what they like. “My personal philosophy is that art is super personal,” says Jacobs. “I can coach [clients] in terms of color and texture and size. But I tell clients it’s something they have to love.” Designer Penny Francis, owner of Eclectic Home, agrees. “A mistake that is often made is that people purchase art to match a space rather than purchasing because they really love it,” she says. “Art is subjective.” When in doubt, designer Jennifer DiCerbo of The French Mix in Covington recommends consulting a professional for “a second opinion and to get a feel for the space.” But ultimately, the decision to buy art lies with the client who will live with it.
Where To Shop
As a local business owner, Fewell prefers buying from local merchants and artists, a win-win scenario for buyer and seller. In addition to supporting the community of local merchants and artists, she notes that buying art by locals is a great way to collect quality works that may not carry the heftier price tags of pieces by better-known artists or those sold in expensive cities like New York. For Jacobs, the question of where to shop depends on the client’s time frame and desires. “Some people really want to just love the art itself, while other people are passionate about the artist,” she says. For those who enjoy searching for either art or antiques online, Jacobs recommends a wide array of sources from auctions to first dibs to eBay. When clients are looking for works by a particular artist, she often hunts down works for them, sometimes calling on sources in the Chicago area where she is from. When possible Hammett recommends asking galleries, shops and other sources whether they allow customers to bring art home on approval (St. Romain allows art and accessories to go out on approval). Hammett suggests using a tape measure, taking photos, and asking for a dealer’s trained opinion, while DiCerbo adds that making a template with painter’s tape or cardboard is helpful. But seeing a work in your own home can be the ultimate deal-sealer. “Things are going to look different in a gallery or store with different lighting, colors and furniture,” says DiCerbo. “Buyers have to be able to take things on approval and see them in their own space especially when it’s an investment piece.”
JoAnn Saucier, one of the owners of The Shops At 2011, a market place for antiques, art and more, says that malls like hers offer multiple advantages. The Shops’ vendors offer a broad range of merchandise – contemporary, vintage, Mid-Century, art, antiques, home décor and more – and of expertise – all under one roof. Shoppers also will find custom slipcovers, a framer, two lines of chalk paint for DIY repurposing projects, design assistance upon request and a staff that encourages taking everything from furniture to art home on approval. For emerging talent, Francis is a fan of websites like Etsy and social media tools like Instagram. By using them to directly market their work to customers, artists are able to offer better prices.
Mixing It Up
“Even if you have all new furniture and art, you should consider having at least one antique with a lot of character,” advocates Fewell. Likewise, she recommends that when a space is mostly comprised of antiques, adding a sleek modern piece of furniture, modern accessories or a contemporary abstract will keep things from looking too traditional. “You want that element of surprise,” she says. Hammett likes to update traditional antiques pieces, such as a classic Chippendale table with something more contemporary and lighter in color like slipcovered chairs. DiCerbo suggests making a mental list of textures and finishes in a room – wood, glass, iron and so on – and then adding accordingly. “I would never put a wooden lamp on a wooden chest,” she says. “I love mixing different mediums.” Francis advises a mix of mediums in her clients’ selection of art as well. “I encourage clients to have three dimensional art on the walls as well as on furnishings,” she says. “ It helps to create movement and texture the space.” With fewer rules to follow, Fewell and Jacobs, work toward an eclectic, individualized blend. “It’s nice because [design] is not so cookie-cutter anymore,” says Fewell.
Tying It Together
“If clients are going out and buying things on their own, I tell them to make sure colors are working together, that woods are mixing well [for example],” says Fewell, whose shop is named for a her favorite color and stocked with a range of blue hues. “Something needs to unify things.” Abode’s Jacobs stresses the importance of color. “You can pull the color out of a painting and use it in the tiniest details – a lampshade, a rug or pillows,” she says. “If it’s layered properly, you can really mix together fabrics and textures that you love simultaneously,” she adds.
“You don’t want [your interior] to look like it all came from one store,” says DiCerbo whose store, The French Mix, is named after her affinity for mixing old and new. When working with a large wall, many people think they need a large work of art to fit the space. When a large piece is not in the budget, Francis brings together a variety of smaller works and marries them with framing. “What I like to do is create a composition of works on a wall that is large in scale and the placement and size of the pieces becomes a work of art in and of itself while helping to add balance to the space,” says Francis. The composition can have different subject matter and medium yet the framing is all gold or black for example.”
Be Open To Ideas
“Antiques do not have to be that expensive,” says Jacobs, who likes to shop online for bargain purchases that can be repurposed with lacquered paint, which adds a contemporary freshness. “If I have a budget crunch, I would rather the client spend the money on a sofa they will have for 20 years and cutback by repurposing something. It can be hard to visualize but when I transform a piece, clients are always happy in the end, especially in the budget.“ Jacobs’ other ideas for rejuvenating lackluster pieces include lightening dark woods with white accessories and lining the backs of bookshelves with removable wallpaper. When clients have inherited pieces that carry sentimental value but don’t blend with their surroundings, Fewell says that reworking a piece of furniture’s upholstery or updating an artwork’s mat and frame also can be effective solutions. “A good framer is worth a million dollars,” she says. “They can really help guide you.” Fewell also suggests trying a piece of furniture or art in a room you haven’t previously considered. “If it’s a nice piece and you don’t like it where it is, it might work better in another area.”
While Internet “deal of the day” marketing breeds instant gratification shopping, Hammett cautions that investing in antiques and art takes time and patience. “I find that people are savvy about pricing, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with being savvy about purchasing,” says Hammett. “Buy one piece a year and build on that,” she advises. “Look for long-term value.”
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