Out With the New, In With the Old

Tara Shaw

For those who are inexperienced in shopping for antiques, the task of finding a beautiful, meaningful and historic piece may sound overwhelming. If taken, though, the journey into the antique world can be a thrilling one, especially when considering how well-crafted and unique antiques can be. Several local antique vendors make shopping both easy and enjoyable, and with their expansive knowledge of regions, time periods and crafters, you’re bound to find styles that satisfy your taste.

Collecting antiques is an investment in the future, and not only in terms of monetary value. Antiques can be investments in your home and living space or your collection of jewelry and wardrobe. They can also be investments in family, serving as heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation.

So how do you begin your collection? How do you know what to look for? Gerrie Bremermann of Bremermann Designs (3943 Magazine St., 891-7763) recommends familiarizing oneself first with what New Orleans has to offer. “Explore the markets on Magazine and Royal streets, and get familiar with pricing. See who has a style you like and who you feel is a good authority on furniture,” she says. Bremermann emphasizes buying the best quality one can afford. “Start young, and try to buy one fine piece a year. If you have a very good antique in your 30s, it should last into your 60s and eventually a lifetime.” Bremermann specializes in 18th-and 19th-century French pieces, though her decorating firm often incorporates other styles and contemporary art into designs as well.

Tara Shaw (1240 Camp St., 525-1131) specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces from Italy, France, Sweden and Belgium. These pieces inspired her to design her own reproductions, the widely acclaimed Maison line of furniture. A veteran to the trade, Shaw emphasizes loving the piece you buy above all else. According to Shaw, if you love your antique, you will always have a place for it in your home. “Once you have fine-tuned your style in furniture – whether it’s Italian mixed with contemporary or French Provincial – realize that it can be repurposed for another room when you want a fresh look, or reinvent it by adding another item to your collection,” Shaw says.

Buying one antique doesn’t have to define your taste, the look of your house or even one room. In fact, many designers mix styles and time periods in an effort to reinvent Old World charms.

Caroline Robert of perch. (2844 Magazine St., 899-2122) saw a need in New Orleans for a shop carrying an array of antique, vintage and contemporary home furnishings. “At perch. we show how you can meld an array of styles and furnishings from different eras and still have a cohesive look,” says Robert. “I would suggest people take a second look at what they’ve inherited from their parents and grandparents and consider utilizing those in their design scheme. Also consider collecting during your travels. Pieces that have meaning or sentimental value are what you want to surround yourself with.”

Robert also recommends buyers not be afraid to inspect every aspect of a piece: its underside, corners, insides of drawers, etc. “Pieces that look like reproductions probably are, but if you do your homework, you might find a gem in the rough,” she says.

Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights (521 Conti St. and 318 Royal St., 522-9485) has an array of both indoor and outdoor gems tucked away at their two French Quarter locations. While Bevolo is known for crafting the gas lantern light fixtures famous throughout the French Quarter, they also house the Bevolo Collection of antiques. From chandeliers, tables and benches to mirrors, sconces, sugar kettles and statues, Bevolo’s wide selection of antiques and reproductions will help spruce up courtyards, doorways and lawns as well as foyers, dens and bedrooms.

Antiques aren’t only meant for the home, and according to Thomas Whisnant of Wellington & Company Fine Jewelry (505 Royal St., 525-4855), these literal gems are meant to be worn. Whisnant, a GIA-certified gemologist, comes from three generations of French Quarter antique dealers, and he branched out to specialize not only in antiques, but in antique jewelry as well.

“What’s really exciting is that we’re seeing interest in antique jewelry from younger and younger customers. The old stuff has never been so stylish,” he says. As far as tips on shopping, Whisnant offers, “Antique pieces tend to be smaller, slightly more delicate, and made with different materials than we see today. Have an open mind, and really enjoy each artistic historical artifact you examine.”

Another French Quarter dealer of antique jewelry is Waldhorn & Adler (343 Royal St., 581-6379). Since 1881, they have offered everything from estate jewelry and collectibles to fine English and French furniture. Recently, they put together a new collection of unique vintage watches, perfect for collectors and enthusiasts.

With an expansive two levels of merchandise to roam, visitors at Waldhorn & Adler enjoy the ability to meander through time, even while taking their time.

For those looking for a more lively shopping experience, visit Crescent City Auction Gallery (1015 Julia St., 529-5057), a locally owned and operated full-service auction house with a focus on local estates, fine art (particularly of Southern or Louisiana interest), bric-a-brac, pottery, silver, jewelry, art glass, American, English and Continental furniture and plenty more.

Crescent City Auction Gallery’s experienced auctioneers and staff make it easy to find and obtain the item you desire at a price you want to pay. Visit CrescentCityAuctionGallery.com for their upcoming auction schedule and information on auction items.

No matter your shopping style or specific taste in design, New Orleans is a great place to begin or continue your search for the perfect antique. You don’t need to play the garage or estate sale guessing game and hope for uncovered treasure on “Antique Roadshow.” Between these designers, shops and experts,
the possibilities for a valuable investment are endless.

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