In an ever-changing, ever-evolving world replete with technology and modernity, sometimes the best choice for the home can be something classic and timeless. Searching for the perfect antique requires patience, knowledge and an eye for design; fortunately, these local vendors make it easy to find authentic, well-preserved antiques – or realistic and affordable reproductions of antiques – that will add character, history and warmth to any room.
One of the best reasons to shop for an antique piece is its individual quality; mass-produced pieces simply don’t possess the singular uniqueness of a true antique. Tara Shaw (1240 Camp St., 525-1131) purchases items from all over the world to include in her selection. “I shop in Italy, France, Belgium and Sweden,” she says. “I buy things that are unique one-of-a-kind finds, from small accessories to large anchor pieces.” The circa dates for her antiques range from the 1700s to the 1920s. “My mantra is always to ‘buy what you love,’” she says. “That is the key to filling your home with something that will not be a passing fad. I always look for authentic, original patinas on painted wood. I can spot the real deal from 100 paces.”
When it comes to truly unique conversation pieces, Orient Expressed (3905 Magazine St., 899-3076) has searched the world over for exotic items. They offer rare Asian antiques such as Chinese ancestor figures; burial figures from the Han, Tang and Ming dynasties; blue and white porcelain; and carved wood Santos from the Philippines. Bee Fitzpatrick of Orient Expressed says that antique-shoppers should be wary of imitators and “if you love it, buy it.”
She also encourages shoppers not to be afraid to ask for a discount, which she says is “often a possibility” in the world of antiques.
Reproductions are an affordable alternative to authentic antiques that is gaining popularity locally. Interior Designs (3814 Magazine St., 895-5110) carries several lines of reproductions that are meant to be indistinguishable from the original. The store carries a line of solid teak Gustavian furniture, named after King Gustav of Sweden, says Elizabeth Sullivan, manager of Interior Designs. “They are made exactly like the old antiques were, so the wood inside is untreated and there are no glides on the drawers. They are painted with milk paint colors that were standard in that time. Most people can’t tell the difference.” Sullivan says that reproductions provide the unique feel of an antique without the price, “for people who like the look but can’t afford to really be collecting.”
To travel then from Sweden to England and France, take a trip to Waldhorn & Adler (343 Royal St., 581-6379) where the antiques are comprised of mostly 19th-century English and French pieces, including vintage jewelry and estate sale pieces that can’t be duplicated. Experts there recommend working only with established, reputable dealers when antique shopping. Waldhorn & Adler, which has been an antique-shopping staple in New Orleans since 1881, is the only authorized dealer on Royal Street for Rolex, Cartier and Patek; it’s also the only authorized dealer for Panerai watches in Louisiana.
While reproductions of antique pieces are gaining popularity, many shoppers still search for a truly one-of-a-kind piece that still fits their style and home perfectly.
Julie Neill (3908 Magazine St., 899-4201) creates unique pieces that aren’t direct reproductions, but are inspired by the style of antiques. “We do interpretations of antiques,” she says. “We make chandeliers that look like they’re old but they’re new. I go in my head and figure out if I were working back then as a lighting designer, what would I have designed in the 1800s? I don’t reproduce ones I’ve already seen, I’m just inspired by them.”
Julie Neill carries chandeliers, sconces and lanterns that give the feel and individuality of an antique without the difficulty of searching for the perfect item – a sometimes impossibly daunting task. “Since we do make everything, people who are shopping for antique pieces maybe can’t find an antique that fits their space – or maybe they need a pair of chandeliers and can only find one. We can tailor the piece to the need of a customer and keep the look of an antique.” Above all, though, she says to go for what you love. “Always get the best piece you can find. Buy the most wonderful – go for quality.”
Interior Designs, Julie Neill, Orient Expressed and Tara Shaw