Relics to Relish: Antiques continue to gain in popularity

Putting a patina on your home décor isn’t difficult. Adding antiques to your style, whether it is modern or minimalist can add flair and warmth to any room.

Antiques continue to be a hot decorating trend, for many reasons, said Toma Clark Haines, founder and CEO of The Antiques Diva &Co., Europe’s largest antiques touring and sourcing company.

“Painted, repurposed antiques and used furniture continue to be a popular design choice,” said Clark Haines, who spoke recently at the Summer Las Vegas Market held at the World Market.

The Antiques Diva &Co. offers customized buying tours in eight countries. Antique dealers and interior designers comprise about 75 percent of her company’s business importing antiques to America. “The trend is towards authenticity,” Clark Haines said. “Clients want to buy a piece with a past that shows its age. Patina matters.”

In an Ikea age where everything is mass produced, more and more clients are harking back toward wanting to see imperfection. “Wabi Sabi, the art of imperfection, is the rage,” she said.

Folk furniture and folk art is very popular, but not in the usual period country rooms. Instead, designers with uber modern aesthetics are looking for primitive pieces that contrast with the sleekness of their design, she said.

“People are in search of the authentic,” she said. And more than ever, getting your hands on authentic is easy.

“If someone wants to buy a French café chair, they no longer have to go to France to buy it; they hop online and order one,” Clark Haines said. “If their neighbor comes to their house, sees their chair and likes it, they too hop online and order the same chair.”

In a big box-dominated world where everything is accessible, antiques take on a greater significance.

“Antiques allow individuals the opportunity to express their unique styles, with one-of-a kind finds that you don’t find at the house next door,” Clark Haines said. “In a world of reproductions, people are seeking purchases that are authentic, that have original paint, that have a story to tell.”

Antiques can be incorporated into any interior.

“Take my own home,” Clark Haines said. “I live in a converted loft in a brewery in Berlin. It’s ubermodern and quite simply the design was made for minimalist design. However, the majority of my furniture is Swedish rococo.

“The contrast between modern and antique works. Whether you’re seeking traditional or modern antique tables, the rich patina of wood or the sexy lines of an antique chair, (they) add character to a room.”

People are thinking beyond the typical tea cups and chaises from years gone by and incorporating larger architectural pieces into their home.

“Architectural salvage has been a huge request for the last year,” Clark Haines said. “And it’s still going strong for the next couple of years. Clients are requesting not just 18th-century French limestone mantels but also chateaux flooring, giant slabs of burgundy stone, gorgeous staircases, even ceiling (pieces).”

Recently one of her clients bought an entire neo-Gothic painted cathedral ceiling from a cathedral in Maastricht, Netherlands, for 16,000 euros.

“One of our top requests at the moment is antique doors; 18th-century French walnut is top choice and top quality,” Clark Haines said.

Furniture continues to be the best buy overseas, offering clients the greatest profit margin, as much as five times.

“Tables are very popular, chairs with girth, not petite fiddly chairs, but substantial chairs,” she said. “Swedish original painted pieces from the 18th century are also in vogue, but recently painted shabby chic pieces are out.”

People are also living more graciously, something she calls the “Downton Abbey” effect.

“Grandma’s silver dinner domes are coming out of the attic,” Clark Haines said. “Art de la table has been elevated to the every day, which has silver flatware, crystal stemware and a variety of dining accoutrements being requested on tours. When a client books a tour, we ask them to give sample photos of the styles they like and clients even occasionally give snapshots from the real-life ‘Downton Abbey,’ Highclere Castle, as inspiration.”

From time to time, clients on her tours ask if they may see “antiques in action,” she said, meaning they’re not just looking to buy antiques but looking to see antiques in an historical setting.

“Just as we occasionally take clients on day trips to the Loire Valley to see the chateaux of the Loire, we’ve taken clients to Highclere Castle for inspiration before heading out to shop ‘Downton Abbey’ style at area antique stores,” Clark Haines said.

More antique shoppers are looking for personal pieces to add to their collection, said Glena Dunn, owner of Back in Thyme antique store in Boulder City. Tourists who pass through Boulder City are often looking for something authentic to take home as a souvenir.

“They are looking for nostalgia things, things they remember from their growing up, lunch boxes, pedal cars, silver plates,” said Dunn, who has owned Back in Thyme for 14 years. “Gals are using silver for their wedding. It’s a fraction of the cost because it’s just one piece or a few pieces instead of buying a big set.”

The antique factor also brings warmth and a touch of history to a modern table setting.

“It’s the tarnished oxidized look that is really popular,” Dunn said. “All of this repurposing and upcycling has made antiques more popular.”

The downturn in the economy in the last decade has contributed to the increase in traffic to her store.

“People started thinking about what they can use to decorate that is different, and it’s better than buying new,” she said. “In the past, things were much better made, and the stuff that has survived is better made. It’s not disposable like Ikea (furniture). What you see is what you get. If it hasn’t been broken all these years, then you can count on it surviving.”

Old electronics such as transistor radios and the steam punk movement, a modern twist on Victorian-era style, fueled sales in the last few years.

“It’s a contained category,” Dunn said. “It’s not so much the retro look. It goes in a more mechanical direction, not in a froufrou way.”

Old Western items, such as worn cowboy boots and large basins, are popular for the area. “You can really make a Western look warm and bring color down into the room,” she said.

She’s noticed her customers tend to mix styles, such as sleek modern furniture with dainty Victorian touches.

“People like the worn, aged look and chromes and shiny pieces together,” she said. “Antiques continue to have a great appeal because you can create your own look with affordable pieces.”

Leaving the family photos and quilts in the safety of a storage unit has also given way to a much more friendly reception in the living room.

“They want to have them out and enjoy them, not keep them locked up where they don’t serve any purpose,” she said. “It’s an expression of yourself as well as your family. You either have to enjoy it or pass it on to someone who will. That is what they were built for.”

Antiques in general have come to the forefront because of popular TV shows and the Internet, said Dunn, whose own shop has been featured on the History Channel four times in the last two years.

“People are much more aware now that old things have value,” Dunn said. “They are unique, as having character and being restorable. TV has done that for us. It’s really evolved. It’s really built up the interest in the industry.”

There has been a surge of interest in restoration due in part to the popular reality show “American Restoration,” filmed in Las Vegas and televised nationwide on the History Channel. Part of that interest includes vintage slot machines, which continue to be in vogue, said Peter Sidlow, president of Victorian Casino Antiques, a local auction house.

“We’re an auction company and we do three or four auctions a year, mostly in game room items, old slot machines, advertising pieces, jukeboxes and other materials, decorative arts,” said Sidlow, who’s been in the business 35 years.

From Sept. 19-21, a collection of gambling machines from casino pioneer William F. Harrah will be auctioned off at the Victorian Casino Antique’s showroom, 4520 Arville St., Suite 1. The collection features more than 1,500 rare coin-operated machines, band organs, gas and oil collectibles, toy automobiles and advertising art.

“Antique slot machines are always in vogue, people like to have those types of devices in their game rooms,” Sidlow said. “We always seem to get a large collection of those. We have about 100 in this upcoming auction.”

The Internet has significantly changed the antique market. “It helped the market and hurt the market at the same time,” he said. “People realize that what they have isn’t as valuable as they thought, and also they get (educated) about what they are looking (to buy).”

The auction business is trending toward the Internet more and more every day, he said, however Las Vegas is unique.

“People want to come to Las Vegas for a lot of reasons, and then when they are here they like to look and maybe buy a piece of (Las Vegas) history or an antique for their collection back home,” Sidlow said. “We are a bit of an exception.”

The market continued to grow, particularly after the recession hit most other retail markets. Purchasing an antique that reminds people of their past— or what they wish their past had been like — can offer comfort and a thrill during an uneasy time.

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