London Calling: Britain Through the Ages is the theme of the 2017 Art & Antiques Show hosted by The Women’s Board to benefit Wolfson Children’s Hospital. The 41st annual show will highlight British life, from English gardens and high tea to pubs and Beefeaters. Since the 1500s when beloved Queen Elizabeth I came to be called the Virgin Queen, to Queen Victoria with her strict moral standards, to the ruling Queen Elizabeth II – the longest serving monarch in British history – and her trendsetting family, the British Royals have impacted fashion, décor and lifestyles for centuries.
With the theme in mind we asked guest lecturer Toma Clark Haines of The Antiques Diva & Co., the world’s largest antiques touring company, about English antiques. “The brilliant thing about antiquing in England is how global the experience is. Brits have been going out to see the world for hundreds of years. So you’ll find not just English antiques in England but the greatest variety of antiques in the world,” says Clark Haines.
That’s because the traveling Brits never returned empty handed. During the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, families of means and rank would send their sons on a Grand Tour of the world to learn about art, culture, music and languages. Lasting months or even years, and usually undertaken with a guide or tutor, these Grand
Tours could be considered the first international shopping trips. Works of art, books, furnishings, scientific instruments and cultural artifacts were shipped home. Commissioned portraits of the traveler painted in exotic locations was de rigueur. Upon their return, instead of showing photographs from the journey as we do today, these gentlemen would display the treasures and share their origins with family and friends along with tales of their travels.
Grand Tours shaped the English antiques market. The Antiques Diva offers buying tours in fifteen countries, but feels the “wealth and breadth of what you can find in England is like none other. It’s a one stop shopping destination with more antiques dealers than anywhere else in the world.”
Likely due to this rich history, she believes England’s national pastime is antiquing. Hundreds of antiques fairs, boot [car trunk] sales and flea markets are held each weekend and offer a great way to shop casually. Decorative antiques and textile fairs have become popular with dealers specializing in purely decorative offerings. Traditional antiques shops abound. No matter your knowledge of antiques, budget, time commitment or goals, antiquing in England is truly accessible to everyone.
On trends in English antiquing, Clark Haines notes that darker brown woods such as fruitwoods, walnut and mahoganies which have not been in demand the past decade or so are really coming back, including pieces with ormolu or metal mounts. White ceramics continue to be popular and bar carts are always in. “For so long the world has been leaning toward minimalism in decorating, but the English country house with all its layers is still hot in England,” she says. Layers upon layers of past generations are seen in these homes with wood and upholstered furnishings, rich color and patterns, wallpaper and painted surfaces, with art displayed floor to ceiling, mixing English, French, Swedish, Italian and Asian influences. Clark Haines adds that architectural salvage continues as a worldwide trend in antiques. One in three inquiries she receives is from patrons looking for antique lighting, gates and doors to repurpose.
Clark Haines will be presenting twice at the 2017 Art & Antiques Show, taking you on a Grand Tour in the tradition of Brits a hundred or more years ago while imparting real travel advice and revealing the best shops and fairs to visit now, all followed by a booth crawl. Yes, a booth crawl. The Antiques Diva will take you on a tour, preferably with a glass of champagne in hand, to see the booths at this year’s Art & Antiques Show from the perspective of the antiques dealers. If you just walk by a display, you don’t hear the inside stories. Sometimes the stories are about the dealers themselves, and sometimes about the antiques. But there are always stories. Expect lessons in understanding the different styles each dealer represents. Clark Haines wants you to feel like an expert even if you know nothing about antiques. She’ll share a few easy tricks as well as the right questions to ask. She wants everyone to be an educated buyer so antiques can be accessible, fun and relevant in making your house a home. Her goal is to help people – especially those with children – feel comfortable with antiques. “Antiques have already lasted a couple of generations. Don’t take them too seriously. Live with them and enjoy.”