The Antiques Diva Does Italia!

Toma Clark Haines definitely knows la dolce vita!

We’re speaking Italian on this Travel Tuesday with some exciting news. Our ONLY choice for European lifestyle tours, The Antiques Diva, is expanding to, you guessed it, Italia; and Toma is already working her magic on the romantic language by saying, “Buongiorno Baby” to anyone wanting to come along for the Tuscan ride!

Tuscan tastemaker Susan Pennington will create and direct the tours, which will amble through the best venues in Florence, Sienna, Arezzo and Lucca (here’s a feature in Belle Inspiration). A British expat living in the heart of Tuscany, Pennington was once an antiques buyer for Harrods in London and an auction-house specialist in New York City. She’s lived in Tuscany for the past two decades, running Montestigliano, a local agriturismo business known for its sumptuous Tuscan-style luxury décor.

Word up, Diva fans; this is Toma’s sixth country, and the list of destinations for gallivanting is impressive: France, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany and, now, Italy. Where’s my passport? Did someone say the University of Bologna is calling?

P.S. We understand there is a spot of royalty in The Antiques Diva’s future. Check in at adroyt in the next week or so and we’ll fill you in!


Of the Paris Persuasion

Was it just two weeks ago I was flitting around Paris with Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva? Uh-huh, and what a blast we had combing the Marche aux Puces and sifting through floor-upon-floor of goodies at Bazaar Hotel de Ville (She even cooked a sumptuous Parisian-inspired meal!) One of my favorite souvenirs from Paris is the tote bag she had made for me. Get a load of the close-up below and you’ll understand why!

About to Embark on a Diva-fied Day of Shopping (note the tote)!

About to Embark on a Diva-fied Day of Shopping (note the tote)!

This is the second year I’ve had the delight of touring Paris flea markets with Toma and I thought I’d pass along news about one of her newest offerings, customized Diva City Tours. I asked her to explains to RBD readers what inspired her to create seven-day gallivants chock full of more fun than the faint at heart could endure! She has a great group of Divas lined up for her Paris tour from March 7 through 13 and she will be posting news on her blog so be sure to stop in for a bit of voyeuristic pleasure Diva style!

The Diva Dishes on Her New Explorations: The concept behind The Antiques Diva® & Co European Shopping Tours is simple: we combine the jet-setting lifestyle of a diva with antique shopping in favorite European cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and beyond. Our one-day tours have been wildly successful due to this formula of carrying a shopping sack in one hand and a champagne glass in the other!

What differentiates us from most antique shopping tour companies is that we do not arrange group tours, shoving a bunch of strangers together for an inflexible, pre-set period of days. Instead, we cater to our clients travel dates, taking them by the hand on one-day tours that maximize their time with a private, one-on-one customized shopping experience.

While we do offer a variety of services for antique dealers and interior designers, we also offer shopping tours to mere mortals…letting our clients source European antiques and vintage pieces at addresses usually only known to the trade. We recognize that most clients don’t antique shop in a vacuum: while they want to shop les puce they are also visiting these cities to tour the destinations.

All our Diva Guides are well versed on what’s hot in their city and thus we’re always making recommendations to clients on where to eat, drink, shop and tour; our Diva Guides are your best friend abroad. With our new multi-day Diva City Tours, we’re taking those tips a step further and offering clients a chance to see Europe through our mascara-laden eyes.

Frames at the Marche aux Puces

Frames at the Marche aux Puces

These Diva City Tours are usually four-day packaged trips whereby the Diva Guide takes the clients to a variety of must-see addresses in the city. In our popular Paris Diva City Tour we do cooking classes at the Ritz, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants and tucked-away bistros a tourist hasn’t touched. We shop both vintage and haute couture, see where Coco became Chanel, but then turn around and surprise clients by hitting the local grocery store where they can load up on innovative European products they’d never find in America or the UK.

We visit out-of-the-way museums and when the day is done, we pop over to a friend’s apartment to have champagne and macaroons in a grand salon. The multi-day Diva City Tours are designed to show clients what their lives might look like if they lived in one of these international cities, as the next best thing to living in Paris, Antwerp, Berlin or Amsterdam is touring with someone who does! This tour comes with a WARNING, though: 3 of our last 10 clients decided to move abroad after doing the Diva City Tours!

Some of My Loot from BHV

Some of My Loot from BHV.

Insiders Tip: Tourists traveling in Paris might be surprised to know that some of the best souvenirs in Paris come from the local hardware store. The department store BHV, or Bazaar Hotel de Ville, has a basement level bricolage store that serves up everything from those charming blue & white Parisian house numbers to gorgeous fleur-de-lys picture hooks to upscale Parisian tea towels, copper pots and a variety of accessories for the home.


You’ll Find Me in the Garden

Floral Perfection at Orticolario

Floral Perfection at Orticolario

I took a tour of the Figini Pagani Progettazioni offices in Lake Como this morning. The firm, which was founded by Erasmo Figini and Susanna Pagani, designed the villas and other buildings on the grounds of the CastaDiva Resort and I have been impressed with the range of their talents–from whimsical elements in the restored Villa Roccabruna (the former home of Giuditta Pasta, one of the world’s top sopranos) to Scandinavian influences in the Villa Amina. Stafania Tambani from their offices was an amazing escort, taking me around Como and to the Orticolario fair, a gathering of exhibitors who make and/or grow products for and from the garden, for most of the day.

Statuary fit for kings at Villa Antica

Statuary fit for kings at Villa Antica

The day dawned rainy and stayed drizzly for most of the  morning but by the time we reached the grounds of the Spazio Villa Erba in Cernobbio where Orticolario was held, the sun peeked from the clouds and lit the drenching colors of the flowers being exhibited. I met Figini, who walked me through the beautiful products to the Villa Antica where the opening reception was being held on the terrace facing Lake Como, and understood how such a diverse repertoire could spring from the same mind.

He was a force of creativity, something that was clear the minute I shook his hand. The grand nineteenth-century Villa was the former residence of Luchino Visconti, whose heirs sold it to a public consortium so that it could be maintained as an event space. Villa Erba was added to the property, designed by architect Mario Bellini after the many greenhouses typical of the nobility who built residences surrounding the Lago di Como, in 1990.

The view of Lake Como from Villa Antica.

The view of Lake Como from Villa Antica.

I met Moritz Mantero and Arturo Croci, the masterminds behind the Orticolario, now only in its second year but already one of the most popular events in the area. Though it was a bit early in the day for donning my ball-gown (and those of you who know me well know what a joke it is that I’d even own one), I could feel those Italian beauties of a bygone age swishing past me with their silk trains trailing behind them as they exited the grand salon on their way to the terrace to take in the sparkling of stars in the dome of Lake Como’s velvety sky.

How’s that for an operatic sized drama on a Friday afternoon in Italia?


Oldies and Goodies: Side by Side

I happened into Olde Good Things today to see what’s in store because there always seems to be something new to see in this shop that sells antiques and “altered antiques.” If you’re a fan of patina, you’ll get a good hit of time-worn lovliness here. They have several locations in Manhattan, two in Los Angeles and a warehouse in Scranton, PA.


Great Design at Good Design

Gail Garlick with Calpurnia (or Cal to loved ones)

Gail Garlick with Calpurnia (or Cal to loved ones)

Gail Garlick crossed my radar several years ago when she opened Good Design, a beautiful space on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in which she curates quality exhibitions of furnishings she offers for sale. I was curious as to how she came to develop such a finely honed eye and she was kind enough to share her story with RBD readers. Currently on view at Good Design are furnishings by Antoine Schapira, which runs through June 11. Scroll down for a bit more information about Schapira after you’ve enjoyed Garlick’s journey to design: My foray into the world of design began in 1975 in Upstate New York’s Columbia County, which was a far cry from the Columbia County of today. When I moved there to start my family, I knew I was going to the country, but the change of pace was jarring given that I had been raised in New York City by parents who collected art and enjoyed keeping up with the cultural offerings that flourish in Manhattan—a stimulating life that I had enjoyed immensely. At that time, the county was mostly populated by local country folk, though that’s not to say I didn’t meet Ellsworth Kelly, a neighbor, in the Spencertown country store. He regaled me about my black lab, Morris, who had come by to see his dogs one day and had gotten so excited he peed on Ellsworth’s foot! I also knew that George Rickey was working in another village nearby, but by and large it was a sleepy little county in upstate New York.

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

After spending a year or so cooking, gardening, tending a horse, and renovating my Greek Revival home, I realized I was bored. It was then I struck up a friendship with a woman who, like myself, was a young mother. She and her husband were antiques dealers. Her name was Jane Dunn, and she and I enjoyed many play-dates with our young daughters. It was during that time that I was exposed to the world of antiques. Jane and Michael were true intellectuals; they had an ever-growing library and a passion for all things historical. It was Jane who gave me my first glimpse into connoisseurship. Columbia County in the late 70’s had a terrific group of young Americana dealers who would later become some of the finest dealers in the country. The list included Grace and Elliott Snyder, Jane and Michael Dunn, Corey Daniels, John and Jackie Sideli, Robert Wilkins and Suzanne Courcier. Lucy Vine Clerk, mother of Ed Clerk—the famous Shaker dealer—was just down the street from the Sidelis in Malden Bridge. Bob Herron, a local auctioneer, lived and held wonderful auctions packed with American antiques in Austerlitz—near Bob and Suzanne.

I made friends with these very sophisticated people first, and soon I was living the life of a dealer. In those days I sold baskets, hooked rugs, painted furniture and shaker finds from the unheated addition of my home in Spencertown.

I participated in flea markets for Russell Carrell and the Columbia County Historical Society in Kinderhook. I eventually set up at the Danbury Shows, which Jackie produced, where my booth neighbor was often Norma Keno, mother of Leigh and Leslie, who were collecting even then.

When I opened Good Design it was with an eye to bringing incredible talent together under one roof—sometimes combining the furniture of a group of talented designers whose creations support a theme and sometimes featuring the furnishings of one designer in particular whose creations shine in collective fashion. At the moment, I have the first U.S. solo show of Antoine Schapira’s works on view.

He is not your run-of the-mill studio maker but a trained ébéniste from the elite École Boulle in Paris, and his interpretation of studio furniture is both elegant and high styled.

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

In her review of his New York debut at last fall’s Modernism + Art 20 show at the Park Avenue Armory, Roberta Smith of The New York Times called him, “an imaginative, stupendously skilled maker of exquisitely considered and finished wood furniture.” One of the pieces shown here illustrates how he works from a clay maquette, creating original forms using vintage Brazilian rosewood veneer and gilding. He also created one of these pieces by making his own veneer from resin and twigs, then wrapping the entire piece in industrial steel cable. Good Design is located at 1305 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. To see the Schapira exhibition, visit between 11 a.m. through 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through June 11th.