Archives For Antiques & Garden Fair

Mario Buatta is known as “The Prince of Chintz,” but a minute on the phone with the legendary interior designer tells you an off-the-wall sense of humor is also part of his trademark: “Decorating is only decorating. It’s not brain surgery.”

The 80-year-old can afford to be self-deprecating. One of his latest projects—transforming the rooms of an 1850 South Carolina mansion for New York socialite Patricia Altschul—was featured in the October 2014 Architectural Digest. In 2013, he published his first book, Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration.

PHOTO: Mario Buatta

Mario Buatta

We’re honored to have Buatta as keynote speaker for our spring kickoff, the Antiques, Garden & Design Show, taking place April 17 to 19, 2015. Buatta’s appearance at the Garden is more fitting than you might realize. The storied New Yorker, whose client list includes Barbara Walters and Mariah Carey, has a great affinity for gardens. His trademark chintzes are bursting with flowers, and he weaves nature into the narrative of his work. He says, “No house is ever complete. It grows with you—just like a garden.”

Buatta may love a nosegay, particularly one printed on cotton and finished with glaze, but he is definitely no shrinking violet. Ask his take on current decorating trends and you’ll hear, “I see a lot of bad trends. Younger people want everything done overnight. Instant gratification. Everything simple, easy to take care of. No silver. No brown wood. No antiques. No old pieces.”

The result is a cold, unwelcoming home, in Buatta’s opinion. He says, “The things that make a house a home are the things with a family connection.” He’s been drawn to antiques since childhood, purchasing his first piece at age 11—an eighteenth-century lap desk acquired with $12 in saved allowance. “Antiques spoke to me, because they reminded me of the old days that don’t exist any more.”

A home needs connection to family and the past, but it also needs color. No white walls, or chrome, steel, and glass desert for Buatta: “I couldn’t live in a house without lots of color. Color is a like a garden. It brings a house to life.”

Hours in museums as a youth, looking at the works of Matisse, Bonnard, and other impressionists, taught Buatta a great deal. A professor at his alma mater, Parsons The New School for Design, put it this way: “If you don’t understand the colors these artists use on their canvases you will never be a good decorator.”

PHOTO: Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Design

A book signing will follow Mario Buatta’s lecture on April 17.

Some of Buatta’s favorites include apricot, chartreuse, blood red, and nature’s colors, such as sky blue and green. He’s also crazy for blue and white with yellow. His own living room is three shades of pistachio green, and his bedroom is eggplant. “You should always have a touch of red in a room,” he says. “It gives it life. A touch of black pulls in all colors. It says quality. It’s very important not to repeat colors in two rooms so your house is a palette. You really want to set the mood for the time of day you use the room.”

In our brief conversation, snatched between urgent phone calls, Buatta displayed mastery, humility, showmanship, and outrageous humor. He quips, “I’ve been a celebrity since I was born.” His upcoming lecture, sponsored by Veranda and titled “If You Can’t Hide It, Decorate It,” promises to be anything but dull. Carolyn Englefield, director of decoration and special projects, will moderate!


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

I’m finally doing it: after years of thinking, talking, plotting, and chickening out, I’m finally tearing out everything in my front yard and putting in a practical, useful, well-designed (and hopefully beautiful) vegetable garden this year.

Of course I’ve got a wish list for the hardscape: a few practical, useful, well-designed (and hopefully beautiful) items that I hope to find at this year’s Antiques & Garden Fair (April 11-13). 

    1. Tuteurs for the peas and beans and roses to grow on.
    2. A bench or seat to perch on.
    3. A garden gate or arbor or very-cool-I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it item to mark the entrance.

I’m open to ideas and negotiable on style, materials, shape, color—and, of course, price. All of which made me wonder: just how do you negotiate your way through this enormous (half an acre of halls/galleries/tents), diverse (115-plus vendors from 24 states—and the UK), and visually stunning event to find the right item?

We called an expert to find out.

PHOTO: Beau Kimball.

Beau Kimball of Kimball & Bean

Antiques expert Beau Kimball has been a friend to the Antiques & Garden Fair for years—in fact, he and wife Nancy will host the first booth you’ll come to under the Krasberg Rose Garden tent. As proprietor of Kimball & Bean Architectural & Garden Antiques in Woodstock, Illinois, Kimball has 27 years of experience with antiques, and lots of insight about negotiating the Fair.

Have fun—you’re at an amazing show!

When so many top-notch antiques dealers gather under the tents, it’s more than an antiques show—it’s the equivalent of “Fashion Week” for the garden. “The quality level of this show is what makes it different,” Kimball says. “Dealers put a lot of time and energy into curating for it, and they bring the best of their best to this show.” Yes, you can pull out your smartphone and take photos at the beautifully decorated booths; Kimball suggests you ask first (it’s common courtesy) and, just as you’d mention the designer’s name at a fashion show, always give credit to the dealer when you’re tweeting or blogging about their merchandise.

PHOTO: Antiques dealer's booth.

Kimball and Bean’s booth from last year’s Antiques & Garden Fair

Ask questions.

Fun conversations make for a fun show! Antiques dealers are passionate about their collections and love to talk about their merchandise. Dealers are happy to answer questions. “These are the experts among experts—if you want to know an item’s history or how it’s made, they’ll not only give you the real story, but also explain why it’s important,” Kimball said. Got an item you’re looking to sell? Approach a dealer during a lull or less crowded moment, when they can give you and your antique their undivided attention.  

Be prepared to…

Kimball recommends a few pre-show strategies for potential buyers:

  • Bring measurements with you. If you’re in the market for a garden bench with specific size requirements but don’t have them that day, you might miss out on a unique antique to another shopper who came prepared.
  • Take notes as you go. It’s a big show, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed! Jot down booth locations on a business card, show map, or smartphone so you can return for a second look later.
  • Bring checks and/or cash, too. Credit cards are accepted, but the offer of cash or check is appealing to a dealer, who incurs extra fees with credit card use. For the best possible deal, mention that you’re happy to pay with cash or check.
  • Arrange delivery service for larger purchases. The Antiques & Garden Fair offers delivery and shipping services onsite, by companies who know how to handle heavy, large, or fragile antiques. Take advantage of this service—many dealers are from out of town, and not in a position to help you arrange delivery.

The final negotiations

A few courtesies that go a long way toward building rapport and, ultimately, a good price:

  • Unlike at auctions or flea markets, dealers have already done the work for you in terms of condition. Most items are ready to take home and put on display; know that pricing reflects the time, care, and transport costs put into each item.
  • Negotiation is a common practice at antiques shows. Kimball says that antiques are at reasonable price levels these days, with 5 percent to 10 percent flexibility in some prices. Offering much lower than that is considered a bit of an affront to the dealer’s professionalism.
  • There’s a crucial distinction between asking, “What’s your best price?” and “Would you take X dollars?” The former is a courteous way to question a dealer on price; the latter implies that you’re ready to buy the item at that moment if the dealer agrees (like holding up a paddle at an auction). It’s easier to negotiate when both parties are speaking the same “language.”

What’s hot in 2014?

We had to ask! Kimball says to look for indoor/outdoor pieces that are stylish enough to spend the summer outside, then move straight into your home at the end of the season.

Hmm…that garden bench I’m looking for could work in the front hall next winter…practical, useful, well-designed, and hopefully beautiful.

PHOTO: Whitewashed antique wrought iron bench.

Could this be the kind of bench I’m looking for?