Step into a Designer’s Dream

The Antiques, Garden & Design Show is a dream for designers, who prize the annual event for its knowledgeable vendors and highly curated antiques. It’s a great place to bring clients searching for one-of-a-kind pieces and recommended for anyone trying to create a space that expresses his or her personality, values, and interests.

PHOTO: Chandelier from Jessica LaGrange Interiors.
Chandelier from Jessica LaGrange Interiors

“The event is like a to-the-trade-only show with civilian access,” said Cindy Galvin, of Bardes Interiors and Maze Home Store in Winnetka.

A classical stone torso, a collection of fantastic black cast iron urns, a big gold peer mirror, a funky ′60s tabouret, a brown alligator handbag, and the perfect French farmhouse table and chairs are among the memorable pieces designers have found for clients—and themselves—in the past.

“Any collector, designer knows there’s always more out there, something you have never seen, and that’s the thrill that brings us back to a show like this year after year,” says Myla Frohman, owner of Glencoe-based Myla Frohman Designs.

PHOTO: Lee Thinnes.
Lee Thinnes (Lee’s Antiques, Winnetka, IL) will be showcasing bold, modern paintings this year.

Now in its 15th season, the reinvented event has developed a reputation for the consistent high quality of its offerings. In social circles, the kickoff Preview Night is called the ribbon cutting for the spring season. Exhibitors, many of them designers themselves, present antiques, midcentury modern pieces, and outdoor furnishings in sophisticated displays that inspire and educate. Often arranged around a theme, booths can transport guests to a different time and place. The Golden Triangle, a Chicago-based exhibitor, plans to make an enchanting booth this year, drawing inspiration from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The designers will mix ancient and modern garden furnishings to create an imaginative scene. Lee Thinnes, owner of Lee’s Antiques in Winnetka, will feature bold modern paintings and a molded Lucite coffee table by Karl Springer.

“The exhibitors are incredibly knowledgeable and truly enjoy sharing the provenance of their wares,” said Galvin. Listen as you look, she advises, because much of the fun of owning antiques is knowing the story behind the piece.

PHOTO: Exterior display by Suzanne Lovell, of Suzanne Lovell Inc., Chicago, IL.
Exterior display by Suzanne Lovell, of Suzanne Lovell Inc., Chicago, IL

With its strong emphasis on garden antiques, the Show provides clients one of the best venues for realizing the potential of an often overlooked space—the garden room. “Chicago has a secret—our beautiful garden summers. One can imagine outside rooms that make a garden another important room in any home,” said Suzanne Lovell, of Suzanne Lovell Inc., in Chicago. “The outdoor garden room is just as important as the living room!”                 

Designers typically come prepared with a punch list of their clients’ needs and a planned route. (The Show map can help with navigation). Many make a beeline for favorite exhibitors, then methodically visit the rest. Whatever strategy you choose, be prepared to deviate from your plan if you spot something you love and can’t live without. The good stuff goes fast!

“One year I found a set of Gracie panels, instantly adored them, and bought them on the spot,” Galvin said. “When I went back later to pick them up, the vendor said he could have sold them six times over!”

PHOTO: The Gracie Panels found by Cindy Galvin (of Bardes Interiors and Maze Home Store, Winnetka, IL).
The Gracie Panels found by Cindy Galvin— now her dressing room closet doors!

While acknowledging trends, designers tend to look for pieces that express the individuality of their clients. “You need unique and singular things to make your home feel personal. Vintage works as well as bona fide antiques,” said Jessica Lagrange, of Jessica Lagrange Interiors, LLL in Chicago.

Younger clients may not be keen on antiques, but they are sophisticated shoppers who learn from blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram. “Millennials are striving to make their homes one-of-a-kind, unique to their families’ personalities. They know design and value it. They want to design their homes with intent,” Galvin said.

The Show’s lectures offer guests an expanded vision of what’s possible for the home and garden. Designers appreciate meeting the likes of this year’s keynote speaker, the legendary Mario Buatta, known as the “Prince of Chintz,” and other nationally and internationally recognized experts.

PHOTO: Kristen Koepfgen and Cindy Galvin.
Cindy Galvin and Kristen Koepfgen enjoy a past Preview Evening.

Can’t wait? Guests attending the Preview Evening enjoy early shopping privileges, a boon for serious buyers. “The Preview Evening is great fun, and it gives you first crack at the goods,” Lagrange said, “which is really important because of the caliber of the stock.”


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A Glimpse into the Carefully Guarded World of Bunny Mellon

The New York Times described Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon as an amateur collector with a sure eye, great taste, and upper-class refinement. Architectural Digest called her self-assured in the way that often comes with enormous wealth. Labeled a connoisseur, philanthropist, gardener, and horticulturist by flower magazine, Bunny Mellon was crowned the true queen of green, and the high priestess of pruning and pleaching by Vanity Fair.

PHOTO: Looking through espaliered crabapple trees to the potting shed at the Mellons’ Oak Spring Farm in Virginia.
Looking through espaliered crabapple trees to the potting shed at the Mellons’ Oak Spring Farm in Virginia
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Such is the mystique surrounding Bunny Mellon, an heiress who considered privacy her greatest luxury; an influential American landscape designer who rarely showcased her work; and a collector who could afford anything, but was known for acquiring only the things she loved.  

Historian and garden writer Mac Griswold will share her unique perspective on the carefully guarded world of Bunny Mellon during the upcoming Antiques, Garden & Design Show. Griswold forged a bond with Mellon, the mother of her close friend, Eliza, through their mutual love of gardening. Griswold’s lecture, “Green Grandeur: The Rarefied Simplicity of Bunny Mellon’s Garden Style,” will document the contributions the influential tastemaker made to home and garden design. Mellon is perhaps best known for designing the White House Rose Garden during the Kennedy administration, as well as the White House East Garden, and landscape features at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Renowned architect I.M. Pei called her the most gifted landscape architect of her time.

Join us for Mac Griswold’s lecture on Saturday, April 18, at 11 a.m. Click here for tickets.

PHOTO: Mac Griswold
Mac Griswold
Photo © Sigrid Estrada

Mellon applied the same sense of scale and balance to her own properties, but these glories were rarely seen by outsiders. “Her gardens were like private kingdoms,” Griswold said. Griswold’s talk will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 18, in Alsdorf Auditorium. Following the lecture, Griswold will sign copies of her latest book, The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island, a saga about slavery, emancipation, and racism in New England told through the history of a single piece of land and a grand old house. She is currently working on Nothing Should Be Noticed: The Life and Gardens of Bunny Mellon 1910–2014. The book’s title refers to one of the Mellon’s maxims. “She was all about ensemble,” Griswold said. “She believed everything should work together. She didn’t want anything to be a gob smacker, indoors or out.”

Griswold was fortunate to see the simple and harmonious execution of this vision during visits to the houses and gardens Mellon maintained in New York, Cape Cod, Antigua, and the 4,000-acre Oak Spring Farm in Virginia. The estate is home to Mellon’s life work, the Oak Spring Garden Library, which contains one of the world’s largest private collections of works on horticulture, botany, natural history, and travel. The 12,000-volume facility will now serve as headquarters for a library and learning center supported by the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, named by Mellon after her father, a pharmaceutical baron.

Known for her statement, “Nothing should be noticed,” Bunny Mellon “had a highly developed sense of imperfect perfection.”

PHOTO: Inside the walled garden at Oak Spring Farm.
Inside the walled garden at Oak Spring Farm
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Mellon developed her love of gardening early. She started her first garden plot at the age of 7 and acquired her first gardening book at age 12. In 1948 she married Paul Mellon, the son of financier Andrew Mellon, and the two lived a life of art collecting, philanthropy, horse breeding and racing, and entertaining. According to press reports, dinner guests included such luminaries as Queen Elizabeth and Truman Capote.

Griswold’s window into Mellon’s world looks out onto her gardens, which she designed according to three overarching rules: always use a horizon line, always make sure there is a formal feature, and always make sure there is a place to sit down.

 

Learn more about a fascinating, accomplished, and understated figure in American gardening and society, at Griswold’s April 18 lecture during the Antiques, Garden & Design Show, April 17–19, 2015.


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Shop-portunities Await at the Antiques, Garden & Design Show

Craig Bergmann is the creative force behind the horticultural displays at this year’s Antiques, Garden & Design Show. He’s also one of the Show’s biggest shoppers.

“There’s something about the adventure of coming to the show,” said the Lake Forest landscape architect. “You don’t know what you’ll find, but you’ll find something.”

PHOTO: Committee member Donna LaPietra and Craig Bergmann at last year’s show.
Committee member Donna LaPietra and Craig Bergmann at last year’s show. Photo ©Cheri Eisenberg

Bergmann has practiced “the art of fine gardening” for decades as head of Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, Inc. This spring he will infuse the Show with his trademark style—an interplay of the classic and contemporary. Bergmann has devised a fresh, updated look—a series of indoor gardens that put a twist on traditional diamond motifs, and use a streamlined color palette of green, chartreuse, white and black. As an exhibitor in the Rose Garden Tent, his company will sell garden-related objects, containers and plants—and he will also carve out some time to peruse the antiques and collectables.

The pieces presented at the Antiques, Garden & Design Show have passed through an extreme quality sieve wielded by trusted dealers with a distinct skill set, according to Bergmann.

To give you a better feeling for what you’re likely to see at the Show, we’ve put together a gallery of some of Bergmann’s favorite finds from previous years, as well as antiquities he’s installed in clients’ gardens. Past performance can be a predictor of future success when it comes to the Garden’s annual event. “Dealers save objects for the show,” he said. “They bring in the best. It makes you feel really special that you’re able to shop there.”

PHOTO: Four seasons statues at the Bergmann residence garden.
Bergmann couldn’t resist these muse statues, representations of the four seasons. The pieces are from France and date to 1917, the same age as his home. They now serve as the centerpiece of Bergmann’s main garden. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Vintage patio set.
This vintage patio set, another one of Bergmann’s purchases, helps blend the garden with the interior of the home. “It’s much more the norm today to be inside and outside,” Bergmann said. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: A collection of stone troughs comprise a patio container garden.
“Stone troughs were used to feed and water livestock, Bergmann said, “now they’re on some of the finest patios in Chicago.” Vintage planters and accessories add interest and sophistication to Bergmann’s container garden design pictured above. Bergmann sees a trend toward using hardier plants in container gardens. Consider using an ornamental shrub—think a blue flowering hydrangea or boxwood—or some perennials. They can be heeled into the soil for easy in-ground storage over the winter. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, Maki Residence, Buchanan Michigan.
Travel and the Internet provide clients access to a growing “gene pool” of design images, says Bergmann. Clients may be inspired by something they see on Pinterest or become fascinated by a roof top garden they visited in LA or the innovative High Line park in New York City. Growing sophistication gives clients the confidence to create interest by juxtaposing the ornate with the modern. The contemporary Michigan farm garden designed by Bergmann, above, uses an antique roof finial from France to guide the eye toward the horizon. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, Linville Residence, Lake Forest.
A rusted armillary provides a focal point for Bergmann’s intimate garden design, a classic boxwood topiary bordered by roses and perennials. Intrigued? You’re likely to find similar armillary spheres at this year’s show or fall in love with your own one-of-a-kind object. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Asian garden bench.
“Because our culture is so world savvy in relationship to style, people want to express that in their home,” Bergmann said. “Think of a traditional rose bouquet with baby’s breath and leather leaf ferns. Today this could be 2” high and 6” round and stuck into a 200-year-old Chinese mortar.” Vendors such as The Golden Triangle bring ancient objects new life by contrasting their uses. Bergmann uses tropical foliage, above, to compliment this venerable bench in his “Asian antiquities” garden design. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A House Is Like a Garden

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

Negotiating Your Way at the Antiques & Garden Fair

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?