Category: Exquisite furnishings

Designers Secret Source for Great Values:

By , January 7, 2010

As a professional designer who is hired to design and  furnish an entire estate, top to bottom, draperies to dishes, I have to have a very wide variety of sources to be able to come up with that perfect item to fit that perfect location in that perfect home.  So I am always on the lookout for new and sustainable sources to add to my mental menu of great resources. After so many years in the industry, my mental menu is a very busy place.

There is a place that is very often filled with fabulous pieces at amazing prices, available immediately.  This place took me years and years to master, as it was initially intimidating.  I needed to know exactly what I wanted, be able to recognize the good deal, make sure my client would be happy with it (often sight unseen!), recognize if it was real or fake,  calculate what the price should be,  estimate what repairs might be required and make a very quick decision.  What obscure resource is this??


Auctions are frequented primarily by dealers, designers and private collectors. All those great things in your favorite antique store?  Probably came primarily from auctions.   Local, national and international auctions are available to everyone today.  But unless you are an expert, do not buy that item in the Milan auction sight unseen!

As your blogger, slavishly dedicated to providing expertise in every area of interior design, I will periodically be bringing you information on special pieces that will be available and keep you informed of the upcoming auctions.  Over the course of small posts, you can learn to take advantage of this sustainable resource, too.

But first, a few rules to remember:

1.  Know the source.   The auctions I follow are with auction houses that have, over the years, been consistently reliable with their descriptions, authentications, and valuations.  There are many different houses out there.  Do not be fooled.  Check in to the process they use to determine value and do lots of research before you raise that paddle!

2. Don’t be fooled.  Ask your private, trusted,  expert advisor to evaluate a piece for authentication, repairs required, etc so you know what you are buying. This could be your interior designer, antiques dealer, rug dealer for antique carpets, furniture repair expert, etc.

3.  Understand the terminology.  Attend auctions when you are not planning to bid to get a feel for how they work.

4.  Understand all the fees that will be levied on the piece.   Especially the “Hammer price”.  That is the last price that is bid before the auctioneer says “sold”.  That is NOT the price you will be paying.  Fees will be added for the “house”, the expertise provided, taxes if applicable, storage if required, etc.  Know the terms and conditions.  If your bid is accepted, you are bound to those terms.

5.  Do your Homework.   Discover everything you can about the period, the artist, the production house, etc.  so that you really know what you are buying.

6.  Set your maximum Hammer Price and stick to it.  Sometimes the excitement of the auction gets to a buyer and they keep bidding, especially if they are trying to beat that annoying bidder up in front who already bought everything!

With all of that out of the way, I will bring you items from the auctions I follow so that you can follow them too.

The first sale of the year here in the United States for Bonhams & Butterfields (, our top local auction house, is the Sunset Estate Auction in Los Angeles.  This particular auction is for their least expensive items.  A couple of items worth considering are:

A sterling covered box in the form of an apple Tiffany & Co., London, 1991  



















The expected Hammer price is listed at $600-800.  So if it sells for that, what would your price be?   Between $732-1176, plus tax, depending on the hammer price, taxes in the state purchased, expert’s fee, etc.  My guess on what this will go for?  Around $550, all inclusive.  My guess is based on my accumulated knowledge from years of auction shopping, plus a sense of today’s market.

But I could be wrong!  Most auctions are now international, with bidders online, on the phone, etc.  You never know who you are bidding against, because they are often not in the room.  Part of the fun of the auction is that you never know what it is going to go for.  When the bid is accepted, I often feel like I WON something for my client!  It is thrilling, because I KNOW I got a good deal and my client will think I am brilliant.

Check out these chairs:














 A set of six Art Deco mahogany and suede upholstered dining chairs

These look very stylish and the finish looks like it was good at one time.  If these were available new and perfect, the set would run about $9000 and up. But with a hammer price of $500-700 for all six, they probably are pretty beat up.  If they are really “Art Deco” they may be diminutive in scale.   If they are Art Deco-Style  from the recent past, they will be more of a size we are use to.  If you are planning to use these regularly, you definitely want to have your advisor sit in them and examine them.  They probably need a lot of repair.  On the other hand, they cost next t0 nothing here, so go ahead and buy them for your daughter’s first apartment and have your carpenter slap some glue on them.  She will be thrilled and her friends will think she is very sophisticated. And you got a steal!

My favorite property in this auction is this pair of lamps:

















A pair of Art Deco Palisandre lamps: $1,500 – 2,000. 

Now these look interesting and like they are in good condition.  Palisandre wood was usually from Brazil rainforests, so isn’t a good idea to specify today.  But finding it in a vintage piece, at a great price for a pair of 50” high lamps with shades  really is a good deal.  These would look great either as floor/reading lamps at the end of a sofa, of in a grand entry  table with high ceilings.  If we could find these new, they would run about $8500 for the pair. My guess on what these would cost you from your advisor?  About $1700.   Are you convinced about the value?

Since I read the catalogues regularly and they seem to arrive in the mail every week, I will be bringing you highlights of the auctions.  If you are able to make quick decisions and have an advisor that you can trust, you can get a tremendous value at auction.  Stayed tuned……

Jane on

By , June 30, 2009

I’m so pleased to share with you our newest press coverage at, the #1 decorating blog in the country. The site offers a wealth of great information, such as “shop this picture,” where one click lets you shop the online stores that carry all of the items in the photographed room. When I am looking for a special item at a low price I check out the sample sale where I often get lucky enough to find it! Continue reading 'Jane on'»

The Art Sale of the Century!

By , February 10, 2009


Yves Saint Laurent in the grand salon of his apartment on Rue de Babylone with model Sibyl Buck, October 27, 1995. They are surrounded by the Surrealist-period Léger painting The Black Profile (1928), sold by the artist’s widow, and Jean Dunand’s 1925 Art Deco brass-and-lacquer vase, among the treasures to be auctioned at the Grand Palais, in Paris, February 23 to 25. By Jean-Marie Perier/From Photos12/Polaris.

The Yves Saint Laurent auction at Christie’s will present one of the premiere art collections of the 20th century. The auction collection has over 700 items and is estimated to be between $300-400 million in value. The photos I have seen of the apartments that Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge lived in are filled with amazing pieces that are rarely available to purchase. The items could create their own museum, but instead will go,scattered over the world item by item, to be loved and enjoyed by a lucky few individuals. This auction is destined to heavily influence furnishings and interiors for the next 10 years. Continue reading 'The Art Sale of the Century!'»

Heaven just might be in Puerto Vallarta….

By , February 2, 2009

I just returned from a magical holiday in Puerto Vallarta. Although I’ve been to several other places in Mexico, this was my first trip to Vallarta. As always, I wanted to stay in a well designed hotel, one that would allow me to experience one of the best designs of the region I am visiting. I found this at the Hacienda San Angel in the Centro region of Puerto Vallarta. Continue reading 'Heaven just might be in Puerto Vallarta….'»

Pollaro Acquires Rare Cache of Macassar Ebony

By , December 2, 2008

If you saw the last post on the blog, I showed you some beautiful museum quality furniture produced by Frank Pollaro Frank recently sent me some photos showing me the path that the ancient logs of Macassar ebony take to reach his workshop in New Jersey. These will help you to understand how truly rare the wood is that passes Mr. Pollaro’s inspection for his furniture. And you will see why it takes so long and is so costly to make very custom furniture. Continue reading 'Pollaro Acquires Rare Cache of Macassar Ebony'»

Ruhlmann at the Bel Air Hotel

By , November 3, 2008

Last Week I was in Los Angeles getting caught up on the latest of all that is chic in design and visiting my favorite resources for innovative furnishings. I love to visit LA and often stay at the Hotel Bel Air. There is just something about those swans! Continue reading 'Ruhlmann at the Bel Air Hotel'»

San Francisco Fall Antiques Show 2008

By , October 29, 2008

Every year, I look forward to attending the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show for months in advance. Not only is it always the best party in the industry, (caviar stations every 10 feet!) but the show itself never disappoints. I go with my clients and always find something unexpected that shapes the design of their home just a little bit differently than we had previously planned. That spontaneous inspiration is part of the fun that adds that very personal touch to finished project. Continue reading 'San Francisco Fall Antiques Show 2008'»

Frances Elkins, Michael Taylor, and me…

By , September 24, 2008

Let me introduce you to my extremely talented Senior Designer, Stuart Gilchrist. Here’s what he’s writing about….

Actually, what led me to write about Frances Elkins, who influenced countless 20th century designers, is my excited anticipation of Stephen Salny’s upcoming book about Michael Taylor, the renowned San Francisco designer. Taylor was profoundly influenced by Frances Elkins, and I by both of them. So it makes perfect sense that Stephen Salny, who wrote a beautiful book about Elkins in 2005 called Frances Elkins: Interior Design is following it up with a book about Taylor.

My first experience learning about Elkins occurred in my childhood when my mother hired an interior designer, Sue Gilpatric to decorate our home in Northern California. Gilpatric, who followed Elkins’ lead, inspired me to become a designer and a follower of Elkins’ work. And in fact, like Elkins herself, I would go to friends homes and rearrange the furniture to my liking, sometimes to the joy and sometimes to the dismay of its occupants. Unfortunately, unlike her, they were not my clients (until much later)!

As Mr. Salny so eloquently states, “ Frances Elkins was a chic arbiter of taste. Her contributions to interior decoration spanned over three decades and influenced interiors from New York to Hawaii.”


© Jess Smith/Photosmith

Luis Medina/Architectural Digest ©Conde' Nast Publications, Inc.

Luis Medina/Architectural Digest ©Conde' Nast Publications, Inc.

As you can see from these photos of Mr. and Mrs. Kersey Coates Reeds’ tennis house sitting area and living room done in 1929; she has a wonderful sense of scale and proportion that she learned from her brother, David Adler, the renowned Chicago architect. This, along with her ability to mix modern pieces with antiques, is a big part of what set her apart and helped create her dedicated following of designers still to this day.Elkins was considered avant-garde. She took risks when others would not.


Photo Louis Median, © Peter S. Reed

Photo Louis Median, © Peter S. Reed

Again, as you can see in this photo of the Reed Library, she mixed modern furniture by her friend and collaborator, the French interior designer, Jean-Michel Frank, with more traditional furnishings to create a unique, minimal, and fabulous room. Frances Elkins’ work from the 1930’s to the 1950’s has withstood the test of time. In fact, some rooms that she designed during those years still stand the same today with minimal changes. Elkins was a force to be reckoned with. I’d like to think that I am too (in a good way!) I am thrilled that I’ve had a chance to learn so much from her and Michael Taylor’s work. She helped me determine my career path at a very early age – and it was the right choice! I will forever be grateful for that, and her.



Jane Antonacci

Reclaimed Elegance

By , June 16, 2008

I was contacted recently to bid on the interior design and decorating of a new European chateau style estate that is being built here in California. Thinking about the possibility of the project, I began formulating ideas to create the perfect space. Where would I begin? Then I remembered a set of beautiful carved panels that I had seen at an antique show.jantonacci1 Continue reading 'Reclaimed Elegance'»

New Indian Chic

By , June 5, 2008

A book I am currently enjoying is India Contemporary by Henry Wilson. India, with its fast rising economy and burgeoning middle class, has developed a breadth of design styles, retaining its history of arts and crafts while embracing modernity.

New Indian Chic 1

The traditional jali or pierced screen used on windows is reimagined in an ingenious “bamboo” pattern and fabricated of metalwork.

Always deeply creative in its arts, the new designs fast forward the tribal traditions to the present.

New Indian Chic 2

Here a courtyard is painted by a Madhubani tribal artist, taking ancient folk art and adapting it for today…

New Indian Chic 3

…the same tradition is made glamorous in a gold-leafed mural in this entrance.

India was never shy with its colors. As Diana Vreeland famously said, “Pink is India’s navy blue”. Rich and wonderful color combinations enliven the designs of everything from India.

New Indian Chic 4

A balcao (covered walkway) in Goa is perfectly charming due to its colors and lush greenery.

New Indian Chic 5

A very striking modern home made of concrete, stone and wood consciously focuses on indigenous contemporary arts.


Here, traditional black and white herringbone tile floors, classic furnishings in neutral colors, and old wooden doors from a private prayer room create a bold and modern look.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why the country has been known as “Mother India”, its very nature is one of creativity and a great valuing of the arts.

All the best to you,


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