Last month, New Orleans Auction Galleries teamed with CUE to issue five interior designers a challenge: Design a living area in the gallery's showroom using only antiques for sale at the auction. "It was definitely a challenge," designer Shaun Smith says.
The purpose was twofold: spotlight each designer's point of view and show attendees how to use antiques in their homes. The designers worked with Lynn Bowker, staff decorator at New Orleans Auction Galleries, to create vignettes that were unveiled at Bidders, Brunch and Bubbles on Jan. 19, which featured a Champagne brunch by Martin Wine Cellar, a live auction and a raffle.
"We wanted to make auctions fun by bringing in designers to show how old, unique pieces can fit in a design scheme," says Ashton Thomas, president of New Orleans Auction Galleries.
The next auction is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 and Sunday, Feb. 24 at New Orleans Auction Galleries (510 Julia St., 504-566-1849; www.neworleansauction.com). In the meantime, here are words of wisdom from the designers about how they used antiques to enrich their spaces — and how you can, too.
I jokingly call it Captain's Quarters. I found a wooden ship I hung as a chandelier and included all the portraits and oil paintings that were going to be in the auction. There were a lot of portraits of men and boys and this great collection of shells, so the entire thing had a sea-journey type of theme.Describe your personal design asthetic.
It's much more modern. I like things ranging from French Art Deco to California Bungalow — an eclectic mix. I like to pair antiques with something modern. I have an opposites-attract kind of style.How do you recommend people incorporate antiques into their decor?
The most important thing is not to overdose on any type of style: mix eras, price points, textures and styles as much as possible. One hundred percent antiques in a room looks like a museum. Try putting a slick, white lacquered piece next to an antique mahogany or walnut wood table, or a white plaster lamp or something super modern on it. That allows both time periods to shine.
I wanted to show the versatility of using antiques with modern, contemporary pieces and created an eclectic setting that would really suit a man's library or formal living room. The tortoise shell was the first thing I had to have, and the settee was the second. From there, I worked around the other pieces.Describe your personal design asthetic.
I lean more to the traditional. I love Swedish and French antiques, but I have a strong passion for contemporary art. In my home, I have a French-style chair upholstered in lime green. I like creating a room around statement pieces. I incorporate fabrics and textures — cowhide, linens, velvets in rugs, pillows or draperies — along with one or two statement pieces.How do you recommend people incorporate antiques into their decor?
When you buy an antique, understand it is a delicate piece, but those pieces are some of the best-built pieces you can find and they were meant to last forever. Chandeliers, sconces and lanterns and beautiful light fixtures can bring all the rest of the pieces of the room together. I'm also a huge advocate of putting everything on a dimmer. It is so much more inviting to warm up a space with a dim light.
I saw this great, hand-painted swinging bed that had a Moroccan feel, and I knew it was going to be the statement piece for my space. I took all the masks and tribal pieces and went for a tribal-chic look. I was channeling a client who is well-traveled — every piece in their space has a story.Describe your personal design asthetic.
I'm known for the mix of antiques with modern. In my living room, I have a vintage Chesterfield sofa paired with two antique Versace lamps from the late 1960s and two late 1800s Berger chairs. My motto is, if it's a good piece, it's going to work with other good pieces. It can be from the 1800s or an amazing Lucite piece from the 1970s — great pieces work together seamlessly. I normally go for whiter walls: a white or cream palette will make the pieces make a statement.How do you recommend people incorporate antiques into their decor?
Going to an auction is a great way to get into it. Walk around and find something you love. Make sure it is timeless as opposed to trendy, especially when it comes to sofas. You can change a simple, clean-lined sofa with pillows and a throw.
I was attracted to things with the Indian-colonial type of theme. I went through the showroom, picked things and created this story: "Oh, this is a casual dinner party at someone's house who owns all this Indian furniture."Describe your personal design asthetic.
I'm a modernist and an architect by training, so my general style is modern. But I grew up in India, so I like to mix in Old World styles, and being in New Orleans for 20 years now, I use antiques.How do you recommend people incorporate antiques into their decor?
It's always nice to think of the mix and match. If you have an antique table, pair it with modern dinnerware or mismatched chairs. Have some fun lighting or modern art to pull it together.
I picked up a lot of wood, a lot of masculine pieces — a desk, dark leather chairs, an armoire—which led me to think of a gentleman's quarters.Describe your personal design asthetic.
My home is modern and contemporary. I like a clean slate — grays, taupes, creams and whites — but when I design, my sense is whatever my client's sense is. I have some antiques and like transitional design because you can mix old and new.How do you recommend people incorporate antiques into their decor?
Auction houses can be frightening for some people, but shopping there is just like shopping at a big box store. You go with a sense of what you're looking for, what you're willing to spend and what your aesthetics are. Clients say, "I don't know what my design sense is," but everybody has a design sense. Sometimes finding your aesthetic is as simple as looking at the clothes you wear.
There are three elements to great design: First, great lighting is a base for great design. Great paint colors are another base. Last, if you have a sense of your comfort level (knowing your aesthetics, how extravagant or casual you want the space to be), everything falls into place.