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Thanks to our 19th-century bargeboard homes, propensity to hold on to family heirlooms and general reverence for the past, New Orleanians have an affinity for antiques, interior designer Nomita Joshi-Gupta says. But antiques auctions can be daunting if you've never been to one: How do they work? What if you accidentally bid way too much? And just how fast-talking are auctioneers when they call the bids?
To introduce auctions to a new crowd, New Orleans Auction Galleries teamed up with Gambit to create Bidders, Brunch & Bubbles, a free event that's one part auction, one part Champagne brunch and one part interior design showcase.
"We're trying to make auctions more accessible," says Ashton Thomas, president of New Orleans Auction Galleries. "It's a good opportunity to come in and see how an auction works. We want people to bid, but that's not a requirement. Auctions are fun — for people who aren't used to the scene, it's super interesting to see the variety."
Items at the auction range from a whimsical handpainted porcelain Foo dog to gold cameo pendant earrings to Italian chairs of carved walnut. (A full list of items with photos and bid estimates is at www.neworleansauction.com.) To give attendees ideas for incorporating old, unique pieces into their own decorating schemes, interior designers Joshi-Gupta, Jennifer Cheatham, Chet Pourciau, Shaun Smith and Elizabeth Sullivan were recruited to style vignettes on display in the 5,000-square-foot upstairs showroom. There's a bedroom, two dining rooms, a sitting area and a study, each featuring items for sale at the auction.
"Clients tell me, 'I don't want to live in a grandma-looking house; how can I [use antiques] and still look modern?'" says Joshi-Gupta, whose dining room vignette at the auction is a mix of contemporary and Indian colonial pieces. "There's a way to do it."
Joshi-Gupta recommends mixing-and-matching eras: Try pairing an antique table with mismatched chairs or contemporary dinner ware and top it off with fun lighting or modern art. In addition to adding warmth, age and texture to a space, antiques can be sound investments.
"It's important to invest in items that can be passed on or sold at a later time," Joshi-Gupta says. "Antiques definitely fall into the category of investing in interior design."
Bidders also can find bargains among the lots. "There's the opportunity to get some deals," Thomas says.
It's essential to go in with a game plan.
"It's a finder's game over there," Joshi-Gupta says "People should see what they really love and have a price point in their head of how far they're willing to go to pay for it. Decide what you're looking for as a way to strategize, but there are times when you'll fall in love with something completely unexpected. The bottom line is, if you're going to design your home and live with it, you have to absolutely love it. That's the most important thing."
Bidders, Brunch & Bubbles takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 at New Orleans Auction Galleries (510 Julia St., 504-566-1849; www.neworleansauction.com). The live auction and design event also features brunch and Champagne sponsored by Martin Wine Cellar.
RSVP to attend Bidders Brunch & Bubbles here.