Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Batty for Blue and White

photo: Simon Upton Michael Smith's Bel Air home, courtesy of Elle Decor.
Blue and white. Without a doubt, the  most classic color combination. Given its universal popularity, it seems strange to me that I did not respond to it until recently. Once I did, however, I became a true convert. This is partially due to the fact that--yes, it's true--the color combination goes with everything. Blue and white vases, for instance, look divine with every single color of flower, such as the pretty pink and cream roses in this Michael Smith designed vignette, above. Below, he takes the same console, mirror and lamp, adds more moon flasks (which he collects at auction),some hot pink and yellow peonies and voila...

photo: Simon Upton    
Michael Smith's moon flasks, courtesy of Houses.
I found two moon flasks up for bidding in the coming weeks, both available through the Midwest Auction Galleries in Oxford, Michigan on July 17th. Below, a 20th century porcelain moon flask, estimate $600-900.  See the Qing Dynasty one here.

moon flask, estimate $600-900
So, bunched on a console table is one way to display your blue and white. It also works well mounted on a wall, as in this Alexa Hampton room, below. Look how just a single platter really draws the eye up and prevents this room from being monochromatic and dreary. All it takes is a bracket shelf.

Alexa Hampton

Alex Papachristidis
 ...or several! Note that these shelves are white, contemporary pieces. You can find antique ones at auction, if your prefer, or you can use lucite shelves so that your vases appear to float against the wall, which can work wonders in a more contemporary setting. I love the lucite shelves at the Container Store (not to mention the price tag).

But back to blue and white. Note that designers love repeating this color combination on multiple surfaces...

Mary McDonald, courtesy of Interiors: The Allure of Style.

Joe Nye

...in multiple rooms

...in all shapes and sizes. 
Bunny Williams, courtesy of Point of View: Three Decades of Decorating Elegant and Comfortable Houses

Here are some pretty possibilities available at auction.
A pair of Chinese urns, estimate $300-600. At auction, June 29th.

Lewis and Maese, an established auction house in Houston, has some lovely blue and white up for bidding tomorrow, such as these lidded urns, above, estimate $600-900, and the blue and white delftware, below. 

Pair of blue and white delftware, at auction June 29th, estimate $300-600.

Set of five delftware porcelain vases, circa 1900, at auction June 29th, estimate $400-800.

But blue and white can be found in other places too, at every price point.

Classic Spode platters, up for bidding in North Carolina on July 4th, estimate $150-250.
Early 20th c blue and white gourd vase, up for bidding on July 30th, estimate $150-250.

Japanese 19th century porcelain charger, at auction July 17th, estimate $200-400.
Chinese blue and white fish vase, at auction July 17th, estimate $100-200.
 Once you start collecting, it will be hard to stop. How will you display your blue and white?
A dining room by Bunny Williams, courtesy of Point of View: Three Decades of Decorating Elegant and Comfortable Houses.
photo: Grey Crawford
Rela and Ron Gleason's kitchen, courtesy of Elle Decor.
photo: John Valiant An Allison Caccoma dining room, courtesy of House Beautiful.
photo: Francesco Lagnese
Markham Roberts, courtesy of House Beautiful.
Markham Roberts
I close with a few more possibilities. Happy hunting and enjoy your blue and white beauties!
Staffordshire plate, at auction July 16th, estimate $40-50.
Vase depicting plum blossoms, at auction July 17th, estimate $200-300.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crazy for...Red, White and Blue

The real deal: a thirteen star American flag,
up for bidding on June 23rd, estimate $4,000-6,000
It's that time of year again: that time of picnics and patriotism, of frankfurters and fireworks. And despite all the wankers and Weiners that seem to dominate the Capitol dome, it's hard not to get a bit caught up in the nationalistic fervor.

Cowan's Auction in Cincinnati certainly fans the flames. This respected auction house has an upcoming American History Sale, featuring items from the Civil War.
The center plate of this patriotic shield is removable. At auction June 23rd,
estimate $1,000-$1,500. 
Of all the many flag items in this sale, my favorite piece has to be this patriotic wooden shield, circa 1909. It is an impressive size (18x 23.5), with a great design, but my favorite part is that the central photo is interchangeable! You get eight prints of notable American figures, including Washington, Jefferson and Paul Revere. (And why not add your own designs for birthdays and special events--who wouldn't like a moment in the spotlight?)  At Cowan's on June 23rd, estimate $1,000-1,500.

1880 double sided auction sign. Sold for $425 on June 21st.

Okay, I'm cheating. This great, red white and blue 1880 barber shop sign sold at an auction yesterday for $425. I wanted to include it anyway, because things like this can add such great interest to a room. Case in point, this children's room below, which was featured in Elle Decor.

photo: Simon Upton, designers: Anne-Marie Midy and George Almada, courtesy of Elle Decor.
Thinking about our nation's birth always leads me to cowboys, indians and the glorious Wild West. I guess I'd better giddy on up to the Denver Old West Auction then, June 24th-26th, offered by Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, where these Buffalo Ranch vintage lithographs, circa 1910, are up for bidding, estimate $1,500-2,500.

C. 1910 Buffalo Ranch lithographs, estimate $1,500-2,500.
I also love this vintage rodeo cowgirl poster, at the same Denver auction (along with a LOT of boots and spurs), with an estimate of $700-900.
Rodeo Cowgirl poster, estimate $700-900.
"Cabinet cards" are photographic studio portraits, typically 4.5" x 6.5," that were taken between the years of 1860-1900--that is, until the affordable Kodak Box Brownie came along and killed off the practice. They got their name because the cherished portraits would be displayed in a living room cabinet. Today, cabinet cards are highly collected and can be expensive (but, of course, you can sell them for a lot as well). If you're going to display one, how about Annie Oakley? Just look at all her shiny shooting medals!
Annie Oakley cabinet card, at auction June 23rd, estimate $800-1,000.

Or perhaps these gorgeous gentlemen are more your style...
Baker and Johnson cabinet cards of American Indians,
at auction June 23rd, estimate $2-3,000.
I always feel so wistful about American Indians. I love looking at their beautiful clothing and headresses. Capo Auction has two fine sets of prints in their June 25th sale. A set of four prints, one of which is shown below (which I love, even though it is showing evidence of foxing), and a set of five, which you can see here.

Set of four American Indian prints, at auction June 25th,
  estimate $400-600.
Getting back to cowgirls: how fun is this lot of ephemera, thirty five items in all, of professional cowgirl Lucyle Richards? 

Photos and other ephemera of professional cowgirl Lucyle Richards. Up for bidding in Cincinnati on June 23rd, estimate $1,000-1,500.

Or perhaps you'd prefer cowboys...

Large lot of western photographs, at auction June 24-26th, estimate $700-900.

Now on to the important stuff: how will you showcase your new wins? 

photo: Laura Resen, Nannette Brown bedroom, courtesy of Elle Decor

A high ceiling was made for a vast collection. Note how the matching frames help pull disparate items together.

The offices of Lonny magazine, courtesy of Lonny.
This pin board is in an office. But an elegant assemblage of your ever changing collection could work in so many places.

photo:William Waldron, designer: Paul Ludick, courtesy of Elle Decor.
A narrow kids' room is enlivened by a colorful assortment of prints and drawings, above. And, below, my favorite of all: pages taken from Cabinet of Natural Curiosities by Albertus Seba line a guest bathroom--lucky guests! (By the way, Seba's book makes an excellent coffee table item as well as a hostess present. There are many versions, one option is available here.) But before you can decorate, you have to bid, so get going. Happy hunting, everyone--and Happy 4th!  (But you'll hear from me again before then.)

photo: William Waldron,
designer: Steven Gambrel,
courtesy of 
Elle Decor.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Good Buy Friday: Classic Jewelry at Auction

Lady's Cartier gold wristwatch, estimate $3,500-4,500,
at Doyle, New York, June 23rd. (Platinum and diamond one available also)

I can't tell you how many friends I have who are daring and adventurous in so many ways--climb Mt. Kilimanjaro; teach in the inner city; invite their mother in law to stay for three weeks--and yet, when it comes to bidding at auction, immediately look cowed. "I went to an auction once," said one such individual, recalling a Sotheby's Impressionist painting auction, "those people sure knew their stuff."

Um, yes, well, if you're going to drop fifteen million dollars in one evening, you probably should know your stuff. But please, please, my friends: forget the press and the glitz and those marquee, record breaking auctions, just drop them from your mind. Because those are the exceptions, not the rule, and the rule is nothing like that. Avoiding auctions because they are fancy and intimidating is like saying you avoid movie theaters because you might trip on the red carpet and hit Angelina. You hear what I'm saying?

Good. Because I'm going to get you to bid at auction, my friends, I'm determined to, and the best point of entry, I find is, without question, jewelry.

Classic men's Cartier barbell cufflinks
 (every man likes barbells--easier to put on!)
estimate $1,000-1,500.
Why is jewelry so great for the neophyte? Well first off, because jewelry is one of the most marked up items on the planet. Seriously. Estimates range from a 400% mark-up for non-branded items to a several thousand percent mark up for the creme de la creme brands. It makes sense once you think about it: Mikimoto and Tiffany and Graff and Harry Winston and Cartier have all those stores in high rent districts across the globe, thousands of employees, and advertisements with lions and celebrities and lions lying on celebrities, to pay for. That stuff really adds up!
Buccellati  18k gold and emerald earrings,
at auction June 23rd, at J. DuMouchelle in Gross Pointe, Mi,
estimate $1,000-$1,500.
And yet, despite the absurd mark-up, who hasn't coveted some glittery designer bauble at one time or another?

...which brings me to my next point. Buying jewelry at auction, particularly brand name jewelry, is a great entry point because 1) you often know exactly what the item looks like already and 2) it's pretty easy to see what the manufacturer's retail price is (and thus, how much you're saving).

Case in point. This Elsa Peretti "bone" bracelet, so called because that bump on the top right is meant to cover your wrist bone, which means this bracelet is meant for the right arm (and the auction photo was upside down and I flipped it but never mind...). This design was trademarked in 1978 and Tiffany has been producing it ever since; it's a real, genuine classic.  Given this, Stair Galleries, which has a lovely example at auction on June 25th, put a pretty high estimate on it, $3,500-4,500 (probably because the client put a high reserve on it--she knows what she has!). Still, this size bracelet retails for $9,675, as you can see here, making the potential for a steal quite high.

Elsa Peretti Tiffany "bone" cuff, at Stair Galleries, June 25th,
 estimate $3,500-4,500.

Doyle New York has great jewelry sales throughout the year, with one coming up mid week. Here are some more Tiffany classics for your consideration:
Elsa Peretti starfish earrings: perfect for the season (and one of the few Tiffany items EVER that was actually much bigger in person than I expected), at Doyle New York, June 23rd, estimate: $400-600.

This Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany six row ring is a classic...at least with the women in my family!
At Doyle New York, on June 23rd,
estimate $500-700. (Matching earrings for sale, too!)

The DuMouchelle family has been in the auction business for decades. An excellent sale is coming up on June 22nd at Joseph DuMouchelle in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan (But the preview is actually at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and there is a special dealer preview too, because, yes, as with regular auctions, most of the people who you will be bidding against are store owners, who will then go on to double or triple the price. Did I mention that jewelry was marked up?) Lots of marquee names here, including these timeless Seaman Schepps shell earrings...
Seaman Schepps shell earrings, one of seven pairs
up for bidding at J. DuMouchelle on June 22nd,
estimate $1,500-2,500.

 ...these Fred Leighton earrings.

Fred Leighton 18k gold shell earrings. At J.
DuMouchelle on June 22nd, estimate $2,000-3,000

Honestly, this auction has so many great things, you better look at the whole catalog. But at the tip top of the list would be something by master-of-all-time- jeweler Duke Fulco Di Verdura. The double crescent bracelet, below, retails for $55,500. The at auction estimate is $5,000-8,000. (Now, do you get it?)

Verdura double crescent bracelet. At auction, June 22nd, estimate $5,000-8,000.

I'm stressing the marquee names to get all you timid bidders off the fence. Once you feel more comfortable buying jewelry at auction, however, you'll probably start seeking out unique vintage pieces, such as this absolutely stunning Art Deco stud set, for your hard to buy for guy.
An Art Deco platinum, white gold, diamond and sapphire stud set.
At Doyle New York, June 23rd, estimate $1,500-2,500.

Vintage Buccellati 18k gold and ruby earrings at J. DuMouchelle on June 22nd,
estimate $1,500-2,500. 

I don't think these coral, diamond and white gold earrings at Doyle New York
actually are vintage, but they sure look it.
At auction June 23rd, estimate $1,500-2,000.

And finally, you'll love buying jewelry at auction because it's fun to gawk! This Mexican fire opal is such an Auntie Mame ring;  the perfect accoutrement to a summer cocktail.

Mexican fire opal, gold and diamond ring, at J.DuMouchelle on June 22nd,
estimate $2,500-3,500.

So friends, get going! I expect to see lots of pretty sparkles at our next gathering.