Antique dealer and founder of The Modern Antiquarian, Margaret Schwartz loves the thrill of the hunt. When she’s not sifting through a warehouse of potential treasures deep in Sweden (or the UK, or France) she might be found leading an antique tour closer to home, helping others find their own particular needle in the haystack perfect piece. We had the chance to get some pro tips and learn about creating a perfect mix in your own home.
This passion lead her to open The Modern Antiquarian. Whether you need design services, are missing a key piece that may be buried in that aforementioned warehouse overseas or are looking to increase your own knowledge of antiques through a hands on tour, Margaret and her team are ready to help. We had the chance to check in with Margaret, get some pro tips and learn about creating a perfect mix in your own home.
A self-described “maximalist,” Margaret knows how to incorporate the pieces she loves despite their eclectic nature. She explains: “I am ALL about the mix! My obsession is antiques, but I don’t live in a home with period Gustavian rooms. It’s just not how people live anymore. One thing we often tell clients is if you love it, it will work. You’ll find a way to make it work. Also, take some risks and think about how a certain piece can be used in a new way to fill a need in your home. One very common example of this is taking a chest of drawers and making it into a bathroom vanity. We just love seeing how our clients mix and match different styles. Just go for it!” She applied this same way of thinking in her own home as well: “What I try to do is stay consistent with color stories across the rooms and keep it a balanced mix. I don’t heavy up on Swedish in the dining room and neglect it in the living room. That balance happens naturally because each style I love is represented in each room. My home is a reflection of my interests and preferences.”
One of the ways she helps clients find pieces is by leading antique tours. “ Antiques tours are so much fun! I love taking them as well as leading them. If you’re interested in a tour we like to set up an initial call to find out what you’re looking for. Are you a collector? Is this tour more for inspiration? What pieces are you looking for and what do you love about them? We ask a lot of questions so we can tailor the tour to your needs. Once we get a solid idea of what you’re looking for we will take you to some fantastic sources and help you negotiate. For me, half the thrill is the negotiation! You want to get a deal and not be insulting which can be a fine line to walk. You’ll also hear plenty of hilarious stories. I once heard a story about an antiques dealer’s party that got so out of hand a woman was locked in an antique trunk. They didn’t find her until the next day when the trunk was set to be delivered. Little did you all know antique dealers are a lot of fun! You’ll have a blast when you’re out with us.”
If you do find yourself out shopping for antiques on your own, Margaret offers some advice for those of us who are just starting out. “The single most important thing I can tell people is to buy from people you trust. I suggest you start by perusing around sites like TLV and see what catches your eye. Do some research about that style and its history. What types of wood is it typically made from? Are there any famous makers? What is the correct time period? Once you’ve done some research you’ll have more questions and that’s when you want to really develop a relationship with dealers. Engage in a dialogue with them until you find a dealer that you feel comfortable working with. Ask as many polite questions as you want because I assure you that all antique dealers welcome the opportunity to chat about our collections. It’s our obsession and if we’re not talking about antiques, we’re looking for opportunities to talk about antiques.”
Three Questions with The Modern Antiquarian
What are some of your current obsessions?
We’ve been experimenting with taking antique Indian textiles and reupholstering traditional pieces in funky ways. It started when we took a classic roll back English slipper chair and recovered it in beyond fabulously vibrant Indian wall coverings and textiles. It came out better than we could have imagined and we knew we were on to something when Thom Filicia fell in love with one of those chairs using it in a vignette in Texas. We’re expanding this concept now and have more pieces in the works.
Favorite place(s) to travel for antique shopping?
If you’re going to go to one place only make it the UK. You can find everything you could ever dream of there. As Swedish specialists we also love going straight to the source in Sweden. I learn more in two days in Sweden than I do in a years worth of reading. And go off the beaten path!
Required reading for someone new to antiques?
The Antiques Diva has the best blog out there. She’s fabulously fun, the key to my success, and of course shows us some stunning antiques along the way. After that I highly recommend getting a copy of the latest Miller’s Antiques handbook. Judith Miller’s handbook is the definitive generalist text. Judith lists other sources and you can really get stuck down the rabbit hole! Also, once people know what you collect, your friends will stumble across books and pick them up as gifts for you.