Above: Margaret Schwartz and Kelly Maguire found this English country style table circa 1900 in the UK last January.
What’s old is new again. “Antiques are coming back in a major way,” says MARGARET SCHWARTZ, owner of MODERN ANTIQUARIAN. “Brown wood has been popular for awhile, but we’ll see a lot of lacquered Asian pieces in the upcoming year.” Schwartz knows a thing or two about furnishings. She began her career at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and later acquired The Summer House, a chic home design store in New Canaan that she ran for over six years. During this time, she honed her skills sourcing her favorite furniture, fine art, lighting, rugs and antiques, and decorating homes in and around Fairfield County. Schwartz’s new venture focuses on antiques and is based in Stamford.
Schwartz is excited to immerse herself in the antique world just as this genre is gaining ground again. She explains that during the recession, mid-century style was trendy because it was clean and unassuming. “People got rid of all clutter and kept their furnishings simple. This style was a metaphor for what was going on in the world,” she says. Now, she says, “People want color and warmth brought back into their homes, and they want their furnishings to tell an individual story about who they are.” The only way to do this, she notes, is to bring in what you love, and since furniture is an emotional buy, many people are connecting to antiques. Her love of older furnishings never waned, and when asked why she gave up her popular store in New Canaan, she says, “My passion is antiques, and it’s all I want to talk about every day. In recent years, antiques made up most of my sales, so it made sense to switch.”
Schwartz runs Modern Antiquarian with Creative Director Kelly Maguire, who came with her from The Summer House. They have a permanent booth at the Stamford Antique and Artisan Gallery and are open a few days a week and by appointment. The pair sources most of their finds in Europe on scouting trips they take four times a year. When they venture to London and the quaint countryside of the Cotswolds, they hunt for everything from case goods—like a pair of chests of drawers— to dining, side and cocktail tables. “When we go to Italy, we focus on artwork and small decorative pieces like glassware and interesting objects,” she says. In Sweden, the duo looks solely for Swedish furniture that has a Gustavian, Rococo or Baroque feel.
“We’ve been doing guided tours with The Antiques Diva & Co. for several years, where we hand-pick everything,” explains Schwartz, noting that the company has local guides in almost every country in Europe, and now Asia. “They know exactly where to go,” she says. Over time, Schwartz and Maguire have forged long-term relationships with these European dealers, who offer quality goods and are trustworthy. “I learn so much when I’m in Europe,” she says, detailing how she writes down as much as she can and asks thorough questions about each item. She must see and touch everything before she buys it, inspect the quality of the paint and the decorative elements, as well as inquire what restoration has been done.
“When you own an antique, you’re just keeping watch over that piece until it goes to the next owner. You’re forever part of its story,” she says.
In addition to her presence in Stamford, Modern Antiquarian can be found online and also on the Antique and Artisan Gallery website. “We sell designer quality pieces, but we’ve cut our expenses by not having an independent showroom and therefore can offer a better price point,” says Schwartz. The result is having more time to do the thing she loves most. “I’m the happiest I’ve been in years.”
5 TIPS FROM MARGARET SCHWARTZ ON HOW TO STYLE A GUEST ROOM
1 ACCESSORIZE Small decorative pieces can add color or texture. “Displaying small collections like glassware or pottery is a creative way to make a big impact.”
2 FURNISH WELL A lovely nightstand or a tall boy chest are functional pieces that can anchor a room. “The guest room is a good place to put furniture that you love but can’t fit in other areas.”
3 MAKE IT COZY Add an antique armchair: It provides a comfortable seat for reading. “It’s great for guests to have a cozy spot to retreat to.”
4 LIGHTEN UP “A funky floor or table lamp, or even a pair of antique sconces by the bed can make a powerful statement.” Also, make sure guests have enough light for reading.
5 CREATE A DISPLAY “Start with five photos, paintings or sketches and hang them in the center of a blank wall.” If you have a contemporary home, keep all the frames similar.
As if opening a new business wasn’t enough, Margaret Schwartz and Kelly Maguire recently launched their individual and group antique tours through The Antiques Diva & Co, the company with whom they source their own goods. (Schwartz is also one of their official Northeast guides.) “We accompany you, navigate the antique market based on what you’re looking for and help with negotiations,” she says, noting that haggling is always expected but it’s often hard to know how far to push. “We take people around Stamford, and up into Litchfield County towns like Washington and New Preston where we find some really unusual pieces,” she says. The pair also does tours of Brimfield Market in Massachusetts (May, July and September) as well as Round Top market in Texas (March and September). “Round Top is 27 miles long, so it’s fun to go with a group and hit the highlights,” she says. Day rates are based on specific tours, and you can book through her website. Of course, Modern Antiquarian offers full design services and can source specific pieces and send you photos in real time as they’re on the hunt.
We accompany you, navigate the antique market based on what you’re looking for and help with negotiations. — MARGARET SCHWARTZ