The kids, it turns out, are alright.
Not only are the kids alright, they’re commandeering the antiques arena long gripped by their baby boomer predecessors. Since the 1970s, the dealers, collectors, and tastemakers ruling the realm of Chippendale and chinoiserie have done so unchallenged by any up-and-comers. Perhaps it was the siren call of flat-pack furniture and corporate-branded home design, but as the new millennium bloomed, the collecting world didn’t. Dealers grew older, shops grew fewer, and an inevitable cultural calcification set in around the edges. Now, though, a crop of blazing new talents under 40—some from a background in decorative arts, some from conservation and restoration, some from fashion and media—have entered the zone with fresh ardor for the old and unique, a passion for provenance, and digital acumen that has swapped the shop on the Upper East Side for the marketplace of Instagram.
“We’re finally at a watershed moment,” says Michael Diaz-Griffith, the 30-something executive director of the Soane Foundation, cochair of Young Collectors Night at New York’s famed Winter Show (returning in January 2022), and the de facto ringleader of the youth brigade. Diaz-Griffith knows the landscape like a Dutch master: He founded the New Antiquarians, a monthly gathering of “young people who love old things” in 2019 and is finishing up a book of the same title that profiles an international roster of the new generation photographed in their homes.
“It feels like the market is blowing wide open,” he says. “There are younger dealers of antiques and mostly historic material, some vintage material as well. They’re on Instagram, they’re pioneering the sale of antiques online. It’s moved from theory to practice. It’s exciting.”
These young guns are not only captivating traditional buyers and designers, but their fresh energy and approachable mien is luring a new generation of clients. “So many of the people I love to follow online present information about these pieces,” says New York-based designer Lizzie Bailey. “You go into a shop, and it might feel intimidating. On Instagram you scroll; you read these wonderful captions. You eat it up. You want more.”
Meet eight young dealers from New York, West Palm Beach, London, Paris, and beyond who are leading this bracing generational revolution. And whatever you do, don’t forget to follow them on social media. The shops are open.
Traditionalism’s Heir Apparent
Call it the Battersea effect. In 2016, Adam Calvert Bentley, already eight years into a career as a conservator/restorer, took a week off work to have a stand at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair at Battersea Park in London. “By the third day, I realized this was exactly what I wanted to do for a living. I wanted to be a dealer.” Another Battersea revelation: Just hours before the show began, a friend told Bentley he needed an Instagram account, which the very un-millennial millennial did not possess. “I handed him my phone so he could create it,” he says. “My first post was a photo of me setting up.” The result: Bentley left his job soon after to become a dealer who developed an early, impressive, and sustained Instagram game. The winning combination (along with his keen touch with pieces largely from the 16th through 19th centuries) positions him as a 21st- century inheritor to last century’s U.K. legacy of dealers, such as Geoffrey Bennison and Christopher Gibbs. And, he adds, he cannot wait for the next Battersea fair: “I haven’t missed one since 2016,” he says. @adamcbentley
Acquisitions that speak of your style as a dealer: A very large 18th-century Portuguese open armchair, a pair of Louis XVI-style verdigris bronze hanging lanterns, and an impressive, large Chinese export picture of a Dutch merchant from the early 20th century.
Retail aspirations: I do have a showroom, but a shop needs a cohesive look….For instance, if you sell a carpet in a shop, you must replace it. That’s a burden. I buy things when I see them.
One piece from inventory you’d keep: A fine Chinese-export, eight-fold lacquer screen. It has an expansive landscape with figures, temples, animals, pagodas, and junks—divine! But I live in an impossibly small flat in Chelsea and, though I am ambitious with what I shoehorn in, this might be a step too far!
The Couture Modernist
“He came from nowhere in Wyoming. I found him on Instagram through a hashtag.” When Maggie Holladay describes one of her discoveries (in this case, wood sculpture artist Chandler McLellan), it’s with a youthful sangfroid that feels like a foreign language among the baroque parlance of dealers. But Holladay, who got her start in fashion, can spy a moment coming around the corner, which may be why she began buying up onyx coasters and ashtrays on eBay in 2018. “My boyfriend said, ‘This is great, but we have 30 ashtrays. Can you start one of those Instagram accounts and get them out of the house?’ ” Now her online design shop, Claude Home, with more than 125,000 followers, features pieces like a 1970s de Sede Non-Stop sofa amid sculptural works by McLellan and, yes, vintage onyx ashtrays. Holladay’s eye for form and texture is on full display, but she’s already peering around the next corner. “Everyone’s a vintage seller,” she says now. “What’s something people are not doing?” She pauses. “I need to bring on artists. I have the platform.” Paging Wyoming. @claudehome
Best find so far: My Jean-Michel Frank-attributed Comte, Bariloche, Elephant chairs from 1939. I’m storing these in my home next to a floor-to-ceiling window. It’s the perfect place to think and drink my morning coffee.
Most anticipated trip: When I was in fashion, I visited Paris a million times for work and never got to enjoy it. Now I plan to go back to learn about furniture designers and their culture, shop, and discover.
The draw of vintage: Sustainability. Plus, there are memories in it. I’m a curious person, so it’s interesting just to sit in a chair and say to it, Where have you been in life? What have you been doing?
The Romantic Realist
“At the heart of every dealer is a collector,” says Valaer van Roijen. It’s an apt sentiment for the niece of famed garden- antiques dealer Barbara Israel, who began collecting miniature tea sets around the age of eight and never looked back. For van Roijen, it was a fortuitous lack of fine arts jobs that led to a position in English furniture at Sotheby’s (“fate and Sotheby’s HR department had other plans,” she says). She went on to pursue a master’s degree and spent a year at Christie’s before returning to antiques with dealer Jill Dienst. “I began buying things at auction,” she says. “I’d pick them up myself and then stop at every antiques store on the way home. And that’s how the business started.” Today, whether she’s updating a pair of Napoleon III armchairs in Ralph Lauren black-and-white ticking stripe or restoring a 19th-century mahogany English armchair rescued from a leaky strip-mall shop in rural Pennsylvania, she’s channeling the mantras of her patron saints, Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler. “They deserve endless credit for incorporating antiques into comfortable living and showing that nothing needs to be taken too seriously,” she says. “As much as I love museum- quality objects or incredible provenance, I’m not interested in owning a piece if I can’t live with it.” @vanroyen_decorative
Recent acquisition: An 1855 Irish teaspoon simply for its blazing castle crest. It is a pretty unsellable item, but there is such charm in the hand of the engraver.
One piece from inventory you’d keep: A 19th- century oil painting of a white whippet with tiny paws and a polite stance—impossible to part with!
Favorite early acquisition: A mahogany Edwardian bed tray I bought while I was working at Christie’s. I’d sit in my bed on weekends with it holding my books, a pad of paper, and a tea, feeling romantic and leisurely. Unfortunately, one of my roommates, perhaps in his own search for romance and leisure, eventually stole it.
Maestro of the Aesthetic Movement
A chat with Oscar Graf is like auditing the best history course in a beautiful classroom—one with a Walton settee and a Benson lamp. While the Paris/London-based dealer may have a family tree draped in design (an haute époque dealer grandmother and a decorator father), Graf’s love of political history led him to the hinge between the 19th and 20th centuries, 1870 to 1914 to be precise. “It was a different type of society, one that World War I would end,” he says. Shows like TEFAF Maastricht, as well as international museum curators, have taken notice, and at the tender age of 31, he sold his first piece, a Russian armchair by Sergey Malyutin, to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “It’s only about 40 to 45 years, but there are so many different designers, styles, movements,” he says. “You won’t see the same style, but you will see a common will to create something new.” Class is in session. @oscargrafgallery
Most anticipated event: Frieze Masters in London in October. Our theme explores the most important influence in turn-of-the-century decorative arts: nature.
Heroes: The Kugel brothers, Lance Entwistle, David Ghezelbash, and Yves Macaux.
One piece from inventory you’d keep: A painted enamel plaque by Paul Grandhomme after a drawing by Gustave Moreau.
The Arbiter of Cool
It’s no wonder the worlds of fashion and design stole the phrase “the edit” to sell a collection. An editor’s job is to spot a diamond, polish it, and display it irresistibly. And Tori Jones is a consummate editor. After apprenticing at the country’s most esteemed home and design magazines and, later, Schumacher, Jones not only has an unerring eye for sourcing but an editor’s gift for storytelling that makes her curations marvelously accessible on her website and Instagram feed. “I keep three adjectives in mind when I’m hunting,” she says. “Artful, chic, and playful.” This has led to discoveries like a trove of notebooks, sketches, and serigraphs by the late midwestern artist Paul Chidlaw. “It’s not easy to find original, approachable fine art,” Jones says. “And nothing takes a house up to ‘wow’ quite like artwork.” Spoken like a true editor. @torijonesstudio
What you can’t resist: I’m a sucker for all things bamboo, wicker, rattan, and rope. These materials have been stretched to all limits of home- decor imagination, and they go with virtually every style.
One piece from inventory you’d keep: My vintage splatterware plates from Poterie Ludwig in France. They make any meal feel like an occasion.
Most anticipated event: Brimfield Antiques Market. There’s nothing like this crowded, hot, sweaty show. I love seeing the die-hards trudge through the mud, and I love lining up with everyone at five a.m. with a flashlight on opening day.
The Greatest Showmen
All hail brothers Charles Peed and Augie Briger (and their mother, designer Cris Briger), who placed gusto (the Romance-language word for outsize taste and pleasure) at the heart of their mission. Whether proclaimed in the very name of the family’s Casa Gusto emporium of antiques, objects, and artworks in West Palm Beach or informing every photo that purrs in their Instagram feed, that unifying principle of la dolce vita beguiles with a youthful vigor. Aptly, the pair follows their hearts and instincts (“I buy with my eyes,” Briger says) to finds ranging from 17th-century Italian cabinets and 1940s scagliola top tables to a museum-quality bust of Nefertiti and Brookshaw prints. It’s not uncommon to spot Peed (an accomplished photographer) singlehandedly moving giant commodes and marble- topped tables around the shop—and employing inventive, movable walls—to create Instagram vignettes as alluring as the Gusto brand. From Briger comes the gift of Scheherazade. “I am not formally trained, so I have the luxury of phenomenalism,” he says. Look no further than his description of a favorite find, an 18th-century Louis XV card table: “It looked like a newborn foal determined to stay standing,” he says, “draped in what could have been an Oscar de la Renta floral, ready at any moment for Derby Day. Tables like this come around, but this mix was bohemian in a way that would make Min Hogg flutter in her seat.” The flutter—and gusto—is mutual. @getthegusto
First antique purchase: Peed: A painted window seat from Christie’s, London. I was with my family, and there was such energy from all of us involved.
Acquisitions that speak to your styles as dealers: Briger: You can usually guess what I’m fond of by what I’m sitting on. This week, it’s a pair of George III-style, Princess Leia-like silhouette hall chairs. I drag the other close behind me for my coffee and books.
Era or style that inspires you right now: Peed: If I had to jump into a style right now, it would be brown furniture. I don’t think it ever left the stage but was shown through the wrong lens. Briger: The flavor of the month is brown Louis XIV, because why not?
The All-In Classicist
A disarming colossus, Collier Calandruccio stands astride the two worlds of collecting: the ephemeral space of Instagram and the three-dimensional interior of Klismos Gallery in his Crown Heights Renaissance Revival townhouse. The rooms display—both for in-person clients and online followers—his passion for classicism and unerring acquisition chops, where a Grecian sofa commingles with a Duncan Phyfe secretary desk and a 2nd-century Roman bust looks on from a Sheraton chest. Composed to sell, yes, but also to offer a glimpse of a life among antiques. It’s a life he played out as a child in Tennessee, haunting estate sales and antiques stores with his orthopedic-surgeon father, “an inveterate collector and renaissance man” who grew up doing the same with his surgeon father. So it’s no surprise that Calandruccio—an enthusiastic member of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art—conjures life and commerce so studied and seamlessly blended. “When this room is not functioning as my study,” he confesses on Instagram, “this pair of marble-topped consoles is frequently littered edge to edge with cocktail and wine glasses after late-night parties.” Life among antiques, indeed. @klismosgallery
First antique purchase: When I was 12 or 13, I discovered an old reading lamp with a sculptural iron anthemion base at a flea market in Memphis. I paid for it with pocket change, my dad and I rewired it, and it followed me to high school and college. I still have it.
Thrill of the hunt: Connecting the dots and researching. You can often find me in Room 300 at the New York Public Library.
Greatest inspirations: Sir John Soane, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and Archer Huntington. These collectors of what we now view as traditional art supported contemporary artists of their day. To wake up each day and actively contribute to their legacies is a privilege and responsibility for which I am unspeakably grateful.
The feature originally appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of VERANDA. Produced by Dayle Wood; written by Tracey Minkin.