Scalamandré’s iconic leaping zebras in dramatic black and gold (Kentshire); a nubby ochre silk (Adelson Galleries); a slate-hued grass cloth (Hyde Park Antiques); a swath of seashells (Bernard & S. Dean Levy). Yes, there’s furniture and art aplenty at this year’s Winter Show, but something else stood out at last night’s opening party: wallpaper. Throughout the fair, vendors look to creative wall coverings to catch the eye, yes, but also to demonstrate the versatility of their wares.
Early American baskets pop against lemon yellow walls at Kelly Kinzle Antiques, while a seashell backdrop (John Derian’s shell paper for Designers Guild) at Bernard & S. Dean Levy adds a playful touch to the booth’s serious display of Chippendale furnishings—especially once you notice that the lower portions of the walls are hand-painted a blue hue taken from David Hockney’s pools, giving the effect of being underwater in a surreal antique-filled ocean.
At folk art outfit Olde Hope, proprietor Patrick Bell worked with David Guilmet (with whom he helms design firm Bell-Guilmet Associates) to translate early-19th-century portraits of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, residents by Jacob Mantel into a large-scale wall design. “They fit with our merchandise,” Bell says of the images. “So we picked a few, did a layout, and scaled it and then sent the layout and images of the paintings to Brands Imaging in Philadelphia. They then turned that into a computer program, which they printed on 54-inch vinyl paper.” Bell himself didn’t see the final result until install day. “I knew it would either be completely exciting or a complete disaster,” he says. Suffice it to say it was the former.
“We really look to ways in which we can create a backdrop to bring the focus on the materials people have collected,” Bell says of his work in interiors. “This is no different.”
At Elle Shushan, meanwhile, an oversize paisley print—an Adelphi paper adapted from an 18th-century design—beckons visitors into the jewel box of a booth, covered with the dealer’s famous miniature portraits.
“For Elle’s booth at the Winter Show, she requested the very clean St Giles Blue from Farrow and Ball (black-framed or gilt-framed pictures look killer on deep sky blue), but it can be chilly, so we wanted a full-blooded blast to contrast against the cool interior,” explains Ralph Harvard, who outfitted the booth. “The paper you saw is a custom colorway of one found in the Maryland home West St. Mary’s Manor. The original, from about 1765, was a delicate gray and pink. It was almost too voluptuous, so I toned it down a little, tweaking the color to rather imply an antiqued crimson damask, crimson (pure red plus a touch of black).”
Harvard, a New York–based designer, was responsible for three of this year’s booths. “We do three booths every year, for the intense fun and challenge,” he tells AD PRO. “Our task at Elle [Shushan]’s is to seduce/draw in people in to see the tiny miniatures, at Frank’s [of Bernard & S. Dean Levy] to presence a contrasting background for brown furniture, and at Kelly [Kinzle]’s to show a more contemporary setting for his folky, colorful stuff.”
Those contrasts seemed to be the order of the day throughout the fair. Though not a wallpaper per se, the wispy grass and graceful cranes of Hunt Diederich’s cut-metal bird tableau at Bernard Goldberg create a graphic scene that also feels thoroughly modern—despite its late-1920s date.
Cove Landing’s Len Morgan used Swedish purveyor Lim & Handtryck’s Stank pattern to set a textural backdrop. “It is a wonderful paper, with a thick craft paper ground,” Morgan tells AD PRO. “Unlike many papers, this is actually slightly three-dimensional to the touch, which gives it great depth. The design is circa 1900, but it looks very fresh.”
Indeed, that’s the overall effect of the layered, multi-era look (which is hinted at as early as the fair’s entry, where molding by Hyde Park tops a de Gournay–covered wall): a fresh, lush appeal that eschews white-box fair booths in favor of immersive design that speaks to the eclectic manner in which a younger set is decorating.
This new energy, though welcome, should hardly come as a surprise: When the show named Helen Allen as executive director last year, she waxed passionate about her goals for drawing a younger crowd to the event (beginning, of course, with the not-so-subtle removal of the word “Antiques” from the show name). This year sees a Young Collectors Night hosted by a swath of industry talent ranging from established stalwarts (Alessandra Branca, Celerie Kemble, Suzanne Kasler) to some squarely within the “Millennial” sector (Roric Tobin, CeCe Barfield, Nick Olsen, Ariel Okin) with support from non-designers sure to rally up an Instagram-attuned audience (such as The Art Production Fund’s Casey Fremont, for example).
Today, the show also rolled out the ultimate of-the-moment addition: an app. Available on Android and iOS, it allows users to virtually tour the show (including the loan exhibition: “Collecting Nantucket, Connecting the World” by the Nantucket Historical Association) and for in-person visitors to navigate the show via a search function and map.
To anyone paying attention, this year’s fair should come as proof that, far from being put off by brown furniture of yore, younger creatives are open to it—open to just about anything, in fact—so long as it’s presented in a unique, livable, and, well, fun manner. As for the app? There’s the example you need that old and new don’t need to be at odds. “I think it’s sort of funny,” Allen said, with a hint of a twinkle in her eye, as she told me about it on opening night: “We’re the onetime antique show, and we’re the ones launching the new, forward-looking thing.” It’s no coincidence at all.
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