Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine Spring 2013 Issue.
By Kathleen Nicholson Webber
Originally posted in the Philadelphia Magazine on March 15, 2013.
ANTIQUES ROW, PHILADELPHIA
Start at Moderne Gallery (111 N. Third St., 215-923-8536), where owner Bob Aibel specializes in 20th-century decorative arts, namely French Art Deco and the American craft studio movement. His French Deco gems include a 1932 rosewood buffet by Marc du Plantier ($60,000), angular and geometric ceramics, silver, boxes and jewelry. “Many first-time buyers walk in and buy a clock or lamp and begin collecting,” says Aibel, also the go-to guy for the renowned work of New Hope furniture maker George Nakashima. You can pick up an end table of the late master woodworker for $2,500 or, if it’s burning a hole in your pocket, plop down $100,000 for a dining table from sculptor Wharton Esherick. (Just make sure you invite me to dinner.)
M. Finkel & Daughter (936 Pine St., 215-627-7797), housed in a circa-1840 building, was opened in 1947 by Morris Finkel as a period furniture shop featuring works from America, England and Europe. Daughter Amy joined in 1975, adding quilts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and American needlework dating from 1770. Works can run from $2,000 to $100,000. (The other focus here: 19th-century American glass.) A recent find: a walnut partner’s desk, bought in New Hampshire, which was once used by a New England judge ($6,200).
Anastacia Fahnestock and husband Scott Evans’ shop, Anastacia’s Antiques (617 Bainbridge St., 215-928-9111), is housed in a former carpet store from the 1800s located one block south of South Street and chock full of curiosities. Need a stuffed fox, turkey or badger, or maybe a bear rug? (Who doesn’t?) You’ve come to the right place. Papier-mâché masks or a velvet opera coat? They have it. Their furniture dates from the 1870s to 1920s, but they also carry everything from cufflinks to carnival banners. Their early medical holdings—microscopes, apothecary bottles, skeletons—are conversation pieces to enliven the ho-hummiest of nests.
A trip to this bucolic river town should start with a morning at Rago Arts and Auction Center (333 N. Main St., 609-397-9374). Fans and collectors have made David Rago and his wife and business partner Suzanne Perrault’s the largest auction house in New Jersey, selling everything from Arts & Crafts furniture to contemporary art. Intimidated by the thought of raising a paddle? Partner Miriam Tucker advises attending an “unreserved auction,” where there is no reserve price. (They’ve unloaded pianos for pennies.) The average sale price at these events hovers between $300 and $500. (The next one is the weekend of April 19th to 21st.) Previews generally start the week before. “You can pick things up, ask questions, take photos, kick the tires,” says Tucker.
Afterward, meander over to Broadmoor Antiques (6 N. Union St., 609-397-8802), where 10 different galleries and dealers sell everything from Pennsylvania Impressionists (Walter Baum and William Langson Lathrop among them) to 18th-century armoires and cabinets to Georgian flatware, tableware and boxes, all under one big roof. Recent finds include an 18th-century refractory dining table, ocelot pillows, and a 19th-century trophy table perfect for setting down your glass of brandy. A designer cult spot. If you’re looking to recreate Lord Grantham’s study in Downton Abbey, this is your place.
Owner George Evans has renovated the late-1800s dry-goods store now known as Antiques on Union (32 N. Union St., 609-397-3300) to better display 10,000 square feet and three floors of antiques; he sojourns to estate sales in Palm Beach and beyond for clients and designers. Come here for furniture from 18th-century English Georgian to mid-century modern, Orientals and pricey porcelain. During a recent visit, I became obsessed with a circa-1950s, hand-cut Venini tubular glass chandelier sure to be the focal point of any room. Alas, not any of mine.
Two final stops: First, Jim’s of Lambertville (6 Bridge St., 609-397-7700) sells not only beautiful antique furniture, but also lovely impressionist art. Michael Herold Design mixes old and new. Housed in the Laceworks Building (287 S. Main St., Suite 8, 609-460-4763), this is mid-century nirvana, with lots of Lucite, glass and swanky Rat Pack fare (bar carts!), curated by a man anointed a “Next Wave” designer last year by no less an authority than House Beautiful. Recent pickups: Barbara Cosgrove metal quail lamps and Arne Norell safari chairs.
On your way in to Princeton, make a stop in the picture-postcard borough of Hopewell. Inside the Tomato Factory (2 Somerset St.) lies Umbrella (609-466-2800). Owners Fay and Linda Sciarra scour antiques heaven Brimfield, Massachusetts twice a year, returning to set their finds in dramatic vignettes for inspiration: an oxblood leather Chesterfield sofa and mid-modern chairs are paired with an industrial coffee table. You’ll find vintage Eames chairs, an iron and marble Argentinian console, lots of ’60s Lucite tables, and an assortment of lighting from industrial to Deco. The biggest plus: Prices are downright reasonable, from $25 for a tchotchke to $6,500 for a pair of Vladimir Kagan white suede swivel chairs. (Love!)
Once in Princeton, the first stop is Judy King Interiors and Antiques (44 Spring St., 609-279-0440). She’s decorated abodes in Princeton, Maine and Bedford, New York (read: monied places), but her quaint shop is more cozy than imposing. Her resource library: Stark carpets, Bunny Williams and George Smith furniture, and Phillip Jeffries wall coverings that she mixes with English and French art and antiques you can buy right off the floor. Also stocked: English antique case goods, piles of 1820s and ’30s Staffordshire figurines, mid-century chaises and chairs, and antique sconces and chandeliers.
For nine years, Lei Xu has been selling antiques and art from all over Asia at Dynasty Arts (20 Nassau St., 609-688-9388), including early 20th-century scroll paintings and Japanese woodblock prints, as well as 100 year-old decorative wood carvings. Her glazed porcelain offerings span from ultra-rare Han dynasty pieces to 200-year-old ginger jars.
Your last stop is Leo Arons at The Gilded Lion (4 Chambers St., 609-924-6350). The professorial type, Arons favors both the unusual (a Himalayan jeweled headdress!) and the rare (a dressing table from Alexander Hamilton’s family; leaves from medieval manuscripts). Affordable collectibles include ceramic cosmetic boxes from a 500-year-old shipwreck ($100). The furniture can be a tad pricey, but really: Who can put a price on style?
By Kathleen Nicholson Webber
Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on January 23, 2013.
When Ani and Mark Semerjian look back on the two years it took to design and build their Main Line dream home, it reminds them a bit of a prize fight—one between two creative types with different opinions. Sometimes she’d win a round; sometimes he would. In the end, the couple—Ani, an interior designer with a flourishing business, and Mark, a high-end custom builder and renovator—created a luxe, spacious Tudor with nods to the modern (for her) and European (for him). The mashup is a manse with an old-world charm that makes the home look like it’s been in Devon for hundreds of years.
When the Semerjians sketched out their 9,000-square-foot home with the help of Mark’s father, George—a builder and architect who helped train Mark and the owner of Semerjian Builders in Wayne—they each had to plead their cases room by room. “Mark is into heavy, detailed moldings,” says Ani, a native of San Francisco who has a master’s degree in interior design from Drexel. “My roots are modern. I like more streamlined design. The whole house is a compromise of tastes.”
When she wanted dark floors and he wanted light, she won. When he wanted thick moldings, they ended up in all the living spaces. Mark started with the exterior, a Norman-style stone Tudor with a flare roof that looks European. They then fused the outside of the house with the inside. Their opposing styles now coexist: They used traditional materials like Italian marble and Jerusalem limestone in an updated way.
Mark’s mission in this house was to have lots of wows wherever one went. “People should say, ‘Oh my God, look at that.’ That’s what makes a great house. We spent a lot of time creating those wow factors,” he says, noting elements like lighting and architectural details. They chose each room’s ceilings, an oft-forgotten area, to create some of these moments. “I think it is important to have something for your eye to look at in a room when it comes to a ceiling,” says Ani, owner of the design business Semerjian Interiors, now 10 years running, who appears regularly on NBC as a design expert.
Mark designed a central gallery running through the first floor with a bow ceiling, flanked on either side by intersecting arches. The two-story, 25-foot foyer was modeled after a cathedral in France. “When you enter the house and look up, you see arches and intersections,” says Mark, who has traveled to Europe extensively for inspiration and incorporates truly old-world building techniques into all of his homes. The foyer also features a dramatic wrought-iron staircase and limestone floors. The living room’s ceiling got special treatment. Made of real plaster with a diamond pattern, it is almost Gothic-looking. In the breakfast area, one looks up to find antique oak beams and corbels.
Mark readily compliments Ani’s ability to soften the Tudor home, which could have come off as too masculine. In the nearby kitchen, the designer chose one object, as she did with all the rooms, to become the piece that the room is designed around. In the kitchen, it was oversize lanterns. Gas lanterns, that is—the same kind as the ones the couple used outdoors. Ani called the township and got permission, and they had them installed. “They bring the outdoors in,” says Ani.
In the dining room, the focal piece was the Persian rug her grandparents gave the couple. The colors of the rug set the tone for the wall color—a deep, grayish navy that gives the space an English tone. For the master bath, the room was built around a tub that the couple designed, which was cut from an eight-ton chunk of stone and hand-shaped by stone carvers in Italy.
Ani, a California native, has embraced the beauty of this collaboration with her husband. And the last symbol of their negotiations is also a nod to her adopted hometown. “Because we live in Devon and the Devon Horse Show is in our area, I decided to add a local ‘touch’ to our family room, which is where we spend most of our time.” She saw a painting of a horse’s head at a local shop and brought it home. “Mark thought I was nuts because it is rather large [over four-feet wide], and he almost refused to hang it up. Now he loves it. It has become a focal point and a conversation piece.”