Jonathan Rachman on decorating with art

Bay Area interior designer – and 2016 San Francisco Fall Show vignette designer – Jonathan Rachman brings the best elements of East and West, classical, old-school, and current to his individually tailored design projects. When asked about his approach to decorating with art, he shared the following:

“As with everything I do, it is always about the people… So I approach decorating with art the same way, it is for the owner of the space and I make sure they enjoy the art I select. It must be evocative – in a positive way, of course! Art to me is like a jewelry: it can make a room or ruin it. At times, it is the last thing I select, other times it is what inspires me as a starting point.”

Interior Design by Jonathan Rachman, Photo by David Duncan Livingston

“Art is so obviously personal… By nature I am a sentimental romantic, so my personal art selection is just that: sentimental and romantic – it may not necessarily be romantic in style, but it is romantic in subject matter. I collect all kinds of art: folk, modern, and I enjoy what the experts call classicism. But I also collect silhouette art in various mediums, as well as various types of decorative arts. It all depends on the purpose or intention. Artists I admire from different periods and styles include: Jeremiah Goodman, Gladys Perin Palmer, Marc Antoine Coulon, Bertel Thorvaldsen, Antonio Canova, Ida Bagus Nyoman Rai, Hahn, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur, Philip de Laszlo, to name a few… When it comes to my clients and projects, it all depends on their collection (I have been appointed to manage their art collection and select for different properties) or what I am commissioned to do – I typically plan the overall scheme and look of a space or a mansion or a resort, and art is a very important factor in my design process.”

Interior Design by Jonathan Rachman, Photo by Suzanna Scott

“When shopping for art, the piece must speak to me personally – it might be the color or pattern, but more importantly what emotions or thoughts does it evoke? Memories? Does it inspire a room for me to base my design on, or does a room need this art?”

Interior Design by Jonathan Rachman, Photo by Aubrie Pick

And finally, here are Jonathan’s dos and don’ts when to comes to decorating with art:

  • Be daring in your art selection, but know when to be safe
  • Make sure the room can handle your art selection: be it in scale, style or placement
  • Try the art when possible – in the space… many dealers allow a 24-48 hr approval period
  • Light your art! Be sure to use the proper temperature of lighting
  • Rotate art in the space you design, change things up, you will be pleasantly surprised with how quickly the room changes!
  • Never force a piece of art simply because you or your client owns it
  • Don’t be afraid of using a type of art you have never worked with before
  • Don’t buy anything simply because the artist is famous
  • Don’t get stuck in the same period of art because that’s the only thing you know
Interior Design and Photo by Jonathan Rachman

Don’t miss our lectures!

In true “fall show fashion”, the 2019 Show has once again lined up a can’t-miss lecture series featuring some of the best and brightest from the worlds of art, antiques, design and decorating. Here’s a quick overview, get your tickets while you can!

October 3, 2019 (11:00am) Madeline’s World of Wonder: Searching Far and Wide for the Beautiful and the Marvelous

Madeline Stuart is hailed as an icon for her exceptional design work, fabulous shoes, take-no-prisoners honesty, and wicked sense of humor. Learn how this pro spots and scores the pieces that bring joie and vivre to an otherwise “perfectly nice room.” Book signing to follow the lecture.

October 3, 2019 (2:30pm) – A Slide of England

Designer, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and mother of five, India Hicks, will explore her British heritage and how she has expressed it in her newly finished English country house in Oxfordshire. Book signing to follow the lecture.

October 4, 2019 (11:00am) – The Continental Divide: Curating Collections from Around the Globe

Designer panelists Veere Grenney and Rush Jenkins with the moderator Wendy Moonan, a noted architecture and design writer, will discuss their experiences working with some of the world’s most astonishing clients and collections from the past and the present. Greeney and Jenkins will shed light on how their own travels and respective backgrounds have influenced their design sensibilities. Book signings to follow the lecture.

October 4, 2019 (2:30pm) – My Love Affair with Houses, My Passion for Collecting

Bunny Williams, esteemed interior designer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, gardener, and collector, takes us on a journey through the houses she has decorated and loved. She will offer insight and practical tips on design, collecting, gardening, and entertaining that she has cultivated since her start at Parish Hadley. She offers personal secrets for choosing classics and recounts great stories of the best pieces. Book signing to follow the lecture.

October 5, 2019 (11:00am) – The Collectors Quorum: The How-To of Developing an Eye for Furniture, Art, and Design

Join Show Chair Suzanne Tucker as she moderates an inspiring discussion with George Brazil, Bay Area designer and co-owner of SagreraBrazil Design, Meaghan Roddy, Senior International Specialist and Senior VP of the Design Department at Phillips Auction House, and Hutton Wilkinson, famed interior designer, master jeweler, author and owner/creative director/president of Tony Duquette Inc. Learn from this panel of experts how to hone in on that special find – whether it is art, antiques or jewelry – and how to develop a collection that is personal, unique and meaningful. Aimed at both novices and seasoned collectors, don’t miss the opportunity to learn behind-the-scene tips and tricks from the experts!

October 5, 2019 (2:30pm) – Living Elegantly Today: Around the World with Timothy Corrigan

Leading interior designer, Timothy Corrigan will transport you to a royal residence in Paris, a beach villa in the Middle East, to a glamorous Hollywood home, each unique residence full of vibrant colors, textures, and styles. He will highlight the building blocks of successful decoration, including scale and proportion, symmetry, architectural details, the power of color, drama lessons, art and mirrors, layering, comfort, and details. This is a trip not to be missed!

Click here for the full show schedule and more info.

Interview with vignette designers Cecilia Sagrera-Hill and George Brazil

The San Francisco Fall Show is excited to welcome San Francisco-based company SagreraBrazil Design as one of the 2019 vignette designers. Principals Cecilia Sagrera-Hill and George Brazil began their eponymous design firm 15 years ago in San Francisco. Their singular vision results from the power of two perspectives with a shared value that design should elevate and enhance. Creative tension sparks dialog and exploration, resulting in the unique and the unexpected. Through adherence to design principles and suspension of the rules, new ideas are realized. Dedicated to creating lasting relationships with clients, craftspeople and other collaborators, SagreraBrazil Design believes that environments must be authentic to the client and their architectural context.

Cecilia originally hails from Central America and has enjoyed living in San Francisco for over 20 years along with her husband and their two young children and is actively involved with their community, the children’s school, scouts and sports.

George, a California native, lives in San Francisco with his partner and their two dogs. George serves on the Board of Directors of the Northern California chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA), and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

Cecilia and George were kind enough to answer a few questions:

How did you first become interested in antiques?

CSH: My first interior design job truly introduced me to the world of antiques and my love for the craftsmanship of these pieces began.

GB: I have been fortunate enough to work for designers who have had a passion for and appreciation of antiques and I have always been fascinated by the juxtaposition of antiques within a contemporary interior.

Are there any specific historic periods that you are drawn to?

CSH: Biedermeier and Art Deco are my favorites

GB: I would agree with Cecilia here and add that I am fascinated by anything from Ancient Greece.

In your interior design work, what is your approach to incorporating art and antiques?

CSH & GB: We talk to all our clients about incorporating art into the process as soon as possible as it helps the clients see the complete end result for their spaces. As to antiques, it depends on the project and the client, our goal is always to make sure that any antiques used make sense to the project as a whole or compliment a client’s collection.

What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find? Or alternatively, can you tell us about “the one that got away”?

CSH: A great find was a Biedermeier secretary that we converted into a bar and fit so perfectly in our client’s home. The one that got away, a beautiful Italian hexagonal shaped exterior lantern… it was a piece that I had admired and when I decided to purchase it, well it was the one that got away.

GB: I still get a pain in my stomach when I think of the one: a pair of antique/vintage wood arm chairs in a vaguely Biedermeier/Moderne design with beautiful wood detailing. I saw them at an antique show in Southern California. I was deciding on whether to purchase them or not and went to lunch. When I came back they were sold. A very well known dealer had bought them which made it even worse. Not only were they gone, but purchased by a major player to boot.

What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Show?

CSH & GB: Having all this knowledge of antiques and art under one roof, being able to transport yourself with the various dealers to discover pieces that might require more than one airplane ride…although there is nothing wrong with traveling to source for a project. The dealers are so knowledgeable and more than happy to educate you along the way.

How do you walk the show? What are you looking for? Any tips for shopping the show?

CSH: I personally like to walk it from the back to the front… we are always looking for art that gets you at the soul and for antiques that take your breath away not just because of their beauty but their story.

GB: I have my favorites that I like to visit first to see what treasures they have brought. Mostly we are looking for art and accessories. We love to preview the show and then invite clients to come shop with us. This allows us to educate ourselves with what is there and create a game plan for our busy clients to shop effectively.

Finally, the theme of this year’s show is “Wanderlust” – What is your favorite travel destination? And what country/place is at the top of your travel wish list?

CSH: Favorite destination – India… Top of wish list to travel – Japan, Italy and Thailand

GB: Favorite would be anywhere in South America and Greece. Top of wish list is Italy and Portugal, Japan and Korea. Really anywhere I can be with my favorite travel companion, my partner Vasili.

Thank you Cecilia and George – and see you at the show!

Peter Fetterman on the Art of Collecting Photography

Longtime show exhibitor – and photography connoisseur extraordinaire – Peter Fetterman recently lectured for Leica on the art of collecting fine photography.

Born in London, Peter Fetterman has been deeply involved in the medium of photography for over 30 years. Initially a filmmaker and collector, he set up his first gallery over 20 years ago. He was one of the pioneer tenants of Bergamot Station, the Santa Monica Center of the Arts when it first opened in 1994. The gallery has one of the largest inventories of classic 20th Century photography in the country particularly in humanist photography. Diverse holdings include work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Steve McCurry, Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Willy Ronis, André Kertesz, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Lillian Bassman, Pentti Sammallahti, Sarah Moon and Jeffrey Conley.

During his lecture, Peter speaks with great passion about his first purchase (a chance encounter in Hollywood), his drive to collect (all collecting is autobiographical), and the photographer he calls his “constant obsession” (Henri Cartier-Bresson).

In Peter’s own words: The only mistakes I ever made were the photos I didn’t buy. If you see something that speaks to you – and haunts you – find a way to buy it. A great photo to me is one that changes me: I am one person before I see it, and another one after. Every photo I have ever bought in 40 years has touched me because it brought out something in me and I think that is what collecting is all about – it’s a form of self-expression.

See you at the show Peter!

Henri Cartier-Bresson MUNSTER, COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND, 1952 Gelatin silver print

Schlepping in Style

The ritual of packing one’s belongings is an intricate part of indulging one’s Wanderlust – and the wide variety of bags, cases, trunks, packs, boxes… across history is mind boggling. Here are some exquisite examples that can be found at the 2019 San Francisco Fall Show, along with some sage traveling tips and insights.

Marcel Proust declared The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes, while his fellow countryman Andre Gide said Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Below from Milord Antiques: 1920s Louis Vuitton steamer trunk with studded black metal trim and two-tier interior compartments.

We all know the famous Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken: Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Below from Peter Fetterman Gallery: Dog with Suitcase (1982) by Kristoffer Albrecht © Kristoffer Albrecht

Some of the world’s wisest men (and women) encourage us to travel, including the Dalai Lama: Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before. Confucius advised: Wherever you go, go with all your heart. And Ibn Battuta, a Muslim Moroccan scholar, geographer and explorer who widely travelled the world in the 14th century, observed: Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

Below from Rodrigo Rivero Lake: Alabaster chest with exquisite silver filigree and Jesuit initials on the inside, 17th century Tecali, Puebla.

Last but not least, consider this from the late great Anthony Bourdain: Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

Below from Zentner Collection, left: a rare Japanese gyosho bako (peddler’s chest traveling backpack) made with 100% Kiri wood (paulownia), from the Edo Period (1603-1868). Right: an unusual traveling set of Japanese Black Lacquer Gyosho Bako (peddler’s boxes)

Interview with vignette designer Hutton Wilkinson

The 2019 San Francisco Fall Show is thrilled to welcome back the one-and-only Hutton Wilkinson, and this time as designer of one of the entry vignettes!

Hutton Wilkinson grew up in the Los Angeles architectural offices of his father and grandfather. At eighteen he had the opportunity to apprentice under – and later work for – the great American design icon and self-described “do-it-yourself-De Medici”, Tony Duquette. He collaborated in partnership with the legendary designer on a myriad of projects over the next twenty-five years while also running his own interior design firm creating custom interiors for Alida Davison Rockefeller, Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Stanfill, a palace complex in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for Princes Tarfa Bin Abdul Aziz and executive offices for Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. With Duquette, he collaborated on interiors for Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon, Herb Alpert and Doris Duke as well as houses in Paris and Venice for Mr. and Mrs. John N. Rosekrans.

In 1998 Wilkinson and Duquette, launched a collection of one-of-a-kind, hand made jewelry. Since the success of this new enterprise, Wilkinson has devoted his time exclusively to the design of these unique jeweled creations under the trademark “Tony Duquette”. These jewels have been used by such varied designers as Tom Ford at Gucci; Oscar de la Renta, Balmain, and Badgley Mischka.

After the passing of Mr. Duquette in September of 1999, Wilkinson as owner, creative director and president of Tony Duquette Inc. continues to design and market his one-of-a-kind designs for fine jewelry, as well as textiles for Jim Thompson, custom lighting products for Remains Lighting, carpets for Patterson, Flynn and Martin, furniture and accessories for Maitland-Smith, upholstery for Pearson, and tabletop accessories for Mottahedeh. Wilkinson’s book “Tony Duquette” (Abrams, November 2007) co- authored with Wendy Goodman, chronicles the great designer’s life and oeuvre. Its companion volume “More Is More, Tony Duquette” was published by Abrams in October 2009. The recently released “Tony Duquette’s Dawnridge” documents one of the most creatively designed private homes in America. In keeping with the spirit and aesthetic sense of Mr. Duquette, Wilkinson has utilized Duquette’s Dawnridge as the company’s worldwide headquarters. There, surrounded by works of Duquette’s art from the past, Wilkinson continues their design work as a seamless transition towards the future.

In anticipation of Wilkinson’s vignette at the 2019 show, we asked him the following questions:

How did you first become interested in antiques?

I grew up with antiques. My family home was actually furnished with four houses’ worth of antique furniture, two houses’ worth on my mothers side and two houses’ worth on my fathers side, all combined into one big mess of 18th century French with ormolu, Spanish colonial, Chippendale, mahogany… and a mishmash of American federal and a little bit of this and a little bit of that, combined with silk damask, creton and cut velvet curtains, orange leather upholstery mixed with crewel and Indian prints and everything but Fortuny. Walls were hung with everything from gold framed Barbizon school paintings, plein air paintings by Millard Sheets, and weird Victorian reverse paintings on glass, Japanese screens and Chinese carvings. The house which was in Los Angeles, it was built in 1918 and originally decorated by the Quezal Decorating Company, with a mix of high craftsman mahogany paneling, ruby silk brocade upholstered walls, and late Art Nouveau style light fixtures. It was a mess but it had walls and walls of books, mostly on architecture, furniture and world history, all of which I am still interested in. My parents subscribed to Réalités magazine and Antiques. I would read them both cover to cover but it was with Antiques where I would guess what the items were in the advertisements before reading the descriptions. It was mostly American antiques but I used it as a school book. That’s how I first learned the difference between Chippendale, Duncan Phyfe, Sheraton, and discern between Louis XIV, XV and XVI styles, as well as Empire, Napoleon III, Victorian and everything else in between. My father and grandfather were both architects in Los Angeles since 1918 and I wanted to be an architect until I realized that it was the decorators who got all the attention and drove the Rolls Royces. Of course that was back in the days before the internet ruined everything as far as the “do it yourself” nightmare is concerned. Anyway, that’s how I learned to love antiques, asking where they came from and learning the history of the pieces in my own family’s house.

Are there any specific historic periods that you are drawn to?

I like 18th century painted or Laca Povera Venetian furniture in the Louis XV style. I gravitate to Asian furniture in red, black or green lacquers accented in gold. I like anything Chinoiserie whether from England, France, Mars or the moon. The only raw wood I really like is when it’s painted on – faux bois – even on porcelain.

In your interior design work, what is your approach to incorporating art and antiques?

I’ve bought a lot of paintings in my life but i’ve never sold one to a client… ever!!! I’ve worked for several major art collectors, they hire me to hang their paintings in an interesting way to enhance their interiors. I’m talking about Picassos, Modiglianis, Braques, Courbets, etc.

I’ve been known to sell antiques to my clients but for the most part my customers have their own furniture and art and they hire me to decorate rooms around their possessions with paint, wallpaper, carpet, upholstery…

What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find? Or alternatively, can you tell us about “the one that got away”?

The ones that got away are the only ones I remember. There was an entire Louis XV boiserie room, a large scaled, 12-panel cinnamon lacquered coromandel screen, a suite of carved Indian blackwood furniture, a 19th century Chippendale Chinese cabinet, an 18th century Ca’ Rezzonico style Venetian chandelier, a set of 18th century hand painted Chinese wall paper, and a diamond necklace and bracelet by George Headly and a Paul Flato emerald bracelet with diamond tassels… and then there was the amazing vermeil flatware with amber handles carved with crests in a velvet lined fitted case, enough for twenty four guests with serving pieces en suite… oh the list is endless!!!

My favorite purchases have to be my four Venetian blackamoors which stand seven and a half feet tall. I purchased them to decorate the Palazzo Brandolini on the grand canal in Venice for John and Dodie Rosekrans. I purchased them back from the Rosekrans sale at Sotheby’s. They are my favorite objects along with my 18th century collection of Chinese export porcelain, and my set of eight 17th century Venetian veduta paintings by Heinze… But best of all is my collection of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar magazines which belonged to Nini Martin (they had a little tag that said, “property of Miss Nini Tobin”) that I purchased for $60.00 from the Patrons of Art and Music in San Francisco. They and my entire library of books are what I treasure the most.

What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show?

Seeing old friends, finding treasure and inspiration from all over the world, wallowing in San Francisco’s historic sense of inclusive hospitality.

Interview with Jean-Paul Tennant, CEO of Geographic Expeditions

The 2019 San Francisco Fall Show is once again delighted to welcome Geographic Expeditions (GeoEx) as one of our principal sponsors. Considering the theme of the 2019 San Francisco Fall Show is “Wanderlust – Around the world with Art, Antiques, and Design” – this partnership seems especially apt this year: a pioneer of travel to remote and challenging destinations since 1982, Geographic Expeditions (GeoEx) crafts wanderlust-fueled journeys to the world’s most astonishing places. They are driven by their love of travel, their fascination with the destinations they are privileged to visit, and their delight in sharing them with like-minded enthusiasts. GeoEx pours their in-country expertise and passion for eyes-open travel into designing Group Trips and Custom Trips—cultural tours, treks, safaris, cruises, and journeys by train—to the widest array of destinations. We interviewed Jean-Paul Tennant, CEO of GeoEx, on his (and ours) most favorite subject matter:

What does Wanderlust mean to your personally?

For me, it means the thirst to explore our planet in order to personally experience and better understand its places, people, culture, and history.

What does it mean for GeoEx in the 21st Century?

We are living in a time in which we are inundated with global news that is often negative, and typically doesn’t come close to fully capturing the reality on the ground. Governments may not get along, yet the vast majority of people welcome travelers with kindness and curiosity. Learning about a country by meeting its people first-hand is probably one of the best things we can do right now. It erases our differences and shows how much we all have in common.

Which GeoEx travel destinations should art/antiques collectors consider, if they are looking for a unique buying experience?

That is a hard question! The list is potentially very long depending on one’s particular tastes and interests. Places that I would put high on the list: Japan, South Africa, Bolivia, Peru, Turkey, Ethiopia, and Iran. When shopping for art and antiques, it is important to be sensitive to local customs and regulations, as well as the possibility of misrepresentation. For those that are interested, we make a point of connecting our travelers to reputable sellers.

What are your favorite parts/events/aspects of the Show – and why?

It is incredible to see such a high caliber of art and antiques together under one roof! I love being able to talk directly with the dealer, who often not only worked hard to procure the particular piece, but who also knows everything about its provenance, art style, historic usage, etc. And the gala is outstanding! What better way to enjoy seeing the art and antiques than to supplement with beautiful decorations, delicious food and drink, and a crowd of passionate and interesting fellow-enthusiasts!

Lightning round:

Favorite decorative arts era

Art Nouveau

Favorite (fine) artist

Claude Monet (with honorable mention going to Alphonse Mucha)

Dream travel destination

Another difficult question! I feel fortunate to travel anywhere. Personally, I love deep, powerful cultures that are very different from our own. India and Japan are high on the list. Also, despite the fact that I could be accused of being biased, I highly recommend Mauritius. It is a gorgeous island with friendly people and a fascinating history. (I happen to be half-Mauritian.)

Words to live by

Since we’re talking about wanderlust, travel writer Don George says in his book The Way of Wanderlust, “Ultimately, I have come to think, travel teaches us about love. It teaches us that the very best we can do with our lives is to embrace the peoples, places, and cultures we meet with all our mind, heart, and soul, to live as fully as possible in every moment, every day. And it teaches us that this embrace is simultaneously a way of becoming whole and letting go.”

Rule to break

This is a travel rule – skip the popular tourist sites and instead go where the locals go.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten

Never stop learning.

Thank you Jean-Paul – and see you at the Show!

Interview with Honorary Show Chair India Hicks

The 2019 San Francisco Fall Show is thrilled to have the uber-stylish and wonderfully witty, international “design royalty” India Hicks as Honorary Chair. India was born in London, England – her father was famed interior decorator David Hicks, and her mother is Pamela Hicks, daughter to the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma. Her grandfather was the last Viceroy of India, hence her name. The notion of Wanderlust is certainly not new to India: following school she backpacked around the world for a year. Back in London, she took a foundation course in art, before moving to Boston to take a degree in photography, graduating with honors. A fashion magazine feature lead to a successful career on the other side of the camera, as a model. India now lives on a small island in the Bahamas, with David Flint Wood and her five children where they have built and restored four houses and a hotel. This chapter in her life led to the publication of three books: Island Life, Island Beauty, and, most recently, Island Style. Part of the proceeds from these books have been donated to a small non-profit community school in the Bahamas. After a successful career designing collections of bath & beauty products, bedding and jewelry in partnership with others, a new book was born India Hicks – A Slice of England. India will tell you all about it during her lecture and Q&A on October 3 at 2:30 pm.

As her family was hunkering down to weather a hurricane in the Bahamas, India was kind enough to answer a few questions over the phone:

What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Show?

I have had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time in San Francisco over the years, and I find it a very exciting place to visit: the food, the people, the design scene, the city itself… what’s not to love?

When it comes to art and antiques, are there any specific historic periods or decorative styles that you are drawn to?

I am lucky to have grown up in some very remarkable homes, which in both architectural and design terms were considered very classical. So, at the heart of my design aesthetic there is a bit of modern but a lot of tradition. When my partner David and I moved to the Bahamas, some 25 years ago, we naturally gravitated to a style to was more in keeping with our new environment: Caribbean, West Indian… think dark stained floors, tropical foliage, and lots of white mosquito netting.

Over the years, I’d like to think that we would be better minimalists, but that may be a pipe dream, as we keep on layering more stuff into our homes rather than taking things away.

What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find?

I am so lucky to have inherited a few remarkable antiques from my parents. In fact, in England, we built an entire house around a pair of sensational gilt mirrors and eagle console tables that used to belong to my grandmother. And I mean that literally: we extended the roof of the house in order to fit them in! My partner David is an avid antique hunter, always bringing home new finds and it has made me realize how much I prefer the look and feel of a beautifully constructed piece with some age to it, over a brand-new “off the rack” retail item.

From the book India Hicks – A Slice of England (Rizzoli), photograph by Miguel Flores-Vianna

This year’s show theme is Wanderlust – Around the world with Art, Antiques, and Design? What does Wanderlust mean to you?

To me, Wanderlust is the passion for travel and exploration, and I have certainly led that life. I left England at 18 and backpacked around the world and that turned out to be a really inspiring education. Travel and adventure are key to my life and how I bring up my children. Of course, the same applied to my parents, so you can definitely say that Wanderlust is in my blood, in my DNA.

Thank you India – and we look forward to seeing you at the show!

Photograph by Sarah Wood

Orient Express

Nothing personifies luxury travel more than the legendary Orient Express. In 1865, a prominent Belgian banker’s son named Georges Nagelmackers first envisioned “a train that would span a continent, running on a continuous ribbon of metal for more than 1,500 miles.” During a trip to America, Nagelmackers witnessed the many innovations in railway travel there—chief among them George Pullman’s unprecedented, luxurious “sleeper cars”—and he returned determined to realize his vision. In 1883, after a number of false starts, Nagelmackers’s Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (wagons-lits is French for “sleeper cars”) established a route from Paris to Istanbul, then called Constantinople. The newspapers dubbed it the “Orient Express”—though Istanbul was as far toward the “Orient” as this train would ever travel and Nagelmackers embraced the name. On October 4, the Orient Express set out on its first formal journey, with many journalists aboard to publicly marvel at the train’s luxury and beauty. Aboard the train, the delighted passengers felt as though they’d entered one of Europe’s finest hotels; they marveled at the intricate wooden paneling, deluxe leather armchairs, silk sheets and wool blankets for the beds. The journey from Paris to Istanbul lasted a little over 80 hours.

The Orient Express soon became known as the King of Trains and Train of Kings. Leopold II of Belgium and Carol II of Romania were famed as on-board seducers. Tsar Nicholas II demanded custom-built carriages, while Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, scared of assassins, even insisted on driving the train through his own kingdom at breakneck speed.

Other famous passengers included Tolstoy, Trotsky, Diaghilev, Marlene Dietrich (below), Lawrence of Arabia and the spy Mata Hari – as well as fictional characters such as Hercule Poirot and James Bond.

In its heyday, the train earned another nickname: “Spies’ Express.” Continent-hopping secret agents loved the train, since it made their jobs so much easier and their travels much more comfortable. One of the most remarkable of these agents was an Englishman named Robert Baden-Powell, who posed as a lepidopterist collecting samples in the Balkans. His intricate sketches of the forms and colors of butterfly wings were actually coded representations of the fortifications he spotted along the Dalmatian Coast, which served as great aids to the British and Italian navies during World War I.

In later years, the pedigree of the famous train became rather complicated, as Nagelmackers’s original line spawned similar ones following slightly different routes, and as other providers began to use the phrase “Orient Express” for promotional purposes. The Direct Orient Express, the Venice Simplon Orient Express (below a current picture), the Nostalgic Orient Express and many others have existed over the years.

The original Orient Express made its last journey from Strasbourg to Vienna on December 12, 2009, but the Simplon Orient Express still exists. In fact, in a marriage made in luxury travel heaven, the Venice Simplon Orient Express was sold in 2018 to LVMH, the French luxury goods company that owns Christian Dior, Moët & Chandon champagne and …. Louis Vuitton, the storied French fashion house and luxury retail company founded in 1854 by Louis Vuitton and renowned for its high-end luxury trunks and leather travel goods, adorned with the signature LV monogram.

Below from Milord Antiques: 1920s Louis Vuitton cabin trunk with studded black metal trim and all inscribed L.V. with a surface fitted by wooden trusts. France.

1920s Louis Vuitton cabin trunk

Interview with vignette designer Alessandra Branca

The San Francisco Fall Show is thrilled to welcome Alessandra Branca as one of the vignette designers for the 2019 show. Her eponymous company Branca is a full service, boutique interior design firm. Internationally celebrated for interiors with an inviting flair, its founder has classicism running through her veins—her signature style born of a Roman childhood, nurtured through 30 years of experience. Branca blends color, pattern and texture with an abundant sense of joy, a little wink and the wisdom to make it all work in perfect harmony. Her interiors are livable—designed to reflect and soften our complex worlds. What unifies her work is an overall sense of balance—and the practical magic she casts, turning houses into homes.

In anticipation of her vignette, we’ve asked Alessandra a few questions:

How did you first become interested in antiques? As a child in my grandparent’s home… and then as a teenager in Rome walking Via Giulia and via del Babbuino which used to have the most amazing antique dealers. I have not really stopped discovering new things and periods and styles which is the best part of life.

Are there any specific historic periods that you are drawn to? All periods and styles excite me. I tend to love earlier furniture mixed with some more modern pieces. Both periods have as much appeal and creativity. The earlier baroque for instance concentrated on making the useful beautiful, using materials and form to transform something as simple as a stool or chest into a spectacular object and then the mid century period, which I mostly discovered and fell in love with later on in the United States, also made more edited sculptures of useful items, both aiming to create and transform day to day items.

In your interior design work, what is your approach to incorporating art and antiques? It is a very fundamental part of every interior. I see furniture and decorative accessories as spices that can be incorporated into a space to give it life as well as play the contrasts for visual interest.

What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find? Or alternatively, can you tell us about “the one that got away”? I loved many of the pieces from the Wrightsman sale many years ago, as well as the Yves Satin Laurent/Pierre Berge sale. The quality and exquisite taste were extremely inspiring. There is nothing like a wonderful collector’s point of view to redefine the way you look at something and there have been so many incredible collectors and collections to inspire, mesmerize and make us yearn. Those that got away never worry me as I know they found wonderful homes, all part of the trip that a piece must go through…

What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show? I used to live in San Francisco and have come to the show numerous times and love it. I am excited to see the different presentations as well as those new and unusual pieces that could possibly fit in my projects whether in San Francisco or anywhere else for that matter…

How do you walk the show? What are you looking for? Any tips for shopping the show? I tend to walk through once to get a quick view of all booths then I go back to see specific items. Surprisingly I have a list of items I am always looking for for projects but occasionally there is that wonderful surprise of an amazing piece that I need to find a home for. Clients love when I am excited about something and tend to be like me in being as excited with something new and special!

Finally, the theme of this year’s show is “Wanderlust” – What is your favorite travel destination? And what country/place is at the top of your travel wish list? I travel an enormous amount as we have homes in various places, including in my hometown of Rome. We always make an effort to go somewhere completely new at least once or twice a year. I think we can cannot grow if not through the challenge and surprise that travel offers. New destinations and cultures are always a way to expand your sense of who you are and continue to define who you are. I am excited to go to Vietnam as well as Peru, both at the top of our list right now.

Thank you Alessandra – and see you at the show!

Campaign Furniture

Campaign furniture, as implied by its name, is portable furniture that was designed to be packed up and carried during military campaigns. Its origins can be traced back to the Romans, but it is most commonly associated with British Army officers during the Georgian and Victorian periods (1714-1901). There seemed no limit to the number of items an officer would take with him if he could afford to and how well one’s tent was kitted out was perhaps an indication of your social standing. The numerous items specifically made for travel include a variety of beds from four poster or tent beds to chairs that would extend for sleeping, large dining tables, dining chairs, easy chairs, sofas, chests of drawers, book cabinets, washstands, wardrobes, shelves, desks, mirrors, even lanterns and candlesticks, canteens of silver, cooking equipment, toiletry equipment and thunderboxes were all made to be portable.

Famous makers such as Chippendale, Sheraton and Gillows offered campaign pieces and the end of the 18th century saw the rise of specialist makers with the names of Thomas Butler and Morgan & Sanders. Their wares addressed not only military needs but also the increasing number of people who were moving to the colonies. In the 19th century, Indian cabinetmakers still grounded their work in the European tradition but added distinctly Indian touches. The emphasis was on decorative elaboration and much of the 19th-century Indian wood carving shows great technical skill.

Below from epoca in San Francisco: an Anglo-Indian traveling table originally used by the British colonial administrators for serving tea. Anglo Indian Furniture was crafted in India between 1858 and 1947.

The early 20th century saw a decrease in demand for campaign furniture: developments in transport and the rise of the motor car meant that travel was quicker so it was less of a necessity to equip oneself for a long journey. However, campaign pieces continue to be appreciated for their simple elegance, beauty and ingenuity. What was born of necessity was quickly adopted for its style, and these solid, classic pieces have retained much of their aesthetic allure so much so that campaign-style furniture continues to be designed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

Below from epoca in San Francisco: a good quality and chic brushed steel, bronze and leather campaign chair designed by Otto Parzinger for Maison Jansen in the 1960’s.

The Silk Road

The legendary Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting China and the Far East with the Middle East and Europe. Established when the Han Dynasty in China officially opened trade with the West in 130 B.C., the Silk Road routes remained in use until 1453 A.D., up until the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China and closed them. Although it’s been nearly 600 years since the Silk Road has been used for international trade, the routes had a lasting impact on commerce, culture and history that resonates even today.

Below left, from Antonio’s Bella Casa: Pair of hand-thrown green-glazed six-tier Chinese terra cotta pagodas with figures (Republic Period, circa 1915). Below right, from Milord Antiques: Persian gold damascened steel mirror case on stand, Qajar Period.

Even though the name Silk Road originates from the popularity of Chinese silk among tradesmen in the Roman Empire and elsewhere in Europe, the material was not the only important export from the East to the West. Trade along this major economic belt also included fruits and vegetables, spices, livestock, grain, leather and hides, tools, religious objects, artwork, precious stones and metals and – perhaps more importantly – language, culture, religious beliefs, philosophy and science.

Below, from Rodrigo Rivero Lake: Pair of wooden dvārapālas from Kerala, South of India, 17th century. Dvārapālas are characteristic architectural elements of the Hindu and Buddhist culture. In sanskrit Dvāra means door and pāla means protective or guardian, they are responsible for not allowing the entrance of the impure to sacred places.

Venetian explorer Marco Polo famously used the Silk Road to travel from Italy to China, which was then under the control of the Mongolian Empire, where he arrived in 1275. Twenty plus years later, Marco Polo returned to Venice, again via the Silk Road routes. His journeys across the Silk Road became the basis for his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, which gave Europeans a better understanding of Asian culture and commerce. On his deathbed, he famously declared: “I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed.”

Below left, from Antonio’s Bella Casa: 19th century Anglo-Indian, hardwood side table featuring beautifully rendered dragon feet between a serpentine X-stretcher. Below right, from epoca: A rare and exceptionally large pair of kashmiri Indo-Persian lacquered copper baluster-form vases, 19th century.