Since the winter glaciers have receded, our East End dealers of all that is vintage or antique have been warehousing treasures for a Memorial Day roll-out. The broad selection of merchandise shipped over in containers cutting the waves from as far away as the Orient and Europe, or the quirky discoveries trucked in from as close as Brimfield, Massachusetts, will please even the pickiest of Hamptonites.Though fairly fleet of foot, I could not manage visiting every purveyor, since many were observing winter hours (or no hours), so I could only nose-press some stores. Amagansett’s Decorum is where 18th- and 19th-century French provincial furniture sits all spit-and-polished for the season, gleaming with a heavenly collection of blue and white—so smart against the cherry armoires and pine tables. Next door, Nellie’s of Amagansett featured a cadre of opalescent dinner plates and bowls. This refined “petalware” is by Monax, a Pennsylvania glassware company that thrived in the 1930s. Nellie’s owner, Connie Dankmyer, a bubbling font of information, is a dedicated researcher and commands due respect among design cognoscenti. A large deco set of “Park Avenue”-style compotes, cast by Anchor Hocking, whet my design whistle—perfect for a modernist beach bungalow—especially when filled with flavorful scoops from the Hampton Creamery. Colorful vintage tumblers catch the eye, set for a fashionable Fourth of July hamburger fête.
Sylvester & Company, in 50 shades of “greige,” hung a tranquil collection of ocean scenes, although my dance card will be marked for the opening of their next show featuring black and white photography of magnificent racing sloops.
R.E. Steele is always a trove. Though attuned to Fibber McGee’s sense of display, the precipitous pathways, carved out of the vintage-to-retro offerings stacked high, are a gold mine’s worth of discoveries. Equally matched by Steele’s encyclopedic knowledge of the past 70 years of decorative art is his enthusiasm for artists, artisans and under-appreciated furniture designers. Currently on his top 10 list is the furniture maker Ben Turley, whose concrete and plywood console combines terrific form and function with a clever use of material. I must have this for an entry foyer against a glass window.
Hiding in the basement of Huntting House Antiques is a rare, 19th-century pine doll house structured as a chest on a chest. The impressive carved pine edifice charms you with its remarkable Georgian detail. Through the tiny paned glass windows, you can observe miniature furnishings as well as lamps and chandeliers that really light up. The drawers below can store additional furnishings for the young, obsessed decorator who insists on rearranging at whim. The clever, cut-stone façade is framed by raised corner quoining and a pretty pediment features a dentil molding. Lovingly built for some extravagantly spoiled English lass, this heirloom would surely thrill any young sophisticate.
Robert Stilin’s well-curated collection displays a 1970s brass Chevret looking glass that reinvents the bullseye mirror. Fluid, rumpled slabs of brass with tire tread marks, as if run over by some impatient Maserati crossing Route 27, hang strikingly on his white walls. And Mr. Stilin’s deft eye has located a wooden egg mold paired with a pedestal of industrial egg crates—a witty focal point for the end of a long hallway.
Gustavo Olivieri, effervescent in his ever-expanding empire at the Red Horse Market Plaza, is always eager to point out his glamorous selection of retro modern. With more than a dash of Miami, he has assembled shiny, delicious objects from all over the globe. However, a 1930s French twig chandelier seemed to occupy his fancy as the perfect match for a two-story East End entry hall.
Down 27 and bordering on Wainscott, Wyeth’s widely recognized collection of Scandinavian mid-century masters treats the eye. It is not for the faint of pocket, but shoppers must view themselves as “collectors,” for here you find the real thing in all its ascended price category. This aside, we are fortunate to have such a shop housed in its rustic modernist digs. A set of ’50s sea fishing rods sparkling in heavy brass, and colorful rods were an affordable treat among the terrific offerings.
Bridgehampton’s ever-changing street scene still supports Schorr and Dobinsky, an affordable antique seeker’s “watering hole” whose stunning Swedish painted secretaries, oval tables and industrial objets d‘art I always want to take right home with me. And for some quirky and unusual fare, who but Laurin Copen Antiques would pair a ’70s egg lamp with a French basket and make it work? Her love of antiques is as contagious as her love for cats. Luckily, her great offerings are still available.
English Country Antiques, with warehouses full of movables, still mixes it up well. And Water Mill’s Donna Parker Habitat has moved in Hollywood plexiglass, mirror and white lacquer to star-stud your home with glitter and glam.
Sad to say, Southampton’s Croft Antiques has closed, along with a number of other talented dealers. However, Ann Madonia still survives and is always a welcome respite.
Sag Harbor’s Ruby Beets deserves a huge call-out as one of the trend-setting, go-to meccas of vintage, modern and antique offerings. A mouthwatering display whets your design palate and sets your imagination flowing as the owners, a dynamic duo, guide you to revise your preconceived notions of beauty. Long known as a bountiful resource for stylists, knowledgeable decorators and shelter magazine editors, these eccentric dealers never fail to surprise and delight.
My recent re-visit to all of the above allows me to conclude with a well-deserved tribute to our talented dealers here on the East End. It is not a profession known for great financial remuneration, and our excellent dealers here in the Hamptons deserve kudos for their skillful eyes and their locally attuned sensibilities that cater to the notoriously picky but knowledgeable Hamptonian. Seldom will one find the variety, quality and quantity of excellent discerning wares located on one island peninsula. So please enjoy those rainy weekends pursuing these dealers and so many others, whose goal it is to bring the unusual and the rare right to your doorstep.