With Baby Boomers retiring and deaccessioning antiques and heirlooms and Generation X, Y, and Zers decorating in less traditional taste, there seems to be a glut on the market of fine furniture, art, and decorative objéts. All the better for those of us who love such things and are thrilled to have less competition in antiques stores and auction houses … but really, shouldn’t we try to share?
According to the Andrew and Lauren Brunk, proprietors of Brunk Auctions [brunkauctions.com], in Asheville, North Carolina, the answer is “Yes.” Targeting a new generation of collectors and auction-goers, they have designed a fresh approach to bringing younger generations back into the fold and onto the bidding floor.
Now their auction catalogs open with design magazine-style spreads of rooms furnished with objects from upcoming auctions that are handpicked and arranged in fine homes by the region’s top interior designers. “We hope to inspire a younger generation to embrace not only a modern aesthetic, but to mix it with the quality and uniqueness found in antiques,” Lauren writes in the catalog. “In the current design trend, it is no longer ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ All of it is in.”
Asheville-based interior designer Susan Nilsson [susannilsson.com], working with style setter and realty broker Sandy Sellers, created the room designs featured in the first of the redesigned catalogs. Among the featured vignettes are surprising juxtapositions of traditional and contemporary art as well as a gorgeous pairing of 18th and 19th century silver against a darkly stained cypress bookcase.
The built-in bookcase is part of the fine Arts and Craft carpentry of the historic late-19th-century Biltmore Forest residence in which the auction items were displayed. Even the house is available for sale through Sellers at Preferred Properties, (email@example.com). Located in historic Biltmore Forest, this French-Norman inspired house was the architectural masterpiece of silversmith William Waldo Dodge. Dodge designed the house for William A. Knight, who was a close friend of the Biltmore Estate’s horticulturalist Chauncey Beadle.
15 East Forest Road, Biltmore Forest, Asheville
Brunk Auctions has also launched a program of Connoisseurs Receptions, wine-and-cheese gatherings during which the auction house’s experts present short talks about featured items in the upcoming sale and discuss how these might fit into modern-day collections and homes. These will take place several days before each auction, helping to educate potential buyers about the furniture, art, jewelry, and decorative objects on the block and to stimulate bidding-fever.
This solid 18kt gold dressing set was featured during this week’s reception as one of the standout items in the tomorrow’s auction. Designed in the early 20th-century, it features Arts and Crafts Dragestil-style decoration with elaborate Viking imagery, interlaced strapwork designs, and images of dragons and monsters. Estimate $25,000 – $35,000.
While the receptions are fun in themselves (we all actually got the chance to fondle the solid gold powder box), the main point is to encourage new audiences to come to the auctions themselves, where they might stumble across a treasure and experience the thrill of bidding for it. “We want this to be fun and exciting,” says Lauren Brunk. “Life is short—don’t sit at a particle-board desk with a poster on the wall when you can have an antique desk and a real painting for about the same price!”
Although not in the bargain basement category, this carved and inlaid dressing table attributed to the Herter Brothers studio was among the pieces highlighted in this week’s Connoisseurs Reception. Made in the late 1870’s, Lauren explained that it originally would have been at home surrounded by potted palms and all of the business we associate with Victorian interiors. “Flash forward to today’s less cluttered spaces. How amazing to be able to notice the carving of the feet and legs, the ebonized decoration and parcel gilt urn that adorns the stretcher. Given their own space, really fine objects like this one make a statement.”
Two of my favorite affordable finds in the auction are a set of six botanical prints created by 18th-century British artist William Curtis and a small oil on artist board painted with great élan turn of the 20th-century American artist Elliott Daingerfield.
Six hand-colored botanical plates, William Curtis, British, 1746-1799, Estimate $1,000 – 1,500
Oil on artist board, Elliott Daingerfield (NY and NC 1859-1932), Estimate $3,000 – 4,000
The next auction, taking place on Saturday, September 15th, features pieces from many estates and collections including the Chrysler Museum of Art and the R. J. Reynolds Collection. View a digital catalog on the website, and if you want to get an email when the current catalog is available, just sign up on the home page.
Photos courtesy of Brunk Auctions, Asheville, NC