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The Magazine Antiques | February 2009
“Follow the money.” What was good advice for Woodward and Bernstein is equally useful guidance for the antiques collector. When Henry Morrison Flagler established Palm Beach as a winter haven for Gilded Age society, important furnishings and art were sure to follow. And so they did.February sees the annual Palm Beach Jewelry, Art, and Antique Show, and those who attend the exhibition at the area’s convention center should visit local galleries as well. Two areas merit special attention. The first is Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, the city’s luxury shopping strip. Laid out in the 1920s by the architect Addison Mizner, it is still an enclave of opulence, with its arcaded blocks and wide side alleys. Alongside Hermès, Gucci, Armani, and other lavish retailers are a clutch of antiques shops and art galleries that offer works of great interest.
The second area lies inland, across the lagoon of Lake Worth, in the city of West Palm Beach. There, some fifty antiques dealers have set up shop, most of them along a stretch of Route A1A (South Dixie Highway). Lined with strip shopping centers, it is not pretty—at least on the exterior. But inside the stores, antiques lovers will find some of the most exquisite and eclectic inventories around. We mention only a few of our favorite galleries here—most located on a walkable three-block stretch of A1A—but encourage you to explore farther afield in both Palm Beaches.
N.P. Trent Antiques
Stuart and Audrey Peckner's thirty-year-old gallery is a destination for serious antiques aficionados. The focus here is on eighteenth- to early nineteenth-century English and continental pieces, across a wide range of forms and styles. The passion the Peckners bring to their work is infectious--when Stuart says, "The paint is just perfect," as he shows off a neoclassical Umbrian commode of about 1780, it is difficult not to share his enthusiasm for the naively decorated piece. Many of the items on hand have a similarly palpable personality: a set of six colonial Queen Anne chairs made in Java about 1730 have backs and splats that are an eccentric four feet in height; a mid-eighteenth-century rococo German burlwood bookcase has a heft that belies the usual femininity of the style; a gilded and ebonized wood-framed Regency convex mirror with the circumference of a cartwheel is a rare survivor.
3729 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach 561-832-0919 nptrentantiques.com
Proprietor John Wilson stands about six-foot-six and has the build of a football lineman. "I'm a large-scale guy who likes large-scale things," he says with a smile. Indeed, Wilson's store is probably the most visually dramatic in West Palm Beach. One of his two showrooms contains such Brobdingnagian wonders as a nineteenth-century iron clock dial from Belgium that is twelve feet in diameter; a Gothic revival bookcase that easily stands a dozen feet tall; and two pairs of lyrically moderne 1940's chandeliers--one from Italy, the other from France--each at least five feet in height. The adjacent showroom--aside from a nineteenth-century Spanish refectory table that could seat twenty comfortably--holds smaller, if no less eye-catching wares, including an eighteenth-century French tapestry depicting a forest scene, and an eighteenth-century French roadside milestone.
3716 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach 561-802-3881
James and Jeffrey Antiques
The firm, which has two locations along South Dixie Highway, is a favorite among tradition-oriented decorators, offering numerous accent pieces, such as late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century porcelain, mirrors, and lamps. Still James and Jeffrey has much to offer for the dedicated antiques collector. The stock of case goods and seating pieces includes a large number of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century continental furnishings, among them neoclassical Italian commodes and French fauteuils. The wares are arranged in a "the more the merrier" manner, which rewards the patient hunter with a trained eye. The friendly owners and staff add to the pleasure of the search.
3619 and 3713 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach 561-832-1760 and 561-832-7987 jamesandjeffrey.com
The Swedish-born interior designer's store serves mainly as a showcase for his own classically styled furniture and accessories, but it is worth a stop for antiques collectors because of the small but choice inventory of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Gustavian sofas and tables from Bolander's native country, as well as such pieces as a French armoire with wire-mesh front cabinets of about 1750.
And bear in mind . . .
A fine selection of English and continental furniture is available at Jeffrey-Marie Antiques (3720 South Dixie Highway, 561-832-6505). A standout is a nineteenth-century Austrian tilt-top table with elaborate geometric parquetry and a carved three-legged bentwood base. Rococo furnishings--such as an exuberant eighteenth-century Venetian marble console--take pride of place at J & M Antiques (3714 South Dixie Highway, 561-655-0899), along with an intriguing assortment of religious artifacts. Re Vue Antiques (3701 South Dixie Highway, 5610832-2438) has a notable assortment of glassware centered on pieces by Baccarat and Steuben, while a few doors down, Objects in the Loft (3611 South Dixie Highway, 561-659-0403) is another mid-century modern treasure trove that features pieces by designers such as Milo Baughman and T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, and specializes in streamlined Paul Frankl-inspired rattan seats and tables. Finally, Dolce Antiques (3700 South Dixie Highway, Suite 8, 561-832-4550) merits a stop, if only for owner Tony Sirianni's eye for offbeat and lush "Hollywood regency" style furniture and accessories.