A BFF, who will be moving into a new home shortly, called me over the weekend to say she'd fallen in love with a painting at the gallery, and wondered if it would work in her new place. I responded, "If you love it, it'll work anywhere!" I thought about sending her an interview we did several years ago for an arts publication that hammers that point in fairly strongly. But then it hit me: why not revisit the questions in our blog? We actually don't recall if the interview was ever published but we loved the questions, so it's been fun for us to answer them all over again.
What are the main components to building and displaying an at-home art collection?
We always advise our clients to purchase paintings that speak to their hearts. Matching a sofa or paint color is fine, but in the long run, the painting you love with a passion will be the one you constantly gravitate to - and want to hold on to forever, long after the room is repainted and the sofa is recovered.
In terms of preservation, what should at-home art collectors consider?
We suggest using a reliable framer who incorporates archival materials and guarantees his work. Keeping artwork out of direct sunlight is also advisable, although canvases painted with oil or acrylic paint are quite resilient. Encaustic paintings (those created with a wax-based medium) should be kept in a climate-controlled environment.
Please list five unconventional spaces that can be used for an unconventional gallery, a long hallway or foyer, for example?
Our guide is always to put things where you will enjoy them. So if you spend time at your kitchen sink, hang one of your favorite paintings so you can see it. Or if you like to sit and read in a chair, hang a painting low so that you can appreciate it from your chair. If you spend a lot of time at your desk, put one of your favorite paintings on a little easel. Mudrooms, powder baths, closets and stairwells are other spaces that are frequently overlooked. There are no rules except to hang art where you can most appreciate it.
What is the most important consideration when starting an at-home collection?
Start by purchasing only paintings that you love. Educate yourself, visit galleries and ask questions. Read up on artists that interest you. But the bottom line is: buy what tugs at your heart.
What art gallery elements can and should be incorporated at home?
You can learn a lot from galleries in terms of how to frame, hang and light a collection. Ask questions at your favorite galleries and be aware of how they hang groupings or display artists. We also suggest taping the artist’s bio – or any other information about the painting – to the back of the canvas for future reference.
What is your advice to novice collectors who may be intimidated by purchasing art, and the art world in general?
Our rules are fairly simple: If you love it, it will work. If you are intrigued by it, and you believe in the artist, you will probably grow to love it. Work with a gallery that you trust, and let them guide you gently down that path of discovery. The process will be a little intimidating, then exciting and then reassuring and hopefully exhilarating.
Are there any rules to follow when integrating art into one’s living spaces?
If you buy what you love, and not for a space, there really are no rules to follow – except: place the art where you will enjoy it everyday. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and move it around. Don’t treat your paintings as precious commodities. They should be loved and enjoyed on a daily basis.
Even though “good art” is largely subjective, are there certain elements common to all pieces of “fine art”?
Yes, there are many keys to good paintings such as a balanced composition, a confident brushstroke, a strong sense of light and color, original or creative treatment, accurate perspective and many other technical elements that make up a good painting. A gallery should be able to inform you of these elements when you’re considering a painting. Again: don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Is there any place inside the home where art should never be hung? If so, why?
No! Place it where you will appreciate it everyday, even if that means the bathroom, closet, the exercise room or at eye level, next to your desk.
Is it advisable for at-home collectors to incorporate contemporary artwork into traditional interiors or vice versa?
Why or why not? We love the idea of mixing painting styles and purposely hang that way at our gallery. At home, we think this is the first clue that you are in the presence of a serious and committed art lover and collector. Not only does a variety of styles and media add great interest and depth to a collection, but it can reflect a natural evolvement of a collector’s personal taste. It all goes back to buying what you love.
What is the proper way to handle art?
With great care! Paintings should be blanket wrapped or protected with bubble wrap and cardboard for transport. Anything with glass must be triple-wrapped to prevent breakage.
What about lighting art?
Paintings are best lit with incandescent spotlights, but a small portable spotlight trained strategically on the painting will work effectively, too. Natural daylight is always a plus. We’re also big fans of dimmers.
What about hanging art?
We like to hang our paintings at eye-level (using an average-sized person as your guide) and we’re also big fans of composing pleasing collections on a wall. This is a great way to incorporate a number of favorite pieces as long as there is one element that ties them together as a whole (subject, medium, palette, framing).
From an emotional, atmospheric level, how can art enhance one’s life?
Sam Jones, one of our designers who has worked at the gallery and the store, and who is an artist herself said it best:
“Art can make you smile, laugh, cry, bring back memories, calm you
down, perk you up, change your attitude, give you attitude, confuse
you, inspire you, entertain you, transport you, perhaps even change
your life....or at least the way you look at your life. Art should be
your drug of choice. And it's alot cheaper than therapy.”
Sam is passionate about art and we’re pretty sure she’s not in therapy. And, most important, we echo her sentiment and can’t imagine the void our lives and culture would have without art in all its glorious forms!
So back to my friend. If you're still wondering about whether or not to buy it, try the final test: "If you dream about it, get it now!" -- because art is one of a kind, and if you wake up and miss it, there won't be another one like it again. Take it from someone who knows!
A dream of ours is coming true!
Several of our Paris Buying Trip grads have asked us, time and again, to offer a similar shopping experience to Provence. We know this makes sense, especially since our Provence home-base is just a hop skip and jump from the southern capital of antiques and design, Isle sur la Sorgue. But it's been a little tricky to nail down dates that combine the best antiques fairs in Provence with reasonable weather and fewer tourists. Until now! We think we've dreamed up the perfect trip to Provence, and just to be sure, we gave it a test run last week (someone had to do it!).
Here’s what we have cooked up: The trip starts on April 7th, 2020, in Provence. Our adorable driver, Christophe, will pick you up at the Avignon train station and drive you to Les Murets, your home-away-from-home in Provence (which has just undergone an elegant refresh from Huff Harrington Design – more about that later). We’ll spend the first day at home, getting settled, talking about our wants and needs and most importantly, eating a delicious meal and going to bed early.
Day 2: Head to the St. Remy for some retail shopping at one of the largest weekly markets in the region. This has always been a favorite market and you’ll be able to find bags,scarves, linens, lavender, hats, shoes, clothes and just about anything else you can think of, all along the cobblestone streets of this charming village. We’ll have lunch at our favorite local restaurant, stop off at a winery on the way home, and have another great dinner back at home.
Day 3: This time we’ll drive north to a little village in the mountains that turns into an antiques and collectibles mecca twice a year. This fair attracts hundreds of dealers from across Europe and the treasures can be intense. We have found everything from antique urns to 1960’s wicker chairs, with a ton of smalls and art in between. And talk about charming! This little medieval town is a photographer’s dream, with picture perfect vignettes at every turn. We love it, and can’t pass it up.
Day 4: Another fun packed day: This one at l’Isle sur la Sorgue, just minutes from Les Murets. This town, which already boasts more antique and design stores than any town in France other than Paris, celebrates Easter weekend with a huge fair that closes down the streets and sprawls all over town.
We will peruse the outdoor market looking for unusual collectibles, like vintage art, baskets, mirrors and more and then head to lunch at our favorite restaurant. We’ll spend the afternoon in the shops of the regular dealers, with whom we’ve been working for years, and whose booths will make you want to buy everything in them. The beauty is: You can! Our shipper will be lined up to ship all your goodies home.
Day 5: Wait: Another fair? Sacre bleu! We'll take you to another little-known secret fair outside of Avignon in the morning, and then have lunch in this historic town which housed the papacy during the XIVth century when Avignon was part of the Holy Roman Empire.
Day 6: As this is Easter Sunday, we’ll offer the option to attend a church service in the morning, and then head to the farmer's market in nearby Coustellet, which draws crowds from all over the region for its selection of fresh produce and one-of-a-kind items. We'll have a surprise afternoon, depending on the group, which will either include some group cooking in the kitchen of Les Murets, a leisurely hike or a trip back to Isle sur la Sorgue for a final day of antique shopping.
Whatever we decide to do, this evening will be one of our favorites: The mandatory Show and Tell, hosted by you in your rooms, where you will (artfully?) display some of your goodies for everyone to see. Champagne is de rigueur, along with ooohs and aaah's ... and lots of laughs.
Day 7: We sadly bid you Adieu in the morning, as our driver will whisk you away to the Avignon train station If you choose to stay on in Paris, we'll be happy to share our hotel or apartment recommendations along with fun things to do in the City of Light.
As with all of our Buying Trips, we’ll advise you on the provenance of your finds, help in the negotiations with vendors and handle all the shipping back to Atlanta. Your treasures will arrive within 8 – 10 weeks to our receiving company in Atlanta, from which you can pick them up directly or arrange to have them shipped to your home. And as with all of our trips to Provence, your transportation within Provence is included, along with all meals and wine every day.
So what do you think? Does this sound like a dream come true? We tested it last week and can answer with a resounding, "Oui!" Just ask Trudy, posing here and ready to shop in Provence!
P.S. If you’re not familiar with our trips, visit our website to get a flavor of what we offer. And ladies, if this Buying Trip sounds like a dream come true, let us know before we post it on our website.
We recently sat down with Will Huff and Heather Dewberry of design firm Huff Dewberry to chat about their design approach, a few of their favorites and a little bit of this and that. We also chatted about the upcoming Southeastern Showhouse as we'll be neighbors! Huff Dewberry will be tackling the fabulous master suite and we'll be taking on the master vestibule and veranda.
What first sparked your interest in interior design and how did your career take off?
Heather: A college summer internship at Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles magazine was my introduction to the design world and interior design as a career choice. Luckily, I landed a job with the immensely talented Dan Carithers a year after graduation. Working for Dan was like getting a graduate degree in design, and every day was an adventure.
Will: I grew up with a father who was a decorator, so I was always interested. My career started off by working for Dan Carithers, where Heather and I met, but I would say my career “took off” when Heather and I made the decision to start our partnership…over 18 years ago!
How would you define your design aesthetic or style?
Our design aesthetic is fresh traditional. We love incorporating antiques and classic patterns in ways that are updated and suit today’s lifestyle. We tend to use color, but also create smashing neutral rooms when asked.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Heather: Traveling provides me with the most design inspiration. Seeing design elements in their historical context is a wonderful reference point. Once you have that knowledge you can better bring those concepts into today’s world. It’s also interesting to see how other people live and bring some of the everyday luxuries they enjoy back to your own life.
Will: My wife and I have a pop-up camper that we take all over the country with our kids. I love to find inspiration in the nature around us.
One piece you think every room needs?
Heather: I believe every room needs something to show the personality of its owners. Really interesting rooms have a family antique that has been passed down or a piece that has been collected on the owner’s travels. These are the items that take a room beyond decoration and make it a home.
Will: A place to set down a drink. We want all our rooms to look beautiful, but they also need to function well.
Heather: My husband is from L.A. and we’ve fallen in love with Santa Barbara where we were married. I’d love to work on a charming Spanish Mediterranean home there.
Will: One of my favorite places is Ketchum, ID (Sun Valley). I would love to have a fantastic project there.
Three designers you’d love to lunch with:
Heather: Ashley Whittaker, Celerie Kemble and Bunny Williams
Will: Kelly Wearstler, Suzanne Kasler, Alexa Hampton
Latest Tricky Design Challenge and how you solved it:
Every day brings another tricky design challenge! It’s our job as designers to try to find beautiful solutions.
4 Design Favorites:
This or That
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Heather and Will! If you want to see more of their fabulous work check it out here. Be sure to save the date for the Southeastern Showhouse, May 9 - June 2 and check out our spaces.
They're ba-ack! Our favorite candles are back in store. They come with rich memories, if you knew them in the past, and if this is your first date with them, you're in for a sweet surprise. Here is the back story of how they came about.
Many years ago, on one of our first shopping trips to France, we stumbled upon an amazing candle maker whose tea-scented candles stopped us in our tracks. I’ll never forget the feeling of walking into her shop: The gracious 16th Century stone stable was filled with the candles, and the thick stone walls soaked up the fresh scent and enveloped the space like a warm, heavenly blanket. We were instantly mesmerized ... and completely obsessed.
Our first reaction was to buy as many as we could carry, and stash them into every bag we could find. I rushed home to Les Murets and burned a few candles around the house, hoping the thick plaster walls would absorb the fumes forever and imbue all our furnishings with their special scent (it worked for a while, until there were no more!). Undeterred that our overweight and sweet smelling bags might alert the senses of the U.S. customs, we stubbornly brought them home to the gallery, where Linda was as excited as we were to keep them burning. That's when the true love affair began.
At the time, we only had the art gallery, and it was fun to watch the reaction as our customers came through the door. It usually started with, "What is that wonderful scent in here?" followed by an urgent request to buy them. Buoyed by their popularity, and eager to replenish our own diminishing supplies, we contacted the vendor in France. A few months later, we were happily known for our candles along with the art, and I don't think a day went by that we didn't sell at least one candle. Some clients would buy 6 at a time, stocking up for Christmas and filling their closets with hostess gifts. In fact, we have lots to thank for these candles as they became our first product to propel us with the launch Huff Harrington Home many years later.
Over time, our love affair blossomed with the candles and the scents, but not with the packaging, which often arrived damaged in the shipments. We sensed that our vendor had shifted her focus to other products and we tried desperately to keep our candles flowing. And then our prescient fear was realized: The vendor stopped carrying them ... and sadly, our candles burned out.
For many years, we tried to track down the original candle maker and through some savvy sleuthing that required months of patience and literally sniffing our way around fairs in France, we found her! Ten months ago, in September, we sat down and literally snuffled our way through the order, deciding to stick with the two most iconic scents: Thé Noir and Thé Blanc. Afraid that we would run in to the same packaging issues as the last time, we decided to design our own box and have it manufactured in the U.S.
We made a bet that with all the coordination between French candles and U.S. box manufacturing, it would take at least a year to get the candles in our store, and we’re happy to say that we lost the bet … but won the prize of all: The candles are here in their brand new HHH designed boxes!
With gorgeous new packaging that we designed and manufactured in the U.S., our delicious French candles have made their debut at Huff Harrington Home and Huff Harrington Fine Art. We are now prouder than ever (and happier too!) to re-introduce the scent that launched us in to home products and accessories, the iconic first product we ever carried: HHH Thé Noir and Thé Blanc.
P.S. Sam Jones, always the creative one, decided it would be fun to create a mountain of HH candles!
If you follow us on this blog, you'll know that we've been in Round Top, Texas, for the mother of all antique fairs this side of France. And here's our take on it: Texas, we love you!
What a fun week it's been. From genuinely lovely, caring and hospitable people (Brenda, that's you, girl!) who have welcomed us to their Airbnbs and charming little inns to the amazing staff at the famous Marburger Farms, we thank you all (sorry, I meant, y'all.)
And to all the lovely new friends and clients we met - wow! What a pleasure to work with you. We'd say 80% of you came from Houston or Austin where the design bar is pretty high and the look du jour is a gorgeous mix of clean and modern pieces artfully mixed with the old, crunchy and patina-d. (Dallas/Fort Worth and all other stylish parts of Texas - not to worry: we will get to you soon because you've got the design thing going on too!)
For example, take a peek at some of the design coming out of Houston - it's pretty darn fabulous:
Our first go-to in Houston is our dear friend, fellow Francophile, blogger, designer and new retailer, Paloma Contreras. Paloma came shopping with us to Paris a couple seasons ago and we absolutely fell in love with her. Her stylish star has been ascending with design work, a beautiful coffee table book and now a retail establishment. Here's a peek at a couple of her many projects that had us drooling at "howdy":
Here are some other Houston designers who caught our attention:
And there's no-one more Houston than the talented Pamela Pierce. Not only is Pam a fabulous interior designer, but then she went and stole our dream job: editor of a design magazine! Pam's brainchild is the luxe and very gorgeous Milieu magazine which has us gasping, ooohing and ahhhing every time we open its glossy pages.
One of our favorite Houston designers and blog commentators is Joni Webb of Cote de Texas. For years, Joni has been capturing the vibe and essence of design in the south (west and east) and in other parts of the country. If you're not familiar with it, Cote de Texas is a fabulous running commentary on today's design trends and style. The latest posts are a sweet and poignant testimony: a downsize - maybe not quite voluntary - that turned from the duckling to the swan, all with Joanie's gracious and glass-always-full attitude. Her posts are always on point and fun to read.
When I told my new Round Top bestie (precious Betsy Austin from Tres Bien Antiques in Houston - follow her at #tresbienantiques on Insta) that I wanted to feature Houston/Austin designers, she suggested I take a look at a few who are making a name for themselves in that part of the world.
Even though our travels are taking us all over the place these days, we've got a soft spot in our hearts for Texas - and we've definitely got our eye on the fabulous design that's coming out of the wonderful Lone Star state. Keep it up, Texans - we love you!
PS: I'd love to share a sweet story from Round Top: a lovely new client snapped up a set of really unusual carved wooden Italian dining chairs for her Round Top house. A couple hours later, I got the best text with a photo of the chairs in their new home:
"Found their way home to the oldest original farmhouse in Round Top - 1823!"
We have an art show opening on Friday, April 26th at Huff Harrington Fine Art, appropriately called, "The Fab Five" as it will feature five of our prominent female artists. Early on, we had nicknamed the show, "Home Grown" because these ladies all have southern roots, some with shoots that run deep in Atlanta. Of this distinguished group, no one has been a Huff'ington "homegrown" longer than Melissa Payne Baker, who started with us shortly after we opened the gallery.
We love Melissa ... and it turns out, so does Atlanta! We're always honored and delighted when designers use our artists' work in their beautiful rooms at Show Houses, and we think that no artist has been featured more than our own Melissa Payne Baker. Just to share the love, here are a few of her paintings over the years from different Show Houses around the Atlanta area:
We've bragged about Melissa before, so you may remember the story: Growing up in a family of artists in Mississippi, creativity was a part of her life from an early age and Melissa’s mother likes to say that they have paint running through their veins, not blood. In Melissa’s case the paint runs thick.
With a degree in marketing from the University of Mississippi and a continued career in interior design, Melissa didn’t think too much about painting until a unexpected tragedy struck the family of a dear friend. To help cope with the loss, Melissa took brush to canvas and found solace and comfort as she lost herself in inspiration: an angel, beautifully crafted; deftly painted and complemented by a soft, abstract background. The painting struck a chord and, as they say, the rest was history.
Fast forward several years and Melissa has honed and tuned her ability. She’s turned her laser beam focus to loose landscapes and figures – and true abstract work where texture and form take center stage.
There's another reason why Atlanta loves Melissa, and one that is actually closest to my heart. Melissa has often lent her talent and generous spirit to some of Atlanta's charitable institutions. Many years ago, we approached Melissa about donating to a cause that was dear to us, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Not only did she agree, but she involved a group of dynamic children with Type 1 Diabetes to help her -- and together they produced a masterpiece that sold for (and raised) $12,000! You can read about her "Gifts of Hope" from our blog, and "When Dreams Come True."
Melissa went on to donate several more paintings to the cause, always involving the children in the process , and always raising thousands of dollars for JDRF.
For many years, I've personally admired Melissa's work, and wanted to purchase one myself. I've had my eye on several, but each time I was about to pull the trigger, a client would beat me to it! Last year, Melissa brought in another favorite and I started sniffing around it. Would this be the one? I wasn't sure. We do have a rule that clients need to come first, so I waited a few weeks. The painting went out on approval, and I found myself hoping it wouldn't sell, which is a little contrary to being a successful gallery owner! When Barbara Williams, whose involvement in the JDRF charity is another reason we like to support the cause, called to say she wondered if I might approach Melissa again about producing and donating a painting for the JDRF Gala, I hesitated a little. Gosh, I thought, we've hit her up so many times; is this really fair? I pondered the question and then decided to draft an email that would give Melissa a perfect out if she chose not to do it. Within seconds of hitting "send," I heard back from her with a resounding "YES" followed by how much this cause meant for her now, too.
And then Linda called to say that "my" painting had come back from being on approval. I thought this was a sign, and I bought it without another thought, confirming the fact that buying art is often an emotional experience, and that we are attached to one-of-a-kind original paintings with a deeper connection than almost any other purchase. Melissa's painting is now one of my dearest possessions because every time I look at it, I'm reminded of the kind, generous and talented artist that I feel so privileged to know.
Atlanta loves Melissa because of her original paintings that have anchored exquisite homes with beauty, creativity and heartfelt passion. We love Melissa for all of the above, and because we know the kind and generous person behind the work. And I am personally thankful to Melissa for making my mornings even brighter ... no matter where I sit.
PS: Be sure to mark your calendars for the Fab Five, April 26th, 6 to 8 p.m. at Huff Harrington Fine Art! Melissa, along with the other four artists, will be unveiling a series of new works, like this one that we can't wait to get our hands on:
Next week, we're exchanging our bonjours and ballet flats for howdys and cowboy boots.
Yes, we are packing up a giant truck and bringing our Huff Harrington goodies and one-of-a-kinds to Round Top, Texas for six fun days of selling at the famous Marburger Farm at the Round Top Antiques Fair.
Are you a Round Top newbie? That's fine - because we are too. We first heard about it a few years ago (from our good Houston friends Lynn, Karen C. and Karen M. as well as fellow retailer, blogger and designer Paloma Contreras) but it wasn't until curiosity got the better of us that we booked a couple tickets to Austin last fall to check out all the fuss.
And such a fuss! Little Round Top sits prettily in Texas hill country between Austin and Houston and is dotted with rolling hills, barns and the sweetest longhorn cattle. It's a cute town with a mishmash of barns, fields and buildings that host the 50-year-old antiques extravaganza along a 20-mile stretch of State 237. There are endless flea-market style fields, shabby-chic pop-ups and colorful old houses that have everything from hide rugs and antique wagon wheels to crunchy doors, windows and shutters. There are vintage signs, cowboy boots, old brown furniture and salvaged and repurposed metal as far as the eye can see.
Mixed in with all of this are sleek, but charming, modern-barn structures that house permanent showrooms and vendors selling very fine, very curated antiques.
And then there's the lively Marburger Farm, where from April 2nd through April 6th, we'll be camped out. We'll be set up in one of nine tents, 11 buildings and among more than 350 world-class antiques vendors.
We just love how Marburger promotes the fair: "(the fair) caters to the interior designer, the collector, the treasure hunter and shoppers alike. For some it is a bucket list item, for some it is a tradition, but for all it is an experience that cannot be matched." I mean...we couldn't have put it better ourselves.
When we were there last fall, we were blown away by sheer number of people, vehicles and trucks crawling along the road. Shoppers from all over the country converged on this tiny little town for a full-on, bonafide shopping experience. And it makes sense: at Marburger Farms, the goods were gorgeous and beautifully displayed - and the dealers really knew their stuff.
We're bringing a big truck filled to the brim with goodies and treasures that literally arrived in the nick of time from France. Take a peek at some of these yummies (these images are not the beauty shots. We took them as we were buying up a storm!):
We also couldn't help but notice that everyone was having a really good time. Maybe it's a Texas thing (fun fact: I'm married to a cute and very fun guy from Dallas) but the atmosphere was infectiously like a giant party with delish Texas truck foods, margaritas and cold beers. What's not to love about that?
So, if you are headed to Round Top and need that little French fix, come by and see us at Marburger Farm. We'll have our French loot and art on display and we'll be looking forward to kicking up our heels with you (maybe even in cowboy boots!) And don't worry, we're never trading Paris for Texas or steak-frites for tacos, but it sure will be fun to give it a whirl for a week.
Huff Harrington: Marburger Farm, Tent C, D6