Although he has a list of IMDB credits to his name and counts some of Hollywood’s favorite leading ladies amongst his closest friends and confidants, Burt Lange has never been swayed by all that movie magic. “Alfred Hitchcock actually had me kicked out of a theatre once,” Lange recalls. “I know that North by Northwest has become this incredible cult classic, but at the time, it seemed a little silly to me, and I couldn’t stop laughing at the premiere!” So, he left the spotlight behind and focused on his true love: antiques. Today, his Miami-based shop and HighBoy storefront, JBL Antiques, has become a must-stop destination for lovers of fine furniture, lighting, and accessories from the 1620s to the 1920s.
How did you make the jump from movies to the world of antiques?
I got recruited to a movie contract at a very young age and left my hometown of Chicago to work as an actor in Los Angeles for a little over a decade. But, to be honest, competition was fierce, and I could tell I would never be a household name. You need to be able to deal with rejection every day in that industry, and I wasn’t up to it. So, when my partner at the time—a fashion designer who had previously been a window designer for Ohrbach’s in New York—suggested we open a shop and go into business together, I jumped at the chance. I had loved antiques all my life, so it just made sense. We opened a shop on Sunset Boulevard, and it did incredibly well.
What ultimately brought you to Miami?
Well, I actually moved around quite a bit before settling here. I opened shops in Chicago, on State and Oak, London, on King’s Road in Chelsea and Eaton Square in Belgravia, and again in Los Angeles before moving down to Miami. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but my long-time partner, Bob Parker, was offered a job at a shop in the Design District, and he wanted to take it. We’ve been here ever since.
Where do you source your antiques?
I actually stopped buying, unless something amazing comes up that I can’t say no to. Right now, I have over $10 million in inventory. Most of my things come from having been very well connected socially over the last 20 years or so. I’ve gotten a lot of things from estate sales when someone passes away or gets divorced or decides to sell the house and downsize. Though, that sometimes sounds a little too sad, so I like to joke that I spend my downtime checking all the dumpsters here in Miami.
What makes your offerings special?
I never buy anything that needs serious refinishing because that process can often take 100 to 300 years of patina off of a piece. Instead, I only allow my furniture to go through a process called “French polishing.” It’s done with leaves of shellac and oil, steel wool, and sandpaper and takes two professional restorers more than a week to complete. It doesn’t take away any of the beauty of old age; it just enhances and puts all the moisture and life back into a piece.
What are some of your favorite pieces in inventory now?
Honestly, that’s too hard of a question to answer. I have 5,000 square feet here in the showroom and another 10,000 square feet in a warehouse that are holding the best of the best—anything you could want. People do tell me, though, that I have the most beautiful chandeliers. I’ve specialized in them for many years and even have a vendor in Baltimore that makes real beeswax candles for them to maintain their beauty and authenticity.
If you could live in any era, when would it be and why?
I think I’d want to relive the best part of my life, which was in the 1960s and ’70s. I was in London at the time, and that’s where everything was happening. The city was setting the fashion for the whole world, and it all started right on Carnaby Street, where I had my shop. Dusty Springfield and The Beatles were just coming onto the scene, and Ava Gardner and Winston Churchill were my neighbors. I know you can’t go home again, but if I could, that’s where you would find me.
Find your own treasure from this Miami dealer’s beautiful collection today.
1. Bronze and Cut Crystal Six-Arm Chandelier | 2. French Louis Philippe Marble Top Cabinet
3. Art Nouveau Bronze Statue | 4. 19th Century British Oil Painting
5. 18th Century Pair of Gilded Louis XVI Bergeres
6. 19th Century Polished Brass Shaving Stand
Photography by: Roberto Valladares.