Umbrella Decor is the brainchild of sisters-in-law Fay and Linda Sciarra. Their philosophy? A business is only as good as its people. They combine their extensive design expertise with that of other dealers to create an antique curation experience unlike any other. Umbrella’s style is fun and elegant.
Fay and Linda sat down with us to share their advice for first-time collectors, and to talk about what it’s like working with your sister-in-law.
What sparked your love for antiques?
Linda: I’ve been scouring the area antique stores in Cape May, New Jersey and homes since I was a young girl. Once I started traveling abroad, I fell in love with French antiques!
Fay: I grew up around antiques —my mother schlepped me to auctions and her mother did the same. You could say it’s genetic. I’m also an artist, and I use a lot of antique objects and ephemera in my work. This fueled my passion for design in every period.
How did you get in to the antiques business?
Linda: Fay and I had been antiquing for years together. She mentioned a small space that was for rent, and asked if I would be her partner. My husband and I have a second home in the area but now we were empty nesters! We both felt that this would be a great way to use our second home. After a short time, I decided that this could be a fun, creative and successful business with a woman that I am proud to call family.
Fay: I’d been a full time artist, but when the economy tanked, my art sales did too. I was also about to be an empty nester, and I wanted to create a business that would put me in contact with like minded people, and less time alone in my studio. I figured people might not be buying a lot of paintings, but they would probably keep buying furniture. I could also show my art in my shop, so it was a perfect blend.
You work with other dealers and collectors to bring great pieces to Umbrella. Can you tell us a little bit about that process?
Linda: When we first went into business, we really did our homework on some of the areas top antique dealers. We visited their private collections and we interviewed them. It was important to have exciting, quality items in our store. This process still holds true today. We are constantly looking for that “wow factor” in a piece of furniture, art, lighting or home accessory. Our dealers are so polished that they are constantly looking for “Umbrella” items, pieces that are one of kind and exceptional!
What is your signature style?
Linda: This is a tough question! I’m not sure I have a signature style! I tend to gravitate towards a clean, uncluttered look. A bit traditional with unexpected pieces that give interest to each room. I don’t follow rules for decorating!
Fay: No rules. Just beautiful designs from every period interestingly intermingled. I’m not afraid to be a little outrageous and glamorous.
What inspired the name Umbrella?
Fay: I wanted it to be one word, catchy and visual. I wanted it to describe our business model: what we sell comes from a collaboration of creative dealers. Linda and I curate and own the business, but it’s great because of the handful of talented people under our “umbrella.”
What do you think makes for great style?
Linda: I believe that staying true to yourself will result in a style that makes you happy. Forget the rules! Forget what other people are doing and have in their homes. Look for items that make you happy. Look for stylish comfort. Really live in your home!
Fay: Whatever the style- minimal or a riot of color and pattern, I think what makes it “great” is a curator’s eye for finding extraordinary pieces, thoughtfully placed in relation to each other. I’m not one for mass produced things. I’d rather see a flea market find unexpectedly placed next to a valuable antique or mid-century designer piece, knowing there’s not another room like this one anywhere.
Out of all the pieces you’ve collected, what is your most cherished item?
Linda: I have an antique, hand painted trunk from Austria that I cherish. It has amazing hardware and the design, although weathered and worn, is wonderful. My beloved grandmother was from Austria and it just warms my heart to have a piece of her homeland in my den. I use it as a coffee table. Inside, it holds various games for our rowdy family game nights!
What’s it like working with your sister-in-law?
Linda: It’s been amazing having a working relationship with Fay. We’ve had a strong bond for many years. There was never a doubt in my mind that we would be great partners. I trust Fay explicitly so it’s been easy to add “business partner” to our relationship. Being an artist, she has a great sense of style and creativity! Someone recently told us that we start and end each others sentences. I believe this must be true! We spend a lot of time together! I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
Fay: It’s a blessing! We are equally driven to be successful and we back each other up running every aspect of the business. It’s really a marriage and we compliment each other.
Do you have any advice for new collectors?
Linda: I would say look for items that are exciting and bring you joy. Always look for quality and buy from reputable dealers. It’s always a good idea to do some comparative pricing as well. Consider many sources when starting out. Flea markets, antique stores, estate sales and auctions are great resources.
Fay: Don’t be shy about asking for a better price. Dealers have a bottom line number they won’t go below, but we are addicted to buying and selling beautiful things, and need cash flow. 10-15% discounts are pretty standard.
Love Umbrella Decor’s style? Shop their eclectic look here: