“E-commerce has broadened consumers’ options and even saved some brick-and-mortar shops,” New England Home‘s Regina Cole writes. “Still, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of hands-on discovery.” In the January/February 2016 issue, Cole explores how e-commerce antiques businesses–like The HighBoy–have opened up the industry to new buyers. Our founder Olga Granda-Scott and HighBoy dealer Debra Sidebottom chime in on the conversation with Cole. Read on:
In 2005, when domino magazine first came to be, I was an anomaly: an antiques dealer in my early twenties. Most of my peers were attending graduate school or exploring new career paths, I had been enchanted by the family business. The industry publications I was required to peruse were just that: required reading, all business, no pleasure. Who came to my rescue? domino. It was a publication that believed in beautiful environments and spoke to the reality of someone my age. It layered old and new, high and low, business and pleasure.
What kinds of paintings fill your home?
The art in our home can be mostly classified into two buckets: the historical and the contemporary. I acquired the historical works during the decade in which I maintained a fine art gallery adjacent to Miami’s Alhambra Antiques, known as European Fine Art. Our collection at home ranges from a 17th-century Madonna and Child (an oil on copper) to an early-20th Post-Impressionist landscape. The majority of the contemporary pieces are the works of Miami-based and/or Cuban artists, a reflection of our hometown and my heritage.
Give us examples of works from each group.
I’ve always had a painting of a Madonna and Child in my bedroom, some versions more primitive, some more refined. I come from a Catholic family, and I remember receiving my first one as a gift from my parents around the time of my confirmation. Now that I’m a mother myself, the subject has become even more meaningful to me–particularly during those inevitable parenting challenges. The current piece is from Spain, late 18th century. It’s suffered quite a bit so has substantial craquelure (cracking on the surface), but I don’t mind because the expressions of the both the Virgin and the Infant Child speak to me in their peaceful solemnity….
Last week, The HighBoy took Atlanta.
First, The Weekly our blog-journal that tells the stories of design and antiques for the 21st century, won the “Best New Design Blog” award from Esteem Media’s Design Bloggers Conference. We sure do like our new spot in the Design Bloggers’ Hall of Fame.
But we didn’t stop there. As a nod to the city’s legendary Southern hospitality, we hosted our second event in The Future of Antiques series. This time, we shone the spotlight on regional style and invited southern-born antiques and design mavens Jennifer Boles, Kerry Howard, and John Lyle to join us in a panel discussion at The Gables Antiques, one of our favorite Atlanta shops.
Olga Granda-Scott, founder of The HighBoy, moderated the panel in which Jennifer, Kerry, and John shared personal anecdotes of their experiences of living and designing with antiques.
The panelists had no shortage of good ideas to share, born of their experiences in their respective fields: Jennifer is the founder of the Peak of Chic—one of the design world’s favorite blogs and author of “In with the Old: Classic Decor from A to Z;” Kerry is a high-end residential interior designer, star of Bravo’s “Top Design” and HGTV’s “Design Wars,” and President of the ASID Georgia chapter; and John is an interior and furniture designer, whose handmade sculpture pieces are created from hand-cast bronze, steel, wood, shagreen, and parchment, and coveted for their chic silhouettes and impeccable craftsmanship.
The group dove into one of the hottest topics in the world of fine art and antiques: value. What’s the value of good design? What’s the value of a beautiful chair or painting or armoire? It’s often subjective, as Kerry illustrated when he talked about how meaningful it is to work with clients who inherit heirlooms and want him to update simply by placing them in new contexts. And unlike other investments, antiques aren’t temporary investment vehicles, Olga pointed out: We have to consider their greater value in the context of a person’s quality of life. How do you quantify the joy of gathering friends around a beautiful 18th-century Italian farm table? Social media makes this choice so much easier and more inspiring than ever before, as we use Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, and other social media tools to find both inspiration and validation, giving all design-lovers confidence in our purchasing decisions.
The event was filled with familiar and new faces of the antique and design community: Bethanne Matari and Cecil Adams from Currey & Co., designers Cheryl Luckett, Denise McGaha, and Leslie Moore, bloggers Kevin O’Gara from Thou Swell and Molly Moon from Hey There Sunshine, among others, and of course The HighBoy’s own Atlanta dealers Brian and Tammie Wilson of French Bleu Antiques, Melissa Estock of Paragon Antiques, and Suzanne Cox and her team from The Gables Antiques.
The Future of Antiques: Southern Style comes on the heels of the inaugural The Future of Antiques event, which took place in New York City and featured antiques experts Judith Miller, Toma Clark Haines, and Olga Granda-Scott, moderated by Doris Athineos of Traditional Home. The HighBoy continues to sponsor important industry panels around the country including upcoming events in New Orleans and Houston. Stay connected and get invited to these events by subscribing to our Email Newsletters and visiting our Events Page.
Photography by: Jo Arellanes
Karena from The Arts by Karena sat down with The HighBoy founders Olga Granda-Scott and Doug Scott. The following is an excerpt from her interview published on February 9, 2015.
When did you have the “aha” moment? What was the impetus, the inspiration, that you wanted to bring your idea of this business to fruition?
Doug: It was a combination of seeing an opportunity to address something missing in the marketplace and to share our successes of selling online for over 10 years. Additionally, it was a desire to take action and do something in this industry that we very much care about. We care about what happens to this industry. I don’t even know if that message has gotten out there enough.
Olga: It was more gradual than an “aha” moment. I grew up in the industry and as all other areas of my life were being improved by technology—my work needed the same innovation and excitement!
Did it surprise you that customers/clients would buy expensive art and antiques online, seeing only images?
Doug: No, not at all. Back in 2001 when we first got started selling online, yes, we were more skeptical, but had little to lose. We had the benefit of growing it more gradually.
Olga: Not when the images are great and the source is a trusted vendor.
Where did the name “HighBoy” come from? (A Queen Anne highboy was my first purchase of fine furniture.)
Doug: The name has been a bit tricky. Some people like it A LOT, and some less so. A highboy is a piece of furniture, as you note. We wanted something that people within the industry would understand, yet have a lively, animated name that people outside the industry could have fun with as well. We considered many names and this one just stuck.
Olga: Clearly, it’s a conversation starter. I love words that have multiple meanings, so we were intentional with selecting something that would allow us fun with double entendres. Who doesn’t want their business to ride “high”?
What are some your own favorite periods in history for arts and antiques?
Doug: I like Louis XVI and then Art Deco the most. Both of them are lighter and less ornamental, which is my taste. I find Art Deco very refined, classic and just cool. It was the perfect lead-up to Modern. In terms of art, I’m a fan of the 20th century all the way. I think art was unleashed in the 20th century and allowed to roam.
Olga: The 18th century witnessed such an escalation in craftsmanship and style across the globe that makes it so influential, I’d have to choose it as my favorite in the decorative arts. But in art I’d have to go with the Italian Renaissance. Personally, I collect objects that are religious and devotional in nature because there is a spiritual element that I find so profound.
The “Meet our Dealers” section on HighBoy is fantastic and so personal. Who are some of your favorite dealers, artists or artisans?
Doug: Well, as much as we try to bring out the dealers personalities, there’s always a percentage that is only unveiled after food and wine. Burt Lange from JBL in Miami is a classic storyteller and an absolute riot to hang out with. I’ve known him for years. Also we’re thrilled to see new, young dealers like Colby and Sarah from Arsenal Designed as well as Julia Santen Gallery and Ara from The Hub Gallery. But, I love them all, frankly. We’ve been lucky to find such great partners.
Olga: I always felt that dealers were the unsung tastemakers of the design world, so it was important to me to establish a platform to tell their stories. I could never pick a favorite!
Doug: We do see more interest among young collectors, and we’ll continue to build relationships with them. Our goal is to move the needle on the industry itself and generate a greater awareness of antiques, vintage, modern—whatever you want to call it. But furniture, art and objects with soul. Maybe that should be our new tagline. Nothing wrong with new items, per se, just not our cup of tea.
Olga: Younger professionals don’t want their homes to look exactly like their neighbor’s—they want to live and create an environment that is personal and meaningful. That requires shopping elsewhere than the big box stores.
Finally, what advice do you have for the budding entrepreneur?
Doug: Whoa. Where to begin. I need to write a book. But I think the adage “just do it” would be a great start. Of course, you have to identify your niche, and detail the opportunity, but just get out there and find something that excites you.
Olga: I believe that like most things in life, it’s all about facing your fears head on—and not being afraid to ask for help when you need it most.
On a personal note: How do you spend the rare time you have to relax?
Doug: Traveling. Nothing is better for the soul or the mind. Even just a weekend in the next town works for me.
Olga: With family and friends—and usually a lot of food and drink!
Doug: New York will never let you down, but I’d really like to get back to Rome, which I have great memories of. I have more cities I’d like to visit as a first-time, than those I’d like to revisit. I have yet to visit London and Barcelona. Domestically, I’d love to spend a week in Northern California on a wine tour somewhere.
Olga: Florence, Italy. Lyon, France. Washington, D.C. Anywhere Doug wants to go!
Five things you cannot live without?
Doug: iPhone, travel, good food, good wine, family.
Olga: Family, friends, music, memories, and souvenirs!
How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
Doug: Classic with a heavy dash of the Rolling Stones. I like to mix periods and styles, a lot, but to do that really well takes skill and artistry. I think designers like Darryl Carter are exceptional at this, and have a great sense of balance, at least per my taste. Plus he’s irreverent, and I like how that comes out in his work. I had dinner at his house in Georgetown and was blown away. I just want to buy it from him and move in.
Olga: Collected. Inspiring—I like to surround myself with things that bring joy to my daily life.
How does a dealer contact you and apply to be a member on HighBoy?
They should go here to apply!
About three weeks ago, The HighBoy hosted an intimate evening—with Doris Athineos, Judith Miller, Olga Granda-Scott and Toma Clark Haines—at Jonathan Burden’s Antiques & Works of Art. The venue, an early 20th century dairy warehouse turned antique wonderland in NYC’s Tribeca, was the perfect setting for our panel discussion on “The Future of Antiques: Antiques and Design in the 21st century”.