“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:
Art Deco began in Europe, particularly Paris, in the early years of the 20th century, but didn’t really take hold until after World War I. As the world let its hair down after the hell of WWI, Deco truly reigned until the outbreak of World War II. This particular era of decorative arts seems more nostalgic than most. Perhaps because it yielded such creativity, or maybe because it is reflective of a time where so many things happened on the historical time line.
A sampling of this active time in history: the Empire State Building “scraped the sky”, assembly lines were created, Edison invented the first talking films, Lindbergh forever changed aviation with the first solo flight across the Atlantic, Penicillin was discovered, Pluto was discovered, Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered, the “unsinkable” Titanic fatefully set sail, jazz was born, the Charleston and the Tango were the rage, Cubism was the hip art style and Picasso was leading the way….
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.
Voted one of Atlanta’s Top 20 Interior Design Firms in 2014 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole of Kandrac & Kole have been blogging about design since 2009. Here’s what Kelly had to say about her favorite pieces from The HighBoy.
The HighBoy is kind of a big deal. In case you don’t know, they are changing the way the world thinks about Antiques & Fine Art. In one year they have become the most exciting online marketplace for the discovery and collection of antiques and fine art around the world. We have chosen our top 5 favorite pieces at The HighBoy….
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!
The following is an excerpt from an article published in New York Spaces in January 2015:
With more than two decades in the business, Olga Granda-Scott and Douglas Scott have developed a keen sense for beauty in the world of antiques and fine arts. It wasn’t until early 2014 that these innovators took their passion—fueled by desire to bring the beauty and history of antiques to another generation of buyers—and launched TheHighBoy.com. Catering to a community of dealers, young buyers, and design enthusiasts, The HighBoy revolutionized the online marketplace for antiques by connecting creative minds under one platform. In honor of their one-year anniversary, founders Olga and Douglas have presented this year’s forecast for 2015.
Designers and homeowners will continue to refine the idea of mixing “old and new” for a layered, eclectic, storied look. “Home design magazines are full of rooms that show off the beautiful and interesting combination of antiques and modern pieces,” says Douglas. “We’re seeing design enthusiasts clamor for distinctive items, and the craftsmanship of antiques is a perfect answer to that search.” Gone are the days of period-specific rooms; instead, we’ll see even more blending of eras.
For the past decade, there’s been a shift from focusing on a sleek interior into a more three-dimensional feel. For antiques, this means that a greater appreciation for warm woods, encaustic tiles, and case goods that show the imperfections and beautiful patina of time.
Designers have showed us the power of an interesting collection–vintage record covers, antique books, old mason jars, antique Staffordshire figurines, Delft plates, even taxidermy (true!). “We’ll see people displaying collections of antique items in a whole range of interiors, not just traditional or transitional spaces,” says Olga. “Even modernists are getting in on the game.”
People will continue to be drawn to Scandinavian design–modern and antique. The more decorative and traditional Gustavian pieces play equally well with mid-century items and with traditional pieces. More recent history has given Scandinavian design a cleaner line, which is also appealing to people looking for pieces that can be combined, say, with a few “fussier” English or French pieces. “I would hang a Rococo mirror over a clean-lined vintage Scandinavian console,” Olga says. “It’s instant style.”
Back to Brass
Don’t expect a return to the ‘80s. Today’s brass is more weathered and muted, just as you’ll find in most antique items with brass details. Olga advises, “Maison Jansen bar carts and coffee tables are hugely popular–and we’ll continue to see tastemakers use them as eye-catching accessories in their homes.”
Only five years ago, you’d have to hunt up and down the West Village to find that one-of-a-kind hidden gem of a store that harbored exclusive but affordable antique items for the home. Today, The HighBoy ends the often-intimidating process by providing a simple, fun user experience on their site that delivers the industry’s most coveted pieces, all with a money-back guarantee.
Read the full article on New York Spaces here.