Berkshire Byways (Excerpt)
Arthur Dunnam Finds Folk Art and More in the Massachusetts CountrysideText by Amanda Vaill/Photography by Billy Cinningham
The Massachusetts Berkshires are blessed with a landscape not unlike that of England’s Cotswolds. A country of rolling hills, patched with tilled fields and pastures and crisscrossed by stone walls. These tempt travelers to linger and visitors to stay. There are picturesque villages to look at. White clapboard houses clustered around church steeples. Summertime, in particular, offers a progressive fete champetre of diversions. Add to that, the two-and-a half hour driving from either New York City or Boston. Therefore, you have a nearly irresistible weekend destination – as Arthur Dunnam, design director of Jed Johnson Associates, can attest.
Additionally, good friends living on the edges of the Berkshires makes Dunnam is a frequent visitor. Always, prowling through the region’s remarkably eclectic collection of antiques and decorative dealers is so enjoyable. “The unexpected thing about shopping in the Berkshires is that the range of objects is so diverse.” He continues, “It’s not just folk art or American antiques.”
For instance, start on Route 7, south of Great Barrington, just outside the village of Sheffield. This is where, he says, Susan Silver Antiques carries “unexpected things in high style.” The charming clapboard house is “literally packed to the rafters.” Dunnam describes it, with 18th and 19th century furniture, objects and light fixtures. Finds include giltwood Regency bull’s-eye mirrors, Imari jars (They’d make beautiful lamps,” he says). French botanical and bird prints, chairs, chests and armoires. Dunnam’s favorite item is a spectacular Swedish Empire mirror with a Garden of Eden motif carved into its over-panel, but he also likes the English slate obelisk, with its faux-porphyry panels, on the table beneath it. “I’ve bought some wonderful chinoiserie lacquered tables here, and beautiful porcelain lamps,” says the designer.
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Excerpt from Architectural Digest Spotlight on Hudson Valley Homes Featuring Susan Silver as a favorite source for designer Bruce Shostak.
If architecture could be compared to dance, the Federal Style house known as Hillstead, in the Hudson Valley town of Claverack, New York, would be a quadrille. Crisp, elegant, and symmetrical, the home’s formality is relieved, like the dance itself, by idiosyncratic flourishes that heighten its individuality. Certainly Hillstead’s quirky period details—from the flamboyant classical motifs carved into the living room mantel to the built-in benches on the front porch—captivated Bruce Shostak and Craig Fitt when they toured the circa-1817 property with a real-estate agent 15 years ago.
The Manhattan couple aimed to purchase the painted-brick dwelling as a country escape, but the family that had owned it since the 1930s fretted that the landmark, along with its pair of rickety barns and poignantly dilapidated redbrick summer kitchen in the backyard, would be in danger of rude modernizations once the nearly two-acre property changed hands. A number of potential buyers had made generous offers—all were rejected. Shostak, an interior designer, and Fitt, an aesthete who works in investment banking, finally won out, convincing the sellers that they would be conscientious stewards.
Shostak, a former lifestyle-book editor who founded his eponymous decorating firm in 2004, says the goal was always “to do justice to the house and furnish it appropriately but not slavishly—what I like to call period-ish.”
After more than a decade of labor, Hillstead’s restoration is nearly complete. Its brick exterior is painted in a smart shade of white, new shutters swing easily from original iron hinges, and the scullery pipe that previously had emptied into a crawl space has been dealt with. Yet the regeneration continues.
“If we were to do it all over again,” Fitt concedes, “I’d want a smaller place on a larger piece of property. But we felt at home here, right when we opened the front door. It’s not the most important Federal house around here, but to my eye it is the most sublime.”
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Invaluable Guide to Buying Japanese Art & Antiques- Featuring our Imari Vases
Excerpt from March 17, 2017
Pair of Japanese Imari vases with lids, c. 1890, Susan Silver Antiques
Japan’s long, rich history of fine and decorative art dates back thousands of years. Japanese art and antiques that have survived from centuries past include samurai swords, scrolls, prints, painting, netsuke figures, and earthenware vases. Today, these items are prized for their historical significance and unique aesthetic. Prices for Japanese art and artifacts are driven by a niche but loyal market. Collectors choose pieces for their cultural relevance, evidenced by the inclusion of Japanese works in most major museums. In recent years, the popularity of contemporary Japanese cultural trends like anime have generated a more widespread audience for the country’s rich art history and a competitive market for contemporary Japanese artists.
Tips for Buying Japanese Art
Like any investment, buying art involves some degree of risk. One smart strategy to mitigate this risk is to buy the highest quality objects available. In any market, there will always be collectors and buyers seeking out the best examples of any given object. Thus, iconic objects in perfect (or near perfect) will be more likely to retain, and possibly increase in value over time. Request a condition report or any other existing documentation prior to purchase.
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