“I’m looking for a flat-top highboy.” I could actually hear the blank expression on the other end of the phone. “It’s an 18th century chest of drawers raised up on cabriole legs”—was the explanation I wasn’t sure would make a difference. “Yea….we don’t have anything like that.” I took another shot—“How about Queen Anne dining chairs?” More silence, and then a sigh from the San Francisco antiques dealer. “Lady,” he said, “You’re on the wrong coast.”
The man was right. In fact he had succinctly summed up what I had slowly been realizing over months of visiting antique shops, scouring craigslist, and braving estate sales with my husband in search of furniture for our new house. We live in Torrance, a suburb of Los Angeles. It’s a very nice place to live—we’re near the beach and the weather is so beautiful that no one has an air conditioner—but alas, there are no antiques here. At least, not the kind I’m looking for. Sure, if you’re looking for a tufted velvet sofa of the “we literally ran out of better ideas, so we designed this” persuasion, you won’t have much trouble.
Craigslist abounds with hideous Victorian furniture that I can only assume are genuine antiques, because who would seriously make reproductions of this stuff? But there wasn’t much fine furniture bumming around California before the Victorian era, and for reasons that probably have something to do with the pioneer spirit of those original 19th century American settlers, California seems to be about moving forward more so than looking back.
In addition to Victorian monstrosities, it’s also fairly easy to find good mid-century modern pieces here, as well as a plethora of sturdy arts-and-crafts oak. But am I really the only one in the state who swoons at the sight of a single-board mahogany table top? Or the mathematically perfect curve of a graceful cabriole leg?
I guess I’m starting this blog as an attempt to answer that question. I’m fairly new to the antiques world, and what I want to know is—who’s out there? And are any of you in California? I have a lot to learn, and a quickly growing bookcase of reference volumes to teach me. But conversations with books only go in one direction. So whether you’re on the right coast, tripping over “brown furniture” left and right, or stuck on the wrong coast like me: Hi—I’m Lauren and I like antiques. Will you be my friend?