Shopping For Design: Finding Unique Antiques At The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Antique Show

Shopping is ‘cheaper than a shrink’ and ‘better than sex’ according to the age-old adages we invoke when we feel guilty about overspending. But it’s hard to feel any remorse about spending large sums at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Antiques, Garden & Design Show, opening Thursday, April 16 and running through Sunday, April 18, because everything there is so well priced.

As interior designers, we’re seasoned when it comes to shopping for unique antiques; we’ve been to every show that comes to town. Many focus on things that are exorbitantly expensive. But this one has the best balance of unique antiques at every price point, from accessible to expensive. What a breath of fresh air. That’s why we’re hitting it opening night—we want first crack at the best stuff.

Golden Triangle

Golden Triangle’s booth at last year’s show (from the Chicago Botanic Garden).

Another reason to get to this show is its all-round excellence. It’s so well curated that you’ll never come across a bad dealer. They’re all so knowledgeable. And there’s a stunningly diverse and well-balanced range of offerings—from jewelry and accessories to furniture and art. The selection committee strives to hit a perfect balance of vintage, antique and contemporary goods, and they’re pretty tough about it.

Lee Booth

Lee’s Antiques’ booth at last year’s Antiques, Garden & Design Show (from the Chicago Botanic Garden).

“We really vet the exhibitors, and turn away about 40 percent,” Peggy Swartchild, co-owner of Material Possessions and one of the seasoned selection committee members, said when asked about the process. Exhibitor participation is capped at 100, and there are dealers from all over the U.S.

Botanic Garden Ticket

The invitation

All this reinforces why you have to get to the show opening night. When Jessica got her invitation, it brought back memories of all of the incredible things she’s purchased for clients and her own home at past shows. One standout is a gigantic, wonderfully weathered farmhouse table for a client who had been looking high and low for the perfect one for more than a year. Another buyer was eyeing it just as they sealed the deal; luckily they had gotten there first.

Farmhouse Table

Our client’s table was very similar to this one by Michael Smith. It’s easily viewable via a Google search.

All the things Jessica has snagged there have been reasonably priced, yet very precious—like a fabulous wrought-iron chandelier that strikes a perfect balance between rustic and refined crowns her dining room table. She also scored a gigantic gold peer mirror, a funky 60s tabouret and a ceramic bust. Then there’s the Thebes stool under her son’s bedside table to hold his Latin School yearbooks—a layering technique he picked up by sheer osmosis.

Chandelier Edited

This gilded wrought iron chandelier has parchment shades and real wax candle sleeves.

Armillary Sphere

This iron armillary sphere is a sculpture in its own right.

Child Bust Edited

The terra cotta bust came beautifully mounted on a black steel stand.

This year the Chicago Botanic Garden formed a Designer Committee to complement the official Host Committee, and asked Jessica to be a part of the group. We are excited for her to be included in this select group of 17, which also includes our friends Martin Horner, Shea Soucie, Tom Stringer and Anne Coyle.

Also this year, our team was asked to do the booth for The Highboy, a fabulous curated marketplace for antiques that’s taking the online design world by storm with its unique offerings and great blog The Weekly. Stop by and see our handiwork, or look for us shopping the aisles for unique antiques on opening night, Thursday, April 16.

03 Apr 2015

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