When meeting antiques dealer Lee Thinnes at her 1930s Mediterranean house in Winnetka to talk about design, one thing is clear—she’s at home in her work and at work in her home.
“I’ve always loved collecting furniture and art from different eras,” says Thinnes, gesturing with a graceful sweep of the arm. “Pulling it all together to create beautiful vignettes is one of the best parts.”
Thinnes’ foyer alone is a pastiche of different decades, styles, and textures that work well together in scale and form—harmonizing where they should and contrasting to add surprise and interest elsewhere. At the center of the room there is a 1980s Lucite table topped with a 19th century French ironwork urn. Beyond that stands a 1930 mirrored chest of drawers with original crystal pulls. A 1970’s French Curtis Jere raindrop mirror has a place on the wall, with Samuel Margolies 1930’s aquatint “Builders of Babylon” farther over. And suspended above all? An original 1950s Venini crystal chandelier.
The vignette is the perfect visual for a November 8 panel discussion Thinnes is giving with two more experts (NewYork designer Timothy Whealon and East-Coast antiques dealer Gary Sergeant) at the upcoming Antiques + Modernism Winnetka Show, a fundraiser for Winnetka Community House. Events kick off November 7 with a preview party followed by two days of speakers November 8 and 9.
Moderated by Dara Camponigro, editor of luxury design magazine, The Bulletin, the November 8 talk— titled “D2 // Designers and Dealers: A Collaborative Combination to Style and Design”—will give expert insight on how to successfully design spaces that combine different styles, genres, eras, and aesthetics.
Thinnes and her colleagues say they are excited about evolutions they’ve seen as designers explore fresh ways to merge old with new in interiors.
“Many people have a lot of emotional attachment to or very nostalgic memories of homes they grew up in as children so they may have natural affinities for a certain genre, or collections of family heirlooms in their home. You need to be very considerate of that as you develop an interior,” says Thinnes. “But even in this situation, clients usually want to freshen things by adding abstract art or modern elements to brighten and lighten what otherwise would make for a dark and heavy interior.”
Whealon says while there are things that are appropriate to certain building and architectural styles, nothing is more boring than too much of the same thing. “If you have a beautiful collection of finely crafted English furniture with the patina of age, for example, I love the juxtaposition of that next to more modern works of art that add light and interest,” he adds.
Sergeant agrees: “A lot of antique furniture today can be made more comfortable for a 21st century application by adding a new fabric or finish,” he says. “If you add a fresh fabric, it can really bring the life into a piece. I think that is one of the best ways to incorporate old with new. There are so many fabulous new fabrics out there right now that can be used to upgrade a piece.”
Color is also having a resurgence, a trend likely to impact both fabric and finishes.
“We lived through the whole Restoration Hardware phase where everything was monotone and neutral,” Whealon explains. “But now people want more vibrancy and vitality in their homes.”
In addition to adding fresh textiles, as Sergeant and Thinnes noted, Whealon suggest mixing glass and metal, lacquering ceilings, and bleaching or painting furniture.
“For example, one of my clients had a set of Regency dining room chairs that weren’t adding anything to the interior in which they were placed,” he adds. “We had them engine-sprayed, as you would a car. That gave the chairs a fabulous high gloss, still keeping the original brass details and beautiful lines of the chairs.”
Other trends the three cited include the use of rustic or weathered architectural elements—such as doorways, window frames, and weathervanes— to create a different sensibility in a room. “Surface and texture are always to be considered,” says Sergeant.
Maximalism—the “more is more is more” design trend recently favored by Gucci, is happening. So is the resurrection of nostalgic 1950s and early 1960s room compositions popularized by Dorothy Draper and Sister Parish.
But whatever the approach to blending old with new design elements in a home, all three experts stressed that homeowners should “buy what you love” and talk to their designers about preferences.
“What makes you smile? What do you gravitate to? There has to be a connection between you and the piece of furniture or art for it to work in your interior,” says Sergeant. “Buying what your like, what appeals to your aesthetic is crucial in devel- oping an interior environment that’s really you and not a museum of collectibles.”
To this end, all three say they appreciate it when people bring in tear sheets from magazines, mood boards, and Pinterest pages of the designs, color schemes, clothing, interiors, and even natural landscapes that they love.
“Don’t let somebody else dictate what you should buy—including your designer—unless you absolutely love it. If it doesn’t appeal to your aesthetic or lifestyle, why buy it?” sums Sergeant.
To get the most out the Antiques + Modernism Winnetka Show, it helps to have a game plan.
“If you are at the show with interest in buying things that are more decorative, rather than expensive antique collectibles, just buy what you love,” Whealon advises. “See what catches your eye, and don’t overthink it if it’s not an expensive purchase. Oftentimes your gut and your initial emotional response to an object are the best test. But if you are buying as a collector, be sure to do your research before making a purchase.”
To begin, all three suggest doing a quick walk-through of the show.
“Choose a few things that you like. Revisit them. Strike up a conversation with the dealer. Ask why they have that piece, what’s important about it. Is it just pretty or does it have historical value?” says Sergeant.
“Try to visit the show several times during the weekend,” adds Thinnes, “to build a better relation- ship with the dealers, and to understand the history behind the pieces you are interested in. Remember that dealers have a wealth of sources all over the world, and if they know what you are looking for they may be able to find pieces for you that aren’t even at the show.”
This year’s Antiques + Modernism Winnetka show kicks off with a preview party Thursday, November 7, including seasonal food and cocktails and early access to the show. Tickets for this are $150 in advance, and include three-day admission to the show. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Winnetka Community House’s diverse educational, cultural, social, and recreational opportunities.
For tickets and other information, visit thewinnetkashow.com.