Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From Trash to Treasure

Relocating to the Lehigh Valley for me was exciting and new, a place I could raise my children, breathe fresh air and call our happy house a home. But, when it came time to furnish and accessorize our new home I struggled to find not only the latest home trends but to find the antique stores and markets were loaded with old junk no one wanted. From glass apothecary jars to modern Chinese porcelain which appeared deliberately rolled in muck creating a faux patina, in effort to “fool” the eye of uneducated antique buyers everywhere. As one of my authenticity experiments I would simply moisten my finger and smudge the dirt away revealing it’s true luster, my DNA has become a permanent forensic fixture on “fakes” throughout the valley. We all know the old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” but in this case it was just plain old trash. It was a hit or miss situation. When an authentic English or French piece of fine furniture would turn up, the dealers thought they were actually doing the buyers a favor by “refinishing” it. But the fact of the matter is, they were actually creating more harm than good. There are three “’R’s” when it comes to antiques, never RESTORE, REPLACE or REFINISH and that’s exactly what I had found. Yes antique experts desire that pristine antique but there is much to be said for those not so perfect pieces, the dings and things tell a story, shows it’s history and best of all gives it character. What I found myself experiencing was a case of “shoppers withdrawal”. It was frustrating not having the access I once had while working in New York City where around every corner was an antique store and an auction house in every district on the island.

I became desperate here in the “Valley” and frequented a New York City Auction house each time I had the opportunity to purchase a “new” antique or picked a piece up here and there on a family vacation. It didn’t stop me though from frequenting the same shops in the valley over and over, that is the name of the antiquing game anyway. The sales clerks and owners by now knew me by name. I tried over and over again making my case and coercing the owners to recruit dealers whom specialized in English and French Antiques promising them the results would equal reward. I convinced them that the area was growing with promising economic incomes, that Olympus was flooding the area with wealth and that builders in Saucon Valley were developing Mac Mansions by the dozens! (this of course was prior to the recession and before the boom went bust!)
To set the record straight I don’t claim to be an antique expert but do know a good thing when I see it. I don’t have to have a priceless antique to claim it beautiful or simply my own. I can say though that it takes a trained eye and a lot of patience to acquire just the right piece. I have expanded my search for antiques throughout the valley and it’s surrounding area, If you are seeking antiques and decorative accessories and don’t want to leave the valley, I now know just where to unearth all the hidden treasures.

Kicking myself, I helped “train the eye” of a friend in the area of antiquing and accessories. But in good clean fun we have made our antiquing excursions somewhat of a game throwing our car doors open as we chuckle, “may the best man win” and have not limited ourselves to antique shops alone but also finding some of our most treasured possessions at yard sales in the historic area of Bethlehem and elsewhere.

A new petite yet elegant antique store has also captured our hearts in historic Bethlehem, my dear friend and I have battled on occasion as to “who saw it first”. From antique English and French silver, fine crystal, paintings and furnishings to unique one of a kind objects de’ art. Reminiscent of my MTA strap hanging days, the shop is “brimming” with treasures. You will find yourself greeted by an authentic British accent and astonishingly “good taste”. Her name is Judy, like the other shop owners, she has become a personal friend of mine.

I have now been residing in the “valley” eight years and am pleased to say my pleading has paid off. The local antique stores have finally stepped it up a notch from freshly painted vivacious facades and signs to new and more exciting dealers. The store owners are making lists and checking them twice as to what their most valued customers are seeking and informing their in house dealers what just to look for. Slowly but steadily the furniture and small treasures are working their way into the “old junk shops.” What was once upon a time in the Lehigh Valley, one man’s trash, I now officially call a treasure.

The upside, our house has finally become that home, cozy, furnished, inviting and very accessorized and as for the fresh country air, I feel like I can breathe again. The downside for me, the parking lots of these “antique” stores are jammed….maybe I should have kept my big mouth shut!

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