Welcome to our new series from The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by Incollect- Dealers & Designers: In the Know. Throughout the series we will be bringing experts from both the sides of the antiques trade together to give you the inside scoop. The dealers who source exceptional vintage and antique furnishings, and the designers who utilize their inventory in their designs will both provide their insights and expertise.
This week’s dealer is Milord Antiques and our featured designer is Jennifer Cohler Mason. Both are incredibly talented in their trade and long-standing friends of the 200 Lex family. Learn their tricks of the trade, what makes them love what they do and what inspires them. Explore more about how their unique perspectives work hand in hand during the interior design process. We hope you enjoy and please let us know if you have any questions for this week’s dealer or designer.
How did you become a dealer in the first place? I became an antique dealer sort of by accident. At The age of 26, my uncle hired me and my girlfriend at the time to look for an Inn or Bed & Breakfast (B&B) for us to operate for him. We scoured the countryside of Quebec, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire for the perfect B&B and after a good summer of visiting all sorts of different places we found a very nice one that was for sale. Part of my business model was to have antique furniture to decorate the B&B all of which would be for sale to our visiting customers. We made an offer on the Inn which was not accepted but this is when I realized that I did not want to become an inn keeper after all. What I really wanted to do was to sell antiques. I went down to the antiques district on Notre Dame Street in my hometown of Montreal and without owning one single piece of antique furniture, I signed a three-year lease and created Milord Antiques with very little means. I then set out to buy inventory to open my shop one month later and I have never looked back! Now my love for antiques developed at an early age from when I was a child and spent time in both France and England. I was born in Paris and lived there and in Bordeaux as well as in Oxford in England. My mother heavily influenced me in becoming an antiques dealer. She would take me to flea markets, brocanteurs, antiques shops and church basement sales here and abroad.
Do you tend to choose things for your inventory that need restoration, or things that are ready to rock & roll? The main criteria for which I choose my inventory are strength design and quality. If it is a great piece, all original but needs restoration, I am excited to have it in my inventory and to carefully have it restored by the best artisans in order to bring it back to its former glory. I feel it is part of my responsibility as a dealer to make sure good vintage pieces remain in good state of conservation. If a piece is in perfect condition but of average design and or quality, I am less inclined to be interested.
Your inventory includes a variety of different places of origin and time periods – what makes it all “Milord Antiques”? I would say that originality, quality and design are the thread that tie all of the different pieces together that I have in my inventory. The power that each piece gives to one another is thrilling if done right, no matter what period or culture it stems from!
Can you tell us about a time when you had a piece restored that took it from something no one would look at twice, to a masterpiece? A colleague of mine and I once found an 18th century Italian Rococo painted commode in a flea market, the form was very nice, but it was covered with a dark and dirty finish, it had no life to it anymore. We took it to our restorer and had it cleaned back to its original painted surface. We discovered that apart from a few missing decorations most of the original paint was on there. We found beautifully painted exotic birds and Chinoiserie decorations that were highlighted with silver gilt and gilt accents. It was a pure beauty of mid eighteenth century Venetian painted furniture. It literally came back from the dead!
What are some of your favorite events or places to purchase pieces for Milord Antiques? For a true antiques dealer there is nothing like finding a piece (or an entire collection) in the home where it has been for a long time. There is that sense of discovery, not to mention that you can learn about the people that owned it and hopefully learn about the history and provenance of the piece. I’ve purchased entire estates in one shot, 40 to 50 years of collecting by one individual, all in one single purchase, that is the best. I also love to go to France and Italy to buy in the big antique fairs with my friends there. My competitive side also loves to buy at auction in Paris, you have to be there all day for four or five days in a row to try to get your hands on a few good pieces. When you succeed, it’s a thrill and you really deserve your duck confit and glass of red wine after a good day’s work!
What can we look forward to seeing more of in the upcoming months? I am overseeing the restoration of a suite of Andre Arbus furniture that belonged to Arbus’s personal physician, the pieces come straight out of the estate, first time out on the market. I also have two sculpted bronze cabinets by Paul Evans, a great Paul Dupre Lafon gentleman’s valet, a great Maison Krieger chinoiserie demilune commode, an iconic Dunbar “shell” form console table, a comfortable Papa Bear chair, ottoman by Han Wegner and much more.
What was your most memorable project or partnership with a designer?
I recently worked with a designer from San Francisco, she was doing a project in New York for a client there and I sold her three beautiful Line Vautrin mirrors, a Carlo Scarpa chandelier, an Andre Arbus cabinet and a beautiful 1940’s giltwood mirror. Another project I did was for the home of a world-famous restaurateur that hired a great architect firm to redo the design of his home, all in the classic English style. I was commissioned to find most of the pieces of furniture for the home, working closely with the interior designer in sourcing buying, shipping, and restoring the pieces. The designer took advantage of my precious expertise and contacts acquired over the years and trusted me to find the needed items for him, that collaboration was so beneficial to both of us! It was so nice to buy knowing it was already sold!
What would your dream room to partner with Jennifer Cohler Mason be and why? My dream room with Jennifer Cohler Mason would be to collaborate with her to help furnish a living room because that is where she can place beautiful artwork, colorful items, strong textures, and well-designed furniture. I could see her incorporating a beautiful pair of Philip & Kelvin Laverne side tables flanking a comfortable custom sofa, a Paul Evans glass top sculpted bronze coffee table decorated with an abstract polished bronze sculpture by Antonio Kieff and a colorful Murano glass vase. In front of the fireplace a great pair of Art Deco chairs and a classic black lacquered 1940’s bar cabinet.
Both you and Jennifer Cohler Mason are drawn to the work of Paul Evans – why is that? I have been purchasing Paul Evans pieces for the past 10 years. I’ve had most of his sculpted bronze designs, the circular Disk bar, the stalagmite tables, the city scape low table, the credenzas, etc. I’ve shipped them all over the world from London to San Francisco all the way to Gstaad to furnish a luxurious Swiss chalet. Paul Evans created sculptural pieces of furniture in the brutalist style. He made each piece from scratch with the help of his assistant, so each piece is unique. The style is so unusual, it was never done before and never really copied after. It doesn’t draw inspiration from any designs from the past, as it is a true original design from the 1970’s.The quality of the craftsmanship of his pieces is phenomenal, I’ve yet to have to restore any of the pieces I’ve had by him. His designs are not for everyone, you need to have a good dose of confidence to own such a strong, dramatic piece, what I like to call an anchor piece from which you build around. The cabinet that Jennifer chose below feels like a vault when you open it, it feels so strong and heavy that you could imagine storing precious things in it.
Jennifer Cohler Mason
What made you decide to go into decorating or becoming a designer? I have always loved design and fashion. My mother was an interior designer, and as a little girl I was always surrounded with beautiful furnishings, art and decor. I guess it’s in my DNA! My career actually started as a designer in the fashion industry, but I realized my true love was for interior design and the rest is history!
What draws you to an antique or a piece of vintage design? There is not one thing that draws me to an antique or vintage piece. Sometimes I am on the hunt for a specific item and other times while shopping I will come across an item that just says hello!
Do you try and follow the tastes of your clients, or do they largely hire you for your taste? My clients hire me for my taste and expertise. Prior to starting a project, I do get a feel for their lifestyle and color preferences, so we can inspire them.
Speaking of your expertise, one component of your work is color. You are a designer who is not afraid to use color. How to incorporate color into your projects especially if you have a hesitant client? My clients are becoming less afraid to use color than they have been in the past – I believe they are growing tired of the “go to” blue and gray palette. For those clients that are more hesitant to use color, I will encourage them to add color even if it is in a small way, like throw pillows. A shot of color infused into a neutral palette goes a long way and can be very impactful.
How do you find the balance between incorporating vintage and antiques into your designs and works? There is a balance between incorporating antiques and vintage pieces into a project. I design spaces that tend to be more curated than decorated, and those special pieces are the ones that make a space more interesting.
What is one of the biggest misconception’s clients have regarding working with antiques? I.e. the trials and tribulations of rewiring European lighting to preservation? One of the biggest misconceptions a client may have regarding antiques is that often they are not in perfect condition. Antiques may not be for everyone, it is important to explain to a client that each item has a past and will have some marks or spots, which we refer to as a patina. The patina is what gives each piece its character and history. It’s part of the beauty.
Which Milord Antiques pieces would be your dream piece for your home and why? My dream piece from Milord Antiques would be the fabulous Paul Evans sculpted and patinated bronze cabinet. This cabinet is a spectacular piece and I love brutalism. Paul Evans was a furniture maker whose work in the 1970’s best exemplified brutalist inspired, metal furnishings. Paul Evans pieces are all very textural, which help add another layer and dimension to a space.
What would your dream room to furnish with Milord Antiques be? The room I would choose to furnish with pieces from Milord Antiques would be a dining room – there are so many wonderful options to choose from.