In the past few decades, antiques have fallen out of favour with the fashion-forward Lowlanders, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, writes the Antiques Diva.
In the past few decades, antiques have fallen out of favour with the fashion-forward Lowlanders and every Jan, Henk and Meike is cleaning out their ‘zolder’ and banishing anything Rococo, Baroque or beyond. As the Dutch lose interest in antiques, prices drop and savvy shoppers benefit
from increased selection and lower prices. As an antique shopping maven, my mantra is the time is ripe to cash in on the age-old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Of course, “trash and treasure” are subjective words. An 18th Century heavily-carved Dutch walnut armoire might have sold ten years ago for EUR 12,000.
Today you can pick one up at auction for EUR 2,000, although it’s not necessary to spend thousands to cash in on this recession. I’ve bought 200-year-old copper pots and Art Deco lighting fixtures at Diemen’s De Eland for less than the price of a dinner service at IKEA. As a non-Dutch speaker, going to an auction seems to be a daunting affair. But don’t let the words get in the way. De Zwaan located on Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht #474 is part vaudeville show, part cultural immersion course. Go to viewings and peruse the catalogues in advance. If serious about buying, ask that your lot be sold in English. Should your budget be a bit bigger, Sotheby’s and Christies always offer English as an option. Sotheby’s starting point for purchases is EUR 4,000.
A perfect place to start your antique shopping tour of The Netherlands is Amsterdam’s Spiegelkwartier, where over 100 of the best mid-to-high-end antique shops have congregated in the shadow of the Rijksmuseum.
Two of my favourites are located on the Prinsengracht – Ria Jong’s at 574 and Arphi Antiques & Atelier at 827. Next on your list should be De Looier Antique Mall at Elandsgracht 109, which has a decidedly more casual feel and significantly lower prices. You won’t find large furniture items here, but instead small “perfectly packables”.
My favourite place to shop in Amsterdam is the Nine Little Streets. The district was built in the 17th centrury to house the craft and guild workers outside of the original town centre. Over the centuries, Amsterdam was built up and out but the artisans weren’t driven away by the gentrification. My favourite home decorating store (which has a smattering of vintage items, reproductions and antiques) is De Weldaad at Reestraat 1. They specialise in French and Swedish country style. Both their shop in Amsterdam as well as their other one “on the farm” in Abcoude are so perfect that I’d move into the window display tomorrow. When I don’t have time to shop all nine Streets, I do a “Cliff’s Notes” version, visiting two streets nearby this district; the Prinsenstraat and the Herenstraat.
I do not like the flea markets in Amsterdam. Though considered institutions, the Albert Cuypmarkt and Waterlooplein tend to be too heavy on the ‘fleas’. The Monday morning Noordermarkt is full of used clothes and bric-a-brac, however I’ve found a few stalls selling genuine antiques. I picked up an art deco bronze for a third of its value. Sundays May to October head to Nieuwmarkt, similar to the Noodermarkt, to do casual browsing. On a sunny afternoon, take a coffee at In de Waag, housed in a part of the former city wall where Rembrandt used to lurk.
While Amsterdam is charming with its chunky gables and glittering canals, The Hague feels regal with her international flavour and, in this diva’s opinion, is the best place to shop in Holland! From May until October, on Thursdays and Sundays, an antique and book market sets up on the Lange Voorhout selling the sort of brocante items you would expect to find on a stroll through Provence.
The market gathers in the square in front of the gorgeous Hotel des Indes where I stop for afternoon high tea. On my last visit to the market, I found some antique French stemware, a painting straight off the fields of Flevoland and a great Prussian lithograph. Around the corner from this tree-lined square is the main antique shopping artery of The Hague – Denneweg and Frederikstraat. Similar to the Spiegelkwartier, but smaller, this area has a greater range in high- to low-end items. From here, a trip to the Noordeinde is necessary for art and antique gallery hopping. Two of my favourite shops are Frank Vrolijk Antieke Bouwmaterialen at Heilingweg 177 and S Van Leeuwen, Noordeinde 164.
The Hague VVV offers a brochure of the Art & Antiques District. Every August, Kunst en Antiek Dagen offers a program full of art & antique related activities. Horse-drawn carriage rides are free of charge, showing the best routes as they traverse the quarter while a special “en plein air” exhibit takes place around the Lange Voorhout.
If there’s one thing The Netherlands does well; it’s antique fairs. The pièces de résistance is TEFAF, the world’s leading art and antique show, held each March in Maastricht. Maastricht compliments the fair with a great number of antique shops clustered in the Wijck district.
But s’Hertogenbosch hosts AFSH, with prices more targeted at Mercedes drivers rather than museum curators or those with private jets. Thus, I find this high-end fair more accessible for extravagant splurges. As in Maastricht, Den Bosch has her own antiques quarter and the VVV offers a map listing the antique shops. My favourite fair coordinator is InterEvent’s, which hosts among La Table and others two fairs in Naarden – La Table held 13-16 November, 2008 and Kunst & Antiek Weekend on the 22-25 January, 2009. While adding dates to your agenda, you mustn’t forget to add the popular PAN Amsterdam November 23-30, 2008.