Thursday, August 18, 2011

Antiquing with Barry Hutner

Like most Southerners, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home filled with antiques. And, again, like many Southerners, I don’t think that a house is really finished until there are at least a few antiques placed throughout the house. Perhaps an antique console or an old oil painting. To me, a house devoid of anything old is rather sad. So why do some people avoid antiques altogether? If you’re a die hard contemporary furniture devotee, then I understand why antiques might not fit your lifestyle. And if you’re shying away from buying antiques because the whole process gives you fits of anxiety, well, I get that too. I admit that I’m not completely confident when buying antiques. I feel as though I have a good eye and that I can pick some nice pieces, but when it comes to making a final decision, I get a little nervous. Is the table I’m buying really a Regency era piece? Am I overpaying for it?

That’s why I have enlisted the help of Barry Hutner, proprietor of Parc Monceau Antiques in Atlanta. Barry is considered to be one of the top antiques dealers in the country. (Lucky for me that his shop is right around the corner from my home!) In the past, I have gone to Barry for advice on collecting. He is always so knowledgeable and, more importantly, he understands how best to decorate with antiques. He is not one to advocate a period room look. Rather, he advises designers to mix antiques with classic 20th century pieces or fresh looking fabric and colors to create a tension between the old and the new. Barry believes that it’s this tension that adds so much life to a room. And you know what? I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Barry told me that it's a great time to purchase antiques as their prices are at 1990s levels. That said, he advises building one's collection over time. Buy one good piece a year and in ten years you have ten wonderful things! The important thing to remember is that you should buy antiques that are good quality and that are timeless looking. That way, your heirs will fight over your collection, something that will validate your purchases. Joking aside though, the goal is to think of these antiques as friends you'll live with all of your life. Just look at people like Bill Blass, Nan Kempner, and Jackie Onassis. Did they redecorate and start completely anew every few years? Of course not. They lived with their collections for years!

I asked Barry to provide me with a list of those must-have pieces that should form the core of one's collections. I've included the list below with Barry's thoughts on each. I also chose examples in each category and, when possible, included a 20th c. example. You know, just to add a little tension.

Parc Monceau is located at 425 Peachtree Hills Ave, No. 15, Atlanta, GA 30305. For inquiries, call (404) 467-8107 or email To view more inventory, visit their website.

Italian Giltwood Mirror with Birds

Mid-century brass mirror attributed to Mastercraft

A Mirror: "I can't imagine a room without a mirror. They make such an architectural impact in a space."

Pair of 19th c. Italian armchairs

Set of four 19th c. English hall chairs

A Set of Chairs: "A strong pair of chairs balances everything. And, one can never have too much seating."

18thc./19thc. Italian Giltwood Console with marble top

Mid-century silvered horse head and hoof bronze console

A Classic Console: "Consoles can be very glamorous and they add instant impact to a room. Perfect for a foyer, a dining room, a bar..."

19th c. French Louis XV silver over bronze chenets

Late 19th/ early 20th c. brass and iron andirons

Andirons and Chenets: "Andirons are the jewelry of a room. The fireplace is usually the focal point of the room, so you want to make it look its best. A fireplace without andirons makes a room look totally unfinished."

19th c. Louis XVI style French settee

Louis XVI Style settee

A Settee:
"Settees are not just for living rooms anymore. Considering using one in a bedroom or even a dining room."

Pair of crystal lamps attributed to Baccarat, 19th c.

Contemporary obelisk lamps of mounted marble

A Great Pair of Lamps:
"Lamps are one of the easiest ways to start your antiques collection. A good quality pair of lamps can set the tone for an entire room."


  1. These are some great pieces! Of course, there are those who abhor the idea of buying Used Furniture, feeling a whole range of negative connotations that go with it. But that's ok; it leaves more for the rest of us.

  2. Yeah, for Barry Hutner! A great way to go green using what has been made before with such style. Great Post.

  3. I purchased a fabulous coffee table from Barry in 2001 when I worked for him, and it has travelled all the way to NYC with me through marriage and all! He knows best!

  4. This was a great post. It is clear and to the point and I learned so much. I love hunting around in antique stores but have always felt like a deer in head lights. This article at least dims the lights.


  5. I found it interesting that all of his "starter" pieces were useful ones, not just decorative (assuming you occasionally use the fireplace). I would also recommend a chest or table that has an expanse of old wood. There is nothing like the patina of antique wood!
    --Road to Parnassus

  6. What an incredibly informative piece. One can extrapolate and apply these lessons to any period of home furnishings~even limited production contemporary.

    I adore mixing periods, bringing together old and new and will definitely keep Barry's wonderful pointers in mind.

    Beth Neuhaus

  7. You are so right, I always try to find something antique when looking for a functional piece.

    How very nice to have Barry give you great advice~ we all need someone like that to help guide us.

    My rule of thumb on price: If the antique piece is the same price as a new piece, why are you hesitating? We purchase new items which become worth 10% of what we paid for it when it walks out the door of the store.

    Yea, I've used that on hubby a few times....