Last month, our team traveled to Belgium and Holland to hand-pick our next shipment of antiques. This is definitely one of the more exciting parts of running an antique store, so I thought it would be fun to take you along on our adventure!
In countries with so much history, there is no shortage of antiques. Our guide had a list of places to take us that was 50 deep. Understandably, it was just impossible to visit them all. Our shopping began in the warehouse of the dealer we work with. Think our store is big? This place is over twice the size, hosting booth space for over 60 independent dealers. It took us about five hours to go through this building - we didn’t want to miss a thing!
This full-size carousel (hiding behind the row of clocks) was here when I visited five years ago. Anyone interested?
Over the years we have learned which pieces work (and which don’t), and every trip is an opportunity to fine tune our selection just a bit more. This style of French Provincial furniture was beautiful but way too ornate for our store.
These children’s pedal cars were from one private collector. Not pictured, nine more!
The next dealer we visited specialized in the furnishing of custom pubs and cafes. Their collection of antique bars was simply amazing, and every single one was set up as a little vignette. This was for sure one of my favorite places.
It was difficult to capture the spans of this enormous bar (far right). It was at least 30’ long and had recently sold. Wouldn’t that be a fun watering hole to visit?
Porcelain Bierpumpen, or beer taps.
This dealer is where we find some of our painted reproduction and industrial pieces. Here we also hit the jackpot for wooden skis and rams head sleds.
We loved this gondola and ski lift chair but they were incredibly old and thus, way out of our price range.
This next dealer was more of a design center. Row upon row of marble fireplace mantles, vintage floor tiles and claw foot bathtubs. Lots of inspiration and ideas here, but we only found a few things that we couldn’t live without.
They also had a large garden filled with gates, urns and garden sculptures.
We spent some time driving through the countryside of Holland. Picture pristine sheep pastures, quaint brick houses (sometimes with a traditional thatched roof), canals and of course, the occasional windmill. While actual storefronts are common in larger cities, in the smaller villages there are dealers selling out of their barns and garages. We even went inside of private homes to view their collections.
What we would consider urban farming is just everyday life in these villages. Homes had space for their livestock behind and between their lots. We passed countless tractors moving from field to field in preparation for spring.
The last time I visited this dealer they had all of their pieces displayed in their backyard. They have since expanded to a location separate from their home. And yes, we did grab those enamel bathtubs!
At one home, we had to pass through this incredible garden to get to the barn with antiques. I was so envious of the moss-covered statuary - something we certainly don’t get to enjoy in our arid climate.
This dealer had everything en masse. Gates and shutters galore!
Need a little more cow bell? We scooped up every single one.
The final place we visited was by far the most unique. Except for a single, one-way path that meandered through the two-story building, there was not a single inch of empty space. It was overwhelming to say the least, and we had to walk through several times to see it all. But hidden among many, many, things that we did not want, we discovered some very neat treasures.
The original form of social networking.
After four long days of shopping, we sat one evening at the dining room table in our dealer’s home, finalizing paperwork. And I was humbled by the emotion of the experience. The dealer we work with is a family-owned business, no different from our own. It is a mother and father, a sister and brother who run the operation. Over the last eight years we have watched their grandchildren grow, welcomed children of our own, and shared with each other our walks through life. We are just two families, working across continents in support of each other. It really is incredible.
I hope you have enjoyed your behind-the-scenes look at our trip. I of course, took entirely too many pictures to share in one blog post, so keep an eye out for Part Two of The Europe Series - The Odd and the Opulent.