Toma Clark Haines
Toma Clark Haines, otherwise known as the Antiques Diva, is a passionate entrepreneur. For 12 years, she has provided customized global antiques services across Europe, Asia, and beyond. Operating in 16 countries across 3 continents, she helps source and ship incredible finds for antiques dealers, interior designers, furniture manufacturers, hoteliers, and architects. Toma also connects furniture and textile designers with artisans worldwide, a step crucial to the creative development process.
Always an entrepreneur, Toma has developed her own line of furniture inspired by antiques, and has recently launched The Republic of Toma, which includes her stunning collection of jewelry featuring semi-precious stones. She also spearheads two popular antiques-centric podcasts. Her work and advice have been featured in Architectural Digest, Home Magazine, and more. She is based in Venice, Italy.
BUY WHAT YOU LOVE
The right price to pay for an antique is what you’re willing to pay for it. The value of any given antique can vary from year to year and dealer to dealer—value is always somewhat subjective. If you buy what you love and pay what you think the item is worth to you, you'll always be happy with your purchase.
MIX OLD AND NEW
Pair antiques with vintage and modern pieces to create your own unique interior that crosses eras, colors, and finishes. It’s the incongruity that makes your home dynamic and eye catching!
VERIFY THE AGE
When you find a piece you love, ask the dealer about its age. Is it a style piece or period piece? Was it truly made in the 18th century (a period piece), for example, or was it made in the 1920s in the style of 18th-century furniture? The answer plays a crucial role in its ultimate value.
CONSIDER THE DETAILS
In trying to determine the age of a chair, sometimes the answer lies in its heft. Go ahead and pick it up—if you can. The heavier the chair is, the more likely it is to be a period piece from the 18th century. Next, reach your hand underneath and feel for raw wood. If the wood is smooth, it is machine-cut, which means the chair was made after 1860. If it’s rough, it is hand-cut, and the piece is likely to be much older.
EXAMINE THE PAINT
If you’re buying 18th- or 19th-century furniture, know that the paint you're looking at may not be original. With newly faux-painted pieces that are trying to look older, there’s usually a repetition in the paint that seems too regular. On a piece that has been banged around for the last 200 years, the paint’s not going to be regular—it’s going to be chipped in some places, worn in others. Train yourself to recognize the inconsistency.
BARGAIN, BUT NOT TOO HARD
In shopping for antiques, bargaining is expected. The best way to ask for a discount is to say, Is that your best price? If a piece is $1,200 and the dealer comes down to $1,000, you know they’re willing to negotiate. I usually push a little bit more by saying, I’d be really happy if you gave it to me for $800. You never know—the dealer might meet you in the middle.
GET SAVVY WITH SHIPPING
Say to the vendor, I love this, but how do I get it home? If they think you’re going to buy something, they’ll usually help you find a way to get it home. At the Paris flea market, there are shippers on-site, but many other markets don’t have that. Whether you’re at a dealer in the United States or shopping at a market in Europe, a dealer can usually help you find a way to transport the piece home. You can always email me at email@example.com—I’d love to introduce you to the top antique shippers in Europe!
FIND YOUR BEST FIT
I always suggest getting two or three shipping quotes. When you speak with the different people, you’ll find that some will answer your questions, and some will be dismissive. In the end, the quotes all tend to come in around the same price, so choose the shipper you like best. You’ll be much better positioned to deal with the unexpected later, like a damaged item, if you go with the shipper who answers your questions in the beginning.
SURVIVE REAL LIFE
Pieces that have survived a few hundred years surely will withstand the use you’ll put it through—even if you have kids! Enjoy the pieces you buy and invite them into your real-life moments—your home shouldn’t feel like a museum!
MODERNIZE THE LOOK
Incorporate antiques in a cleaner way by leaving extra space around them in your room. The ornate carving of an 18th-century secretary will feel less formal and more fun when you give it room to breathe—suddenly it feels like a piece of sculpture to be admired.