Published: February 17, 2016
Antiques dealer Margaret Schwartz, named the inaugural Antique Young Gun of the Year by Antiques Young Guns USA, began her career working at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which fostered her love of home design. In four years, she opened her own business, The Summer House, in New Canaan, Conn., where she marries her distinctive style and passion for decorating by offering customers an eclectic collection of antiques, furniture and stylish home accent pieces.
How did you get started in the antiques trade?
I only really got started a few years ago. I have always loved antiques but I didn’t have a background in it. I decided to invest in some classic Swedish pieces and give antiques a meaningful presence in The Summer House. I could not be happier about how this transformed the store. It has been a successful venture and it is very rewarding. Antiques are by far what I’m most passionate about, and now that I get to work with them every day it is really a dream come true.
What was your first job after high school?
In college I worked at Irresistibles, a clothing store in New Canaan. It was a fun place to work, and gave me a good understanding of working in retail. It was through that work experience that I knew New Canaan was a great town to have a shop in, and when The Summer House was for sale, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! It’s been tremendous fun to take a store that was dying and breathe new life into it.
You worked for Martha Stewart before launching your own business. What was the most important lesson you learned there?
I loved my time at MSLO. It was an amazing start to my professional career, and I learned so much about business and design. One of the most important things we were taught there is how to create with an eye toward design that is evergreen. If you create something timeless and beautiful, it will last and be appreciated for years to come. Antiques are by their nature evergreen, and that is one of the things I love most about them. They have been and will continue to provide a source of beauty and inspiration for generations.
What is your approach to decorating? Are there certain styles/periods of antiques you favor in your shop?
The Summer House takes a modern approach to antiques. We like a collected, edited design aesthetic, and that means mixing new pieces with antiques. Offering a more varied approach speaks to our audience of young collectors. It allows people to make these pieces their own, using them as they best see fit. We carry a variety of styles, but I find Swedish pieces to be the most versatile. Swedish antiques offer understated elegance to design. Perfect for our clients!
You were named as the Antiques Young Gun of the Year. Was that a surprise? And what is a Young Gun?
I was very surprised to be named the Antiques Young Gun of the Year. Antiques Young Guns is a part of US Antique Shows for members of the trade 39 and under. The group of AYGs is strong and has some incredible talent. It’s a group of people who are dedicated to antiques and have made wonderful contributions the industry. It is such an honor to be the inaugural winner, and I am working hard on growing the group and offering more events throughout the year. It’s important that we encourage other members of the industry to join the group. It’s open to anyone in the industry, not just dealers. You can be an editor, work in PR, have a blog, anything as long as your business is antiques! I have really loved getting to know other members of the group, and I believe we are doing important work, ensuring the future of the industry.
Are you working to inspire other young people to become collectors or dealers?
Now is the best time for younger dealers to get involved. The industry is changing, and Antiques Young Guns gives the under 40 crowd a strong support system and voice. I have found being in AYG to be a very rewarding experience. Meeting other members from across the country gives us a good idea of what is happening in the marketplace and offers a good sounding board for ideas and solutions. I try to connect with people who are thinking about joining the industry and tell them AYG is a solid first step to get some background and lay the groundwork for their business. For collectors, I want them to know that there are so many styles out there and they just need to find the style they connect to. Find a trusted resource who can help you curate a collection, and trust me, you’ll be hooked and never look back!
What are some of the best ways to get young people interested in antiques?
One important and often understated aspect of antiques is that they are green. They are an environmentally responsible choice for people who are concerned about their carbon footprint. Many antiques were produced using old world craftsmanship without chemicals or contributing to air pollution. It’s a choice you can feel good about for years to come. You’re saving something from a landfill, you’re not adding pollution by producing something new, and the quality is superior. Not to mention, antiques often hold their value, so they are a good investment!
What’s on your business agenda in 2016?
2016 is going to be a great year at The Summer House. The antiques portion of my business has grown tremendously over the past few years. I have worked with The Antiques Diva to plan a multi-country tour in March. We are spending a week in England, where I will get to meet other AYGs from the original chapter and spend time with Gail McLeod, one of the founders of AYG. I’ll then head to Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris. It’s a two-week journey of action-packed antiques hunting and I cannot wait. This will be my third buying trip in Europe, but it’s by far the biggest trip! I know I’ll find some outstanding pieces because The Antiques Diva has a remarkable network of dealers in Europe, and they know what I’m looking for.
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