Published: July 6, 2021
In June 2020, Americana dealer Taylor Thistlethwaite announced that he had moved both home and gallery to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Upperville, Va. “After being in Alexandria for four years, we thought it was time to make a move out to the country,” Thistlethwaite said at the time. “I was always limited in space in my old home, but now I have enough room to display 80 to 90 percent of my inventory.” Now the dealer is again on the move – but to a gallery in Middleburg, Va., where his store offers longtime collectors, newcomers to the antiques world, passersby and more the opportunity to browse a variety of Eighteenth to Twentieth Century American antiques and artworks that tastefully amplify the aesthetic and character of any individual’s home. And he’s doing shows again, providing an opportunity to check back in with him to see what’s changed with shops and shows since last we spoke.
How long have you been a dealer?
I have officially been a dealer since 2013 but, among friends, I joke that I have always been a dealer. I am fully devoted to hunting for pieces that complement Thistlethwaite Americana’s inventory – and my personal collection. When I was little, my parents would often take me to antiques shops. I first started collecting cap guns, then traded them for other items. Eventually, I made my first real antique purchase, which was a one-drawer stand from Kentucky. I love finding great pieces, but I remain true to my nature in that I get used to a piece and then want to find something else.
So the affinity for American history and antique collecting is generational in your family?
I come from a family with three generations of antiques collecting. All my grandparents, parents and most of their friends have collected or are current collectors. One of the first books I ever read with my grandfather was a history of the Napoleonic War. I disliked reading when I was young, but my grandfather would show me prints depicting Napoleon and his army in front of the pyramids. This made history come alive and I was instantly hooked.
My father and mother are some of my biggest influences. My father was a surgeon, but in his free time he would take me to see historic homes – by the time I was 10 years old, I knew every antiques shop in the area. I loved going to Sumpter Priddy’s Shop in Old Town to see all the treasures and learn how objects are connected to the past. I grew up in Bethesda, Md., and would often take the train to the Philadelphia Antiques Show and other local shows. The shows always seemed magical to me.
What are some of the top antiques shows in the United States that you participate in?
I love antiques shows and I am a true road warrior. I started out doing shows in Kentucky but quickly started doing more and more. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I did 16 shows in one year and that was tough. The top shows in which I actively participate are The Winter Show (New York), Antiques in Manchester, the Delaware Show and The Philadelphia Show. I always dreamed of doing these shows in my early days, and now that I participate in them, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real.
Why transition from exhibitions-only to a brick-and-mortar showroom?
I am slightly going against the flow by opening a showroom. Before this, I lived and worked closely with my inventory. Being the only person to experience all these wonderful pieces during the cadence of the past year made me realize it was time for a change. The way I had been conducting business saw significant changes in prospective buyers due to the pandemic’s effect on people’s behavior, yet the local shops that were open were getting good traffic.
I can talk to anyone about antiques, and I believe communicating my passion behind this profession might inspire new collectors. A store front allows me to interact with many new people who might not have otherwise expressed interest in antiques. Anyone who comes to the store can learn a little something about the significance of these pieces, and perhaps some history as well.
Do you see the demand for antiques rising? What trends are you noting?
I actually see the demand for antiques rising greatly. I have done more business this year through leads generated on social media, my website and interactions with decorators than ever before. I think, after being trapped in our houses during the pandemic, people started craving interesting objects and things that go against the “gray” trend. Antiques provide interest and a level of comfort that feels authentic.
Also, I’m noticing that younger generations are showing an increased interest in antiques. It has been coined “Grandmillenial Style” by several lifestyle, home and design influencers. It feels to me like the work of Mario Buatta.
Last June you announced a move to Upperville. Is the move to Middleburg in addition to that gallery or does it replace it?
I am still living in Upperville and loving every minute, but the showroom in Middleburg is our sole retail space. Our house still holds some of my fine pieces and objects I enjoy living with that are available for sale. It is great having a shop in Middleburg that is just 15 minutes away. Sometimes we go from the shop to the house and back to the shop just to see everything.
Describe the new space. Is there a unifying aesthetic that you are going for?
The new space is a good reflection of my personal taste and includes formal furniture, folk art, midcentury items and more. I think it is fun to always mix things up and play around. In many ways it feels similar to having a booth at a show. Who would ever think a Paul Evans cabinet would work well with a weathervane?
You travel across the country finding objects for museums, decorators and collectors. Can you talk about one of your key finds?
It is a constant struggle finding good material that will sell well at the shop and at shows – but that is normal for any retailer. One of the best things about the shop is that we are constantly surprising ourselves, and others, with what we bring in. I recently found some great weathervanes from a local who was downsizing and wasn’t sure what to do with them. Also, advertising can lead to great finds. I recently found a masterpiece that hasn’t been seen for years. I never thought I could stumble on a piece like this, but it is a testament to the amazing things you will find when so many people share a passion for antiques. I’m excited to share more at the upcoming Winter Show this year.
Your inventory runs the gamut of collecting categories – paintings and prints, furniture, decorative arts, garden items and midcentury material. Do you have a favorite?
I will forever be a sucker for great Eighteenth Century Southern furniture. From working with Sumpter Priddy and witnessing my dad’s passion for antiques to spending a lot of time at MESDA, Southern decorative arts have been ingrained in my soul. Also, living in Virginia puts me in a great position to find pieces that relate to the area.
Besides shopping for antiques, what else is there to do in Virginia’s horse country?
This area is wonderful. On the weekends, there is always something horsey going on – shows, races, polo and more. I like to fish the Shenandoah River or take my dog there to play. There are also several great vineyards and restaurants that are fun to visit. There is a lively farmers market on Wednesday evenings that offers live music, wine and delicious food. Give me a call and I can tell you a lot of local hot spots.
What do you expect to change, if anything, in the show circuit going forward?
I will always love doing shows and will continue to do many more. I don’t think I can handle doing 16 shows again. My wife might skin me for being away that long again. In general, I think the way the show circuit operates might change, but the need for in-person shows will remain constant. I’m looking forward to seeing how the adjustments we’re making will develop as we move forward.
Anyone interested in stopping by the gallery should make an appointment by calling 270-404-1558 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My inventory is available to view at www.thistleamericana.com.
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