The end of the summer is rapidly approaching, and I think it’s a good time to reflect on where the Decorative Arts has a pulse. From my perspective, good Rustic, of any period or style will sell easier than a French 18th Century commode. That may sound like a “stretch” but then again, Mid-Century and Contemporary still dominate the taste style du jour. Rustic is a very broad style, that spans American Folk Art to Bavarian and Swiss Black Forest styles. It cuts a very broad swath of collectors and has interior design appeal.
Rustic as a classification of decorative arts represents a style that in many ways is timeless. I have always had a secret passion for it. Oddly enough, my “old” favorite style of Art Nouveau seems almost as the artistic height of the Rustic style, but give me my American wicker, Molesworth, or 18th Century Country English too. And then there are the materials and texture of the items. Not only was it made with wood, but skins, antlers, metal, stone, and glass. So, from my prospective, why is it clearly the most popular area where buyers now focus?
I would be remiss if I said it was my pricing, but I seemed to have not had that valuation skill in all of the other classic periods and styles of antiques. Perhaps my problem is that I still love all these great examples of decorative arts (that darn emotional connection.) However, the style that is the easiest to understand can be the one with the simplest design. Folk Art and French Provincial are related by innocence and purpose. Then you can go to the other extreme of some of the great 19th and 20th Century homes built in the Adirondacks or Germany and Switzerland. Rustic is looking interesting again, but it never really faded, like so many other antique styles have over the last decade.
My path to this style has a long and deep connection, which came about by my not being a buyer in Europe in the last quarter of the 20th Century (and up to today.) Rustic came to me as an option of what would enhance and diversify Newel’s inventory. Classic European styles were in great demand in the 20th Century, and Post-War Design was being accepted by its original 1st generation owners. I plead guilty about the Post-War Design domination. With my limited scope of buying merchandise in the Northeast United States I preferred to buy from those dealers who had an inventory. Quantity and selection is everything to a buyer and I have had the opportunity to buy from the best, people who know much more than I. As another option I found that Americana at the high end was not where I could compete in price and knowledge of the individual pieces. My eye wasn’t trained in that specific manor.
So I must confess, Rustic has had my heart by default and with pleasure. To some extent, I feel quite vindicated in how Newel has such an incredibly deep and unrivaled collection of furniture and accessories in this style, anywhere in the world. Of course I can say I helped diversity it in this area, but the real credit for exposing me to the look of this type of item came from the inventory I grew up around at Newel, created by my grandfather, Meyer Newman. Yes, there was plenty of 17th through 20th Century English, French, Italian, and every other Decorative Arts style in the store; that’s why the premier prop house in New York would have Rustic.