Antique Story – Inessa Stewart

Inessa and John Stewart are a significant presence in the European antiques community, housing their extensive inventory in three showrooms in Texas and Louisiana. I first connected with their company, Inessa Stewart, earlier this summer after buying one of their fabulous French breadboards. I had a chance to talk with Inessa a few weeks back as she drove between showrooms and prepared for a Fall European buying trip. Click below for my interview with Inessa (incorporating antiques into every day style) and pictures of a few of my picks from their vast collection. Photo – Inessa Stewart, Ponte Vecchio, Images Inessa Stewart

How Did You Get Started with Antiques?

I grew up in Europe where antiques and design were a part of my life since childhood.  After living in America for a while I found it difficult to find the types of European antiques I wanted for my own home.  Eventually I started my own antique gallery and my business grew to what it is today.  Inessa Stewart’s Antiques & Interiors has now been in business for 21 years with over 55,000 square feet in three retail showrooms in two states.

How Do You Source Antiques?

Because I’m from Europe, it’s easy for me to make long-term relationships and wonderful ties with sources all over the European continent.  We make buying trips every few months, acquiring anywhere from 3 to 5 containers of merchandise.  Each container can furnish three average homes.  (Design Marchand – that sounds pretty amazing!)  It is a wonderful job although the travelling aspects, snowstorms, driver strikes, floods, etc. can make it challenging as well.

Have you seen trends evolve in what consumers want to buy?

First and foremost I am an antique collector.  The quality, beauty and design of antiques are always the focus. Some of the larger furniture suppliers have done a decent job with reproductions, but we cannot duplicate with technology and factories what was built by hand.  In addition, if something is made well, it will age beautifully.  I diversify my buying to include antiques from formal to rustic Country French, and try to stay with classic designs that never go out of style.  I also find that it’s quite common for customers to incorporate a lot of different styles in their homes. (Design Marchand – Yes, buying what you love from multiple design genres.)

How has your business evolved with the Internet?

We update our web site daily and photograph finds from our buying trips while they are still in Europe.  Our site contains detailed images, dimensions and prices, which makes it so much easier for designers and consumers to visualize our full inventory and make selections with confidence.

How do you Support the Use of Antiques for the Modern Lifestyle?

Part of our job is helping people consider antiques for their interiors, making them more accessible. There is a misconception that antiques are too expensive or too fragile.  There is also a misconception that antiques are limited in style.  Some of the larger new furniture companies like Restoration Hardware have done a good job with exposure to antique styles, but many consumers don’t realize that they can buy actual antiques at prices similar to reproductions.  We feel that you should be using your antiques. They’re to be lived with and used.  Sometimes minimal restoration and modern adaption is needed, which we do in-house.

Antique round breadboard, circa 1880’s.

Antique country French confit pot, Circa 1880’s.

Antique brass coffee mill, Circa 1880’s.

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