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Founded over a decade ago, the Palm Beach Antique and Design Center consists of a curated collection of 25 antiques dealers from around the world. With a special emphasis on mid-century modern pieces from the likes of Karl Springer, Gio Ponti, Barovier, and more, this South Florida mainstay has become a mecca for the design community and antiques lovers alike.

We spoke with co-owner Simonette Hakim about how she came to co-found the business and how the vintage and antiques world has evolved over the last few years. See what she had to say about her mid-century favorites, how online sourcing has changed the face of design, and how even “vintage curmudgeons” will be shopping in the future.

Courtesy of the Palm Beach Antique and Design Center

You’ve been involved in the design and antiques & vintage world for decades —  how did you get started? 

I caught the bug from my mother, who collected throughout her life and went with my parents to antique fairs, markets, and estate sales since childhood. I began selling at age 16 and went on to get a masters degree from the Cooper-Hewitt program in New York, in the history of the decorative arts.

Prior to living in Florida, you had a shop in Greenwich Village called Room Service. What was that experience like? 

Room Service was a tiny little shop in the Village, and there I made lifelong friends and clients alike. The stories generated from that shop live on today. It was a gathering place in a niche neighborhood in the late 1990s.

Palm Beach Antique & Design Center has been open since 2009; how did it come to be? 

Together with my friend John Salibello from New York we launched this joint project in South Florida, which is now the state I call home since 2005. It has become a destination for designers from across the globe. 

Courtesy of the Palm Beach Antique and Design Center

How has the pandemic affected your business and how have you had to pivot? 

The pandemic has affected us like most brick and mortar shops, but our online sales escalated during the shut down. We are fortunate that our true blue clients continue to shop here (physically) as we expand our clientele online with Chairish.

With more customers moving to digital/online, how has the current retail environment changed the design business? 

In my opinion, shoppers who prefer the old fashion tried-and-true shopping experience have found themselves testing the waters of online shopping. With the assurance of a solid company to protect them against disappointing purchases, the risk is low and I think it has expanded many to the decor world online.

How will the industry be different as a result of the pandemic? 

I can only predict that vintage curmudgeons like myself will be shopping online more.

Courtesy of the Palm Beach Antique and Design Center

What pieces are you currently on the hunt for?  

I love most things artist-made… pietra dura pictures by Richard Blow and mid-century sculpture that’s organic in style and made of bronze. 

What are some of the trends you’ve been seeing so far in 2020? 

What have people been most interested in and what are they buying? I see the continued interest in mid-century modern profiles in furniture and in lighting. We have exceptional lighting from Murano as well.

What are your top 3 favorite pieces currently for sale in your Chairish shop?

In my top three ….. I love the vintage Murano glass pendant lights by Barovier. The body is a transparent glass sphere with the texture of ice, and the metal  detail is a fanciful band of brass that almost looks like a garter. I have absolutely no place in my home for this but want to build an addition just to accommodate it! 

My second-favorite object in the shop is an Austrian Biedermeier center table with a carved base. The three carved creatures are a mystical mutation of dolphin and snake. It is an unusual example in excellent condition.

Third favorite is a large dimensional wall plaque handmade by Robert Salleroli, who was a table designer from the 1970s. The piece is made of individual wood dowels meticulously arranged to emulate a cityscape.

Courtesy of the Palm Beach Antique and Design Center

How would you describe your personal aesthetic? Is your home filled with unique vintage pieces? 

My home is a living, breathing mid-century compound designed by Florida architect Dan Duckham. The design lends itself to little in terms of collections but I have a curated collection of mid-century furniture and sculpture by Cranbrook artists. The courtyard is adorned with vintage Salterini patio furniture that looks like it was made for the house. 

Any advice for people who are unsure about starting a collection or of introducing vintage into their homes? 

I always encourage young people to buy quality things that they truly love, even if it means stretching or saving for it. The rest falls into place.

What are you looking forward to next for the design industry? 

Of course I look forward to the good old days of going to antique shows and being able to inspect goodies in person. As a social person, I also look forward to circulating with dealers again as it was in the past. We are a quirky breed of antique dealers… but interesting and passionate.

Lead image courtesy of the Palm Beach Antique and Design Center

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August 16, 2020

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