Antiques lovers Rudi Nijssen and Dominique Sente are the founders of High Point-based Schwung Home. Known for their passion for collecting and curating incredible finds, the husband-and-wife duo are a treasure trove for finding everything from antique European furniture to one-of-a-kind modernist moments. We spoke with them about the inspirations behind Schwung Home, how they’ve handled all the changes of the last year, and where they’d like to take the brand next (California, we’re looking at you).
How did you decide to start Schwung Home? What drew you to the industry, and what are your favorite things about it?
Dominique Sente: Our passion for objects, the excitement to learn about their history, the thrill for finding treasures and to see the pieces pass on; it’s an amazing cycle to be part of!
You can be an antique collector for your own enjoyment, but if this is where your heart is, you want to live and breathe it every day and share it… so turning it into a business and making it our life was obvious. Working with like-minded people and getting to see how they use our finds creatively in their projects feels like a reward.
Rudi Nijssen: We just love antiques. What draws us to the industry is the creative people and getting to see the pieces in a completely new environment, shining again.
How would you describe the kinds of antiques and vintage pieces you specialize in? What draws you to particular types of objects?
Dominique: We are true believers in the “mix and match” style… that every person can develop a sensitivity through their own personality.
We are not attached to one style in particular, but to the quality of materials, the crafts, and the vision of artisans during different eras. In pottery, for example, we love if it’s well made, well glazed… quality will never go out of style!
Rudi: The draw is often something you cannot describe. A pureness or a detail like an incredible patina. It’s emotional and difficult to describe.
Chairish shoppers know you best for your vintage selections, but you also create your own line of newly made pieces. How did that come about?
Dominique: It came about being in contact with so many antique pieces, and feeling the desire to create our own pieces and to experience the creative process. We also wanted to create new objects that fit with the antiques. Again, crossing styles and periods, mid-century to contemporary, and crossing the periods we see when we go antique shopping. We love using materials like brass and glass that are sculptural and fit any interior.
Rudi: For me it’s the drive to create something. The creation.
Your main presence is at High Point, but you’ve also opened a second year-round location in Round Top. Tell us a bit about that.
Rudi: The idea was to have more presence in the region, as we are mostly based on the East Coast. Also, due to the pandemic, people are less willing to travel, so this was a logical solution and a way to meet new customers.
2020 saw the cancellation or reduction of every antique & design event, including all the spring shows and major changes to fall events. How did you contend with that and pivot your business?
Rudi: We didn’t really pivot, but we did contend with it by discovering the possibilities online.
Do you think the antique & vintage industry will be permanently changed by the events of the last year? How do you think things might evolve?
Dominique: During the pandemic, we can see more than ever that our homes are like fortresses for our families. A house becomes a safe haven, and when you spend more attention to the home, you invest in comfort. We all want to create a nesting feeling for our interiors. Not necessarily as a showcase for the outside world, but as something reflecting our personal characters.
There is also a new consciousness of the environment now. There’s more and more of an awareness around “the cycle” of production. Buying better and the “reuse” aspect of antiques is more fashionable than ever.
Rudi: I think this industry is generally a “feel and experience” business. The whole world is going to be more digital, but the products in our industry are still valued by “touch and feel.” Showcasing the products is the big challenge. That emotional patina can be hard to generate digitally.
Sotheby’s and Christies have both cancelled in-person events, but online auctions are a massive boost to them, and they foresee that this trend will continue.
Have you seen an uptick in your digital business and your Chairish presence? How does that fit into your overall business plan going forward?
Dominique: The platforms are amazing because it gives the opportunity to really search for the pearl — the piece that will really make an interior look different. Everyone is confined at home and they have tremendous access through online platforms. These platforms are a huge treasure box; it’s amazing.
It also increases our presence and opens doors for us. The access to professionals and non-professionals alike gives us more speed and visibility.
Rudi: Digital presences grew across the board for all the industries, and that’s true for us as well. We will definitely continue doing it. The big challenge is making sure the digital experience is as realistic as possible. For example, there’s something different about going into a barn in minus -20 C in Sweden versus sitting in front of my fireplace with a digital device and a cat snoring. Most people might not have the reference for the real experience — knowing the cold in your bones.
Where would you like to take Schwung Home next? Any new in-person locations or categories you’d like to expand into?
Dominique: It’s our dream to be on the West Coast. In terms of categories… our mindset is to be in all categories. We focus on quality. Our style ranges from primitive to baroque; we have a wide range of styles. We’re always looking for more quality, and not to leave anything out. We will probably try discovering more “local” craftspeople to collaborate with for art pieces as well.
Rudi: I’m always interested in scale, in an industry which is at the core un-scaleable… In our hunt for objects and treasures in the world, our selections don’t necessarily have to be antiques; we’re curators.
Any predictions for the design trends we’ll be seeing over the rest of 2021, particularly when it comes to antiques?
Dominique: Buying consciously is definitely the trend for 2021. People will buy what they like and what they feel good about. Buy less but buy better, and buy pieces that you really fall in love with.
Rudi: We believe in timelessness. Environmentally friendly shopping will continue to be a trend, and buying responsibly is especially relevant to antiques.
All photos courtesy of Schwung Home