Michiel Wildschut and Baukje Stamm are Wildschut Antiques, an antique-designers duo based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Together they create a perfect blend of combining antiques and trending designs.
How did you start with dealing vintage and antiques?
Michiel Wildschut: ‘My parents have always had a lot of antique furniture in our family home and to be honest, I didn’t really like it that much as a child. The antique table was wobbly and there were many chairs you were not allowed to sit on. However, it did shape my sense of aesthetics and the kind of furniture and atmospheres I liked. When I was younger, my family spent summers around Anduze in France. I have great memories of the freedom I experienced there. It shaped my feeling of how life should be. When I was around 8 years old, I watched a movie with French actor Louis de Funès and he drove a Citroën Mehari. Since then I have always wanted a car like that. Now I own a Citroën Mehari – my childhood dream has come true.”
When I grew up, it turned out I am dyslexic and thus unfortunately not very good at studying. However, I am very handy. I started to help out a friend who was an antiques dealer back in the day, and he learned me the trade. I also worked for the auction house Christie’s for quite a while. After that, I decided to open up my own store in the city-centre of Amsterdam. This year, the store exists for 20 years. Who would have believed that, when I started!’
Baukje Stamm: ‘From an early age I have always had an interest in so-called ‘old stuff’. I loved history and wanted to become an archaeologist. I also loved to go up to the attic at my parent’s place to find ‘treasures’. I am good in treasure hunting. I always find and see things that other people don’t.
During my studies, I worked at auction house Sotheby’s. Here I learned a lot about all kinds of antiques and jewellery. I found out that many ‘old’ things are much ‘better’ made and have much more character than many new, mass-produced things. I love the feel of pure materials and eclectic interiors where antiques and modern pieces come together to reflect people’s personalities and their own taste. I work as a designer and stylist as well, and I really started dealing in antiques when I met Michiel. We met because I came to live across the antiques store and we happened to have lots of the same interests. Michiel urged me to follow my (interior) dreams and taught me the tricks of the trade.’
Both our specialties are blending well together: Michiel has a lot of know-how about trading, technical aspects such as maintenance and the history behind the pieces. Baukje is more into styling and design. She is a true trendspotter and knows how make antiques more sexy for the younger generation. We do this by selling and sharing our products online but also integrating more vintage or modern pieces to our collection. A good example of us complementing each other are the tall steel cabinets that we’ve designed together. The cabinets are handmade from modern steel and as doors we used antique French wooden panels.
Any great tales behind the pieces you collect?
We only buy according to our own taste, this is very important to us. We look for items that spark our imagination such as for instance faded grandeur, great atmosphere, combined with more practical items, like armoires or cabinets, mirrors and chandeliers. These are items you can use on a daily basis. Looking back on Michiel’s childhood, we want antiques to be used so an antique bed is for sleeping and antique chairs are for sitting and lounging. Everything is not only allowed, but supposed to be used.
We buy many items on dealer markets in France. With these pieces, we often don’t know exactly where they come from. We love trunks and suitcases with the original labels, because these items show you their origins. Sometimes we also find address labels on the back of armoires, although we have to admit that this unfortunately does not happen often.
We are particularly proud of our collection of vintage Venetian chandeliers and you can say that a venetian chandelier even brought us together. Baukje saw these chandeliers for the first time in Venice, Italy when she was quite young. She has loved them ever since, and dreamt of owning her own chandelier. Years later, when she met Michiel, a small pink Venetian chandelier was one of the first things she bought from his store. However, this chandelier was nothing like the chandeliers that we have in the shop right now! For a couple of years, we were looking for these amazing antique pieces, but we just could not find them. We found new ones, but the colours were too shiny, the glass too bright and the shapes were just not right. We met someone in Florence, who knew a house where six of these amazing chandeliers hung – for sale! We were able to make the deal and brought the chandeliers back to Amsterdam. We simply love them! They are not antiques, but vintage chandeliers, probably from the 1940s and 1950s.
We love their over-the-top-boldness in colours and all the small details. Finding these pieces was a real adrenaline rush for us.
Number one thing to look out for when sourcing vintage furniture?
We always check the technical state of the item because restoration takes a lot of time. The item should be able to be restored, so the project needs to be worth it. Also, we meticulously check (check, check and double-check) if an object is complete. It has happened that we bought an armoire without a back panel without realising. It is difficult to return the item to the original seller when you are back in Amsterdam. This is something we have learned out of experience to carefully pay attention to. Don’t look at what you want to see – because we all fall in head over heels in love with certain pieces during buying trips – but really look at the object from a practical point of view. It’s a hard question, but you have to ask yourself: will it really live up to your expectations?
And finally, what are you looking forward to in 2021?
We are looking forward to grow our online presence by creating more online content and sharing more of our interior design photography. We believe that we have our own aesthetic and we would like to give more people the chance to step into our world. We have many nice stories to share and we only just tapped into that. We were always a bit shy and hesitant to present ourselves online, but we are experiencing lovely reactions. We have the feeling that interest in antiques and the restoration of items is returning. People are much more aware of the negative effects of mass produced items and love unique things to express their own personality.
The designs which inspire you the most are…?
Designs that spark our imagination are items with a certain atmosphere, like the Venetian chandeliers or French antique mirrors. They have this special air of a faded era that we like a lot. We do not buy items because they might be in fashion at the moment and thus will sell well. We do not buy according to a specific decade or century either. We need to feel a certain emotion when encountering an item or object; mostly this has something to do with how the item is made, which materials are used and the specific color combinations. The real patina for us is mostly the thing that ignites our enthusiasm!
Favourite piece you’ve ever sourced?
All of our vintage Venetian chandelier master pieces!
Do you have any advice for maintaining the items that you sell, or maintaining vintage and antiques in general?
‘Everything that you maintain well, keeps well’ is our main idea. Be practical about the upkeep and restoration of an item and use a bit of common sense. It is obvious that it is not a good idea to put an antique cabinet in bright sunlight or hang a painting at a bright spot in your home. Place your treasured antiques in a spot in your home with lots of shade, or avoid direct sunlight at the least. For woodwork it is useful to use some antique wax from time to time, this nurtures the wood. Mirror glass you can clean with the most soft steel wool – yes, really! But do not use it on the frames – for obvious reasons. And don’t use soap with chemicals. For example, we only use real olive soap when we clean our objects with water and soap. Last, central heating can give problems when humidity is affecting the air of your space. You can solve this by placing a bowl of water under the wooden cabinet or armoire.
What part of being a furniture dealer do you most enjoy?
We love the diversity that comes from being an antiques dealer; from going on buying trips, to doing restorations, visiting people’s’ homes and giving them interior advice, and arranging transport and talking to clients in the store. We most enjoy the freedom that our job gives us to do what we love and to maintain beautiful items from the past.