As anyone (not making gender assumptions here) who has spent time in a hair salon knows, the chitchat can yield intriguing information to ponder long after the blow dry has flattened. Thus I came away from a recent haircut with the name of a business guru’s TED Talk to view. Over lunch at my desk, I watched Simon Sinek’s presentation (well, I admit, just the streamlined five-minute version, which was plenty to get the point and finish a yogurt) titled “Start with Why.”
His premise is that customers actually care about why a business does what it does (beyond the obvious “to make a living.”) By articulating your company’s why up front, before explaining what you sell or do and how you do it, you will more easily find, inspire or recruit like-minded customers. He thus presents a healthy challenge for business owners like ourselves to articulate the fundamental motivations for the work that we do. So let’s give it a try.
The Short Version
We buy and sell antiques to spice up people’s lives with objects that embody both artistry and human history.
We intentionally use the term “spice up” in order not to exaggerate the importance of antiques in the relative scheme of things (we are not Doctors Without Borders, after all). Yet we do not underestimate the power of living with aesthetically pleasing surroundings to swing our moods and outlooks in a positive direction. Nor do we discount the world-changing capacity of positive people.
The Long Version
We believe that living with antiques enhances everyday lives in three ways:
1) Antiques infuse beauty, character and interest into our homes.
Some argue that humans have an innate attraction to beauty that is deeply rooted in our genetic code (in fact, there’s a TED Talk on that, too: “A Darwinian Theory of Beauty” by Dennis Dutton). Whether our collective eye for good design and artistic expression is mostly innate or culturally conditioned, it is clear that humans crave beauty. We would add that we also crave meaning, which can be derived through the power of objects to evoke personal memories or touch our core identities. For instance, many people who purchase rustic antiques have fond memories of summer camp or a rustic family retreat imprinted in their psyches. Others who love objects with nature or animal themes feel a deep connection to, or simply enjoy, the outdoors. So antiques in our homes can express our character while providing reminders of what makes life good.
2) Assembling non-mass produced objects that have a patina of past love and use is a component of creative living.
This is about being an active pursuer and arranger of antiques. Acquiring and decorating with antiques is a creative process that allows you to write the next chapter in the lives of aged objects by placing them in a new context of design. Reimagining and recombining antiques to explore your tastes and sensibilities is a form of self-expression. Thus, collecting and displaying antiques are thoughtful projects that we hereby dub “slow consumerism.” Searching and waiting for an object with an old soul that speaks to us serves as an antidote to our Amazon Primed fast consumerism which fulfills our quotidian needs or wants with expediency, leaving more time for nurturing the creative sparks within us.
3) Objects with a history provide a portal to understanding human values and ingenuity through the course of time.
Antiques do not just please our eyes – they can also stimulate our minds. As the material culture of our predecessors, antiques reveal something about the societal context that inspired their creation. The potential for antiques to motivate journeys into history is exemplified in a fascinating, classic account of the past lives of three pieces of American furniture as they pass from the hands of their makers through several centuries of owners (Objects of Desire: The Lives of Antiques and Those Who Pursue Them by Thatcher Freund, 1995). While we can find commonality with the societal genesis of objects from prior eras, we can also experience amazement at how past lifestyles and motivations differ from those in our contemporary times. Exploring the cultural heritage of antiques through our Journal articles never fails to fascinate us, and we know that many of our customers also passionately investigate the broader contexts that gave rise to the antiques they collect.
Finally, there are a few whys that are more personal. We’re in this business in part for the surprise and delight of finding old things that have aesthetic and historical characteristics which give them a certain magnetism. Also, we love that pursuing antiques is a form of recycling that reduces the need to manufacture new “stuff.”
We leave the penultimate word on the whys underpinning our business to a quote about things with history (i.e., antiques) from Freund’s book:
Things possess the possibility of immortality. They are pieces of human industry frozen in time…They connect their makers to anyone who ever owns them…Even those things people don’t inherit (from their own ancestors)…can affect their owners through their histories.
Antiques can be soulful elements that grace our lives with the spirit of the past. That is our fundamental why.