BEIRUT: Tucked away on a side street of Clemenceau, Otium at Villa Salem was recently reimagined as an airy, 19th-century country estate with antiques furnished by At Auction’s latest offering.
The collection features a wide range of northern European antiques from the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
“They all belonged to a single client, a young man who has decided to refurnish his apartment in a new style,” said Nada Boulos al-Assaad, the art dealer behind the auction group.
Assaad said that most of her sales were of artwork but that occasionally she would also auction off furniture and design pieces, such as when one of her customers asked for help liquidating their flat’s furnishings to make room for a new look. These sales offer Lebanese a unique opportunity to bid on unique collections of imported antiques that are often difficult to find in such good condition in the country.
“All the treatments are original, the owner hadn’t touched anything,” Assaad said of the furniture and design pieces on offer.
Because they all came from one house, the pieces on display at Otium reflect a cohesive style, with delicately carved 19th-century chairs and settees covered in simple white muslin dotted around commanding rustic tables, buffets and writing desks.
“You can tell he was very consistent in his taste,” Assaad said.
Assaad added that she had tried to arrange the pieces as if she were furnishing a room, to allow the furniture to be seen in a context. With portraits hung above sofas and classic chinois vases arranged on sturdy buffets under patinated mirrors, the large open space harkened back to the understated French country look popular when Louis XVI reigned.
The classic European collection even included architectural details, with light brass chandeliers and wooden sconces up for sale. Particularly unique were a pair of oversized Italian lanterns carved from wood and complete with a wooden tassel dangling from the base.
Perhaps the most striking pieces in the collection are those that highlight the masculine side of their former owner. One of the stand-out items up for auction was a unique 20th century chair made entirely of antlers, with the seat and back upholstered in deer hide. Valued at $30,000 to $50,000, it was also the most expensive piece on offer.
Some other interesting (albeit smaller) pieces included a collection of 19th-century wooden ducks used to train hunting dogs to retrieve their master’s catch, and a set of orange-tinted apothecary jars with their original labels intact from the early 20th century.
With just under a hundred showing up for the bidding, by the end of the night Tuesday, Assaad was pleased with the results.
“Everything never sells but we sold about 50 percent of the lots, and they were the most expensive ones with the bids being on the higher end of the estimates for all lots.”
While sadly the antler chair didn’t sell, the large wooden lanterns were one of the best performing items of the night, fetching $12,000, while a large 18th century table got the highest bid at $13,000.
When it comes to these furniture and design auctions, Assaad explained, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.
“Because we usually specialize in art and we don’t do this often, it’s always a surprise. We have no idea how many people will show up, it could be two or it could be 20.”