Birmingham Antique Show


Iris Thorpe, Niermann Week’s stocking dealer in Birmingham, Alabama, recently invited me to visit.  Her business Iris & Co. took space in the antique show, Antiques at the Gardens, which supports the enchanting Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Iris (standing on the right) and her associate Leigh Ann Moore displayed their varied wares – Niermann Weeks, antiques, modern goods for the interior, collectibles, and party munchies.  At the show, only her booth offered such a wide range of goods.



I also got to enjoy presentations throughout the day from Margot Shaw, the owner/publisher/editor-in-chief of flower magazine.  Starting with empty vessels, she showed about 25 people in each tour how to use common cuttings from a home garden to make seasonal arrangements.  Here she started with magnolia branches.  Happily for me, in Iris’ booth Margot always stood under my Capucine Chandelier, giving it visibility that turned into quotes and even some orders.  How cool is that?



For fans of okra – like me – a florist showed this exuberant autumn centerpiece. Although I photographed it on the floor, it soon rose to become Iris’ centerpiece.


My hosts then kindly made sure I could sneak into the sold-out lecture by famed architect Bobby McAlpine, in which he discussed his newest book The Home Within Us.  On my way to the auditorium I passed this centerpiece which used tall, mid-century pots on loan from Iris, and on sale after the show.


In his lecture Bobby’s project photos show how over time he had augmented and changed the personal space of several clients and even inside his own home.  His approach to home exteriors and interiors has always fascinated me in its respect for both the standards of the past and the needs of the present.  I am always thrilled when his firm places new orders with Niermann Weeks, as it’s a major honor to be included in his body of work.  And now I know something else about Bobby’s unique appeal; he has a magical way of speaking – low, slow, intense, quiet, and utterly mesmerizing.  If you ever get a chance, do go hear him. In the meantime, to enjoy his work right now, you can order his books and also Google images.


During his lecture, I sat next to an old friend, Katherine Pearson.  When she edited Southern Accents, Katherine gave Niermann Weeks some of its first national publicity, for which I have always been grateful.  Her career path has morphed so that now she and her sister Jean Galyon own and operate their own company, Time Frame, which Niermann Weeks represents in our DC showroom.  Katherine and Jean comb the world to find fascinating oddities that they bring home to clean up and frame.  In Iris’ booth, we had a bidding war on sets of sketches of dancers in motion.  A favorite of mine is this framed epaulette worn by an 18th century military officer.  Katherine and Jean present their finds in really handsome frames, and they also attach a small card explaining the history and original use of the object.  The card for this epaulette taught me that all the gold thread in this fancy shoulder strap indicated an officer of exalted rank.


Throughout the day, we all hopped around the booth, quoting and selling, making our hearts happy.


Just when our bodies were about to drop with fatigue, Karen Carroll dropped in, always a welcome visitor.  Karen had also editedSouthern Accents and is now a roving editor for flower. Iris’ cold had almost felled her by that time, but Leigh Ann somehow maintained her sunny face.  Karen introduced us to Clinton Smith, the incoming editor of Veranda, whom I harangued to return the magazine to its southern roots. I hope he didn’t take offense at my point of view, but the Southern lifestyle reflects a studied graciousness and a closeness to the earth that is often mis-represented by slick eastern editorial types.


At night Margot and her husband Gates let me stay in their guest house, whose unusual trim mimicked the chartreuse blouse I wore to the big evening gala.


On day two of my visit, I enjoyed this display from the botanical garden’s own store.


Iris and Margot began their day with yet more floral tours. Iris’ chain link belt provided a fascinating attraction that many women wanted to handle.


At five o’clock that evening, all selling stopped so customers and workers could go home to freshen up for the gala under that stars.  While we were away for a few hours, our venue transformed with draperies, floral garlands in harvest tones, and greeters in exquisite gowns.


Here’s Katherine Pearson all dolled up in a black dress and aqua necklace for the evening.


The outdoor patio twinkled with lights, beautifully dressed guests, and yummy canapés, if canapés can twinkle.


About 10:30 my hosts and I retreated to our own comfortable slippers and beds, pleased that we had met so many nice people, sold so many of our goods, all the while helping to raise funds for Birmingham’s botanical gardens.  These lush gardens are open free all year long, and throughout the school year garden docents help about 10,000 children appreciate the glories of nature.  TheBirmingham Botanical Gardens are worth all the effort to keep them flourishing.

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