Toma Clark Haines, who counts champagne and vintage Chanel among her favorite things, founded an international business that connects people who have a passion for antiques. Her extensive network, insider knowledge and inimitable style has earned her global recognition as The Antiques Diva. In January, she and her team were named Exclusive Guide to the Paris Flea Market Paul Bert Serpette in addition to being the largest antique touring company in Europe.
For the first time ever, she will bring her international flair from her headquarters in Berlin to Round Top. Haines will take up temporary residence at the Arbor International Antiques & Design Show where she will host several of her acclaimed Champagne Tours on Sept. 23–25.
In anticipation of her upcoming Texas visit, she and I navigated the six hour time difference. Our Skype date failed, and I was glad. My pre-call workout ran long, so I was wearing my favorite baseball cap and Converse sneakers, a far cry from a champagne and Chanel first impression.
My trepidation was unfounded. With Haines, “diva” is a brand not a descriptor. Haines is warm, witty, welcoming and eager to share her wealth of knowledge.
RTR: As a first-timer to the Round Top Antiques Show, what are your expectations?
AD: I’m expecting to be blown away. I know so many vendors who exhibit and so many shoppers who shop. They all say, “You’ve never been to Round Top? You have to go. It’s indescribable.” So I’m expecting to be nothing less than utterly and completely gobsmacked.
RTR: How did you discover Round Top?
AD: I’ve never lived in a world without Round Top. When my friends and I were at university, we always talked about coming but never made it happen. The people I knew in the northeast always mentioned Brimfield and Round Top in the same breath. You all get a lot of good press.
RTR: What can guests expect on one of your Champagne Tours?
AD: I’ll come in early, meet the vendors and scope out my favorite finds. At the beginning of the tour, I’ll talk. We’ll discuss buying antiques, price points and trends in Europe that will affect style in America, but I’ll also survey the participants to find out their particular interests. Then we’ll tailor the tour to the group.
As far as I’m concerned, one of the most important aspects of the tour is connecting shoppers to vendors who share their style. In the antiques world, your relationship with your vendor is one of your most valuable assets. Once you establish a rapport with a vendor, he or she will begin to shop with your needs in mind.
By the way, I’m an open book. I’ll answer just about any question that someone cares to ask.
RTR: How do people sign up?
AD: Go to the Arbor website arborantiques.com to RSVP. (The tour schedule will be available here as well when it’s finalized.) While an RSVP is not absolutely necessary—we will not turn anyone away—it helps us ensure there is plenty of champagne.
RTR: Where did you get your love of antiques?
AD: Growing up in western Oklahoma, antiques touched my life in two different ways. First, my family didn’t have a lot of money, but my mother had amazing taste. She would go to a flea market or garage sale and pick up something for $2 that everyone else would overlook. Then she’d take it home and use it to completely transform an entire room. I grew up with her magic. Exploring flea markets and garage sales were our treasure hunts.
Second, the nicest thing we had was my grandparents’ sterling silver that they brought when they moved from England. My mother used the silver at every meal. She joked that it kept her from having to polish it, but it lent a sense of formality to my informal upbringing and tied me directly to our family’s history. The silver was a tangible connection between the past and present that held the story of my family—and my mother used it to create an oasis of beauty every day.
RTR: What role do antiques play in a home?
AD: Antiques add a story—especially in America where many homes are newer construction. Antiques are a piece of history that adds depth and allows us to explore the world beyond which we live.
RTR: What prompted you to found The Antiques Diva & Co.?
AD: When I first got married, I was working in advertising and antiquing on the side. Then my husband got transferred to Paris. Before we left, I said, “I’m going to shop the Paris Flea Market.” I wasn’t kidding.
It dawned on me that if I moved everything we owned there wouldn’t be room in our tiny Parisian apartment for anything new. When the shipping containers arrived at our house, I culled 50 percent of our furnishings without telling my husband. You can imagine his surprise when the containers arrived in Paris missing half of our stuff.
It was a strategic decision on my part that changed my life.
RTR: How so?
AD: I started shopping that first weekend and am still shopping 17 years later. I began blogging about my finds and my sources. Soon people began asking me to take them on tours. I declined but told them where to go and what to do. Then I realized I was being an “idiot;” I was turning down opportunities to be paid for doing something I loved and I was already doing for free for friends!
I founded The Antiques Diva & Co. in 2008. Today it is Europe’s largest antiques touring company. I have 21 guides working in eight countries: France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.
by Lorie Woodward Cantu
photos courtesy of The Antiques Diva Toma Clark Haines