On Monday I took some time out to visit Toronto’s 507 Antiques where CBC TV had assembled three of the four stars of Four Rooms for a little press junket. The show is a hybrid of Dragon’s Den and Antiques Roadshow in which hopeful sellers meet privately with four dealers seeking offers for their items. The catch is that they must take what they think is the best offer on the spot, once they leave a dealer’s room and move on to the next buyer, there’s no turning back, the previous offer is dead.
Having never seen the show, I agreed to the interviews because I figured that if antiques were the focus then it was a good fit for styleNorth. However, having now seen Four Rooms, I see that antiques play a very small role in the overall scheme of things. The producers seem to be picking sellers with interesting historical memorabilia and grossly over-inflated expectations, like the Alberta excavator who wanted $6 million for his unauthenticated copy of the American Declaration of Independence, found in an old grain elevator.
But if Four Rooms isn’t really about antiques and décor, the dealers doing the buying know plenty about the racket in which they trade. And that’s what yours truly and a handful of other online and print writers wanted to know about when we faced off with the stars amid the glittering, woody aisles of 507.
At age 26, 507 proprietor Derrek Martin, left, is the youngest of the bunch. He was literally born into the business, a third generation dealer and the son of Kent Martin, a man his dashing kid describes as a furniture picking “addict.”
We talk briefly about the fall of antiques and the rise of mid-century modern but Derreck insists that the style pendulum is once again swinging.
“Everybody is talking about mid-century modern now,” he acknowledges, “but if you find a great piece I think it can fit into any décor. There’s a move towards more eclectic interiors now.”
“Rooms that are ALL antiques, that’s never coming back,” he concedes.
Eddy Rogo, below, the Montreal-based co-owner of Empire Auctions, styles himself the bad cop of Four Rooms, the reality checker who is happy to stomp on a seller’s great expectations. In the episode I screened (airing this Sunday when the show returns to CBC following an Olympic hiatus) Eddy entices a seller saying “come to my room, I promise you you will leave a different man.” Indeed, when the seller appears Eddy informs him that his item is worthless.
Rogo says his buying strategy is obvious: “There’s a customer for everything but I don’t want to have to wait for that one customer. We look for items that appeal to more than one customer.”
Based in Vancouver, Scott Landon is a former RCMP officer who opened an eponymous antiques store on Granville Street and never looked back.
“Restoration Hardware has helped our business by going for an antique look but once a piece leaves their store there’s no value, you can’t resell it and get your money back. But an old piece, if it was well crafted, will hold its value and increase in value.”
Each of the dealers confirmed that “the internet has changed everything!” Landon is now selling his Canadiana right across the continent and as a 1stdibs.com dealer, Martin ships his finery around the globe; Rogo says Asia accounts of a “huge” piece of Empire’s business and notes that online bidders now drive most auction floor bidding.
Four Rooms is slick but also folksy owing to the rag tag mix of sellers and the home-spun approaches of most of the dealers. Tune in and give it a look: CBC TV Sundays at 8 pm.