Lauren Bugg, proprietor of GasLamp Antiques & Decorating Mall, grasps the heavy pull of the early country French dresser and opens the drawer. Stories spill out --- possible scenarios of all the meaningful moments people have kept encased in the expertly crafted piece of oak furniture for the past two hundred years. Perhaps that very drawer once held a newspaper clipping of the death of Napoleon when the dresser stilled smelled of shellac. Or, a mere quarter century later, love letters were tucked inside, sent from a French soldier stationed in the Crimea to keep the Russians at bay. (Some things never change.) Or, a century after that, had kept hidden its owner’s secret bikini after the dresser had somehow made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to store the stuff of an American. If the dresser’s drawers could speak, they would resolve the issue. But, of course, they cannot. Therefore, a bit like Schrödinger's cat, the possible scenarios remain both true and untrue, thought experiments made tangible by the antique itself.
Lauren has no shortage of antiques and collectibles with which to inspire the imagination and transform homes into settings for stories. Her GasLamp Antiques & Decorating Mall and her neighboring store, GasLamps Too -- double entendre intended -- together offer 50,000 square feet of floor space with over 300 discrete booths featuring the collections of 246 vendors. Even so, there’s still a months long backlog of other vendors trying to get in. No wonder. Along with parades of patrons, professional set designers frequent Lauren’s stores to find the perfect pieces for the décor genres they seek: Art Deco, Hollywood Regency, Mid-century Modern, Primitive, it’s all there and much more.
“My background as a generalist,” Lauren points out, “has prepared me for this. I’ve been in real estate and insurance. I’ve been in picture framing. I have taught art. I’ve pretty much done it all.”
Not to mention that it also runs in the family. A black and white photograph hangs on the wall in Lauren’s office at GasLamps, an image of her grandfather leaning against a hitching post in front of his furniture and home goods store in Arkansas circa 1900. No doubt that the contents of his store would find a happy habitat today on the GasLamp floors! As for Lauren, she was one of the first antique dealers in the store. The original owner asked her to keep the books, and Lauren wound up buying the place in 2006. She proved so adept at it that, by 2012, she had a three year backlog of vendors wanting floor space. To accommodate them and to provide an even greater selection for her patrons, Lauren added GasLamps Too, a second showroom just down the street. Like the original GasLamps, GasLamps Too offers only high quality items with the same stipulation for the vendors: a minimum of 60% of the contents of each booth must be antique or vintage.
“Every dealer has a unique background and unique interests,” Lauren observes. “And I play on that so that each booth is different from the one next to it, offering a different story. I tell the dealers all the time that the story is what is interesting to the customers.”
But Lauren is more than just an antiques and art expert and an adroit business woman; she is also a mentor to her vendors. Such is certainly the case for Jessica Rickman, a woman who entered the business some years ago by finding and fixing discarded furniture and working her way up to fine antiques and vintage collectibles. “I specialize in apparitions,” Jessica says. “An apparition is something remarkable or unexpected. I have three criteria: a piece has to have rarity; it has to have good condition; and it has to have provenance.”
To demonstrate by example, Jessica places her hand on one of the amazing pieces in her collection, a Stephon chest of drawers once owned by Dan Uggla, the major league slugger for the Atlanta Braves. Constructed from cherry in the late 19th century, the chest has what Jessica calls “generational transitioning,” having had its original cherry knobs replaced by ones of glass.
When asked about Lauren, Jessica’s face lights up like one of the many antique chandeliers hanging overhead. “She is an amazing mentor! I’m still learning new things everyday. That’s what’s so exciting about antique collecting. You will never learn it all.”
Professional appraiser, Sam W. Holden of Pickle Road Appraisals, is another big fan of GasLamps. “I have never enjoyed working with a group of people as much as I enjoy working with Lauren and the entire staff at Gaslamp,” Sam says. “They just surpass the standard of excellence!”
For the past five years, Sam has been the official appraiser of GasLamps’ appraisal fairs. Held twice a year, one in fall and one in spring -- the next one is this May 16th -- the appraisal fairs are an excellent way to learn your antiques and vintage collectibles’ values while having lots of fun. Invariably there are surprises. One year an old violin turned out to be a coveted Stradivarius.
“One of the most noteworthy items I came across,” says Sam, “was a dinner ring -- an emerald in platinum with diamonds. It’s value was $150,000.”
You don’t have to have anything of comparable value to attend the appraisal fairs. You need only have an appreciation of antiques and vintage collectibles. Everyone is welcome. To experience this standard of excellence for yourself, visit both the GasLamp locations in the One Hundred Oaks area and say hello to Lauren; she’s a treasure herself! In fact, there’s no better time to introduce yourself than this very month at the Sweet 16 Birthday Party, a not-to-be-missed event on Saturday, March 14th celebrating GasLamp’s sixteen years in business. Along with some tempting treats and excellent entertainment, there will be give-aways and seasonal sales. For more information, check out GasLamp’s Facebook page and make sure to bookmark their webpage as well -- gaslampantiques.com. There you can keep up to date on the best items the malls have to offer along with some spectacular staff favorites.
See you at GasLamp’s Sweet 16 Birthday Party!