Archive for the 'Decorations' Category


How the Artisans of Today Get their Inspiration from California Auctions

Artists, artisans, and creators are on a constant lookout for sources of inspiration. They’re searching for the next big idea that will drive them, as well as the spark that will ignite the flame of their ingenuity and creativity. In this vein, they often discover and channel inspiration from the past, from masters who paved the way in many different mediums. One of the most inspiring periods for many artisans is the 17th century.

Inspirational pieces from this period include everything from paintings and drawings, to sculpture and needlework, to clothing and architecture, to textile design, furniture design, and even book design. There are many examples of all of these items on the Internet and in books, but there are places artists can go where they can see these historic objects up close and in person. These places include art and antiques auctions in California.


MARY DeNEALE MORGAN (Californian 1868-1948) “California Coastal Dunes” Watercolor on board



Inspiration-Gathering at California Auctions: Suggestions

Gathering inspiration is always a personal process, but there are tried-and-true ways to do it that have worked consistently for many artists and artisans. The number one rule that applies to inspiration-gathering, however, is that there are no rules. There is no limit to where an idea may come from because inspiration is everywhere.

The Value of In-Person Viewing

At auction houses, items up for sale may be displayed in a main gallery or showroom up to the point of sale. This gives people a chance to view and inspect them before bidding, but it also affords artisans and creatives a unique opportunity to interact with rare, historic, or valuable pieces from the past in person. Viewing something in real life is far different from looking at a picture of it on the web or in a book, and a whole new cache of ideas may spring from seeing an art piece or historic item in 3D.


Spanish Baroque Style Trestle Table with Iron Stretchers

Spanish Baroque Style Trestle Table with Iron Stretchers

Questions to Ask to Generate New Ideas

With these things in mind, collecting inspiration depends on what intrigues a particular person, not to mention what stands out to them about an object, situation, person, place, or idea. However, some people need a push to get them thinking in a way that generates new concepts. Here are some thoughts that may be helpful when pursuing the muse at auction houses:

What story does the piece depict? Are there multiple possible stories?

Look at the evidence of wear on the item, if any. Note its condition. What does this say about the usefulness of the piece? Try to imagine what kind of people would have used it, and in what ways.

Think about the value of the piece. If it is a painting or art object, why is it valuable? If it is a furniture piece or other “useful” item, why is it so treasured today?

Note the colors in or on the piece. How are they related — are they primary or secondary colors, for instance? Do they evoke nature? Think about why the artist or artisan chose them.

Is there a recurring pattern or motif on the object? What is it?

These questions are relevant when viewing any item or art piece for inspiration, not just 17th century or antique pieces. With the right mindset, inspiration can be drawn from any decade.




Reasons Why Buying Antiques from Estate Liquidators is a Good Investment

Antiques, whether this includes furniture, art, paintings, or objects that once served a practical use but are now decorative, are a good investment. This is true for many reasons. Those who purchase antiques from auctions and estate liquidators will soon find out just how well they spent their money. These reasons have everything to do with history, longevity, quality, style, and stories.

Italian Neoclassical Marquetry Walnut Commode

Italian Neoclassical Marquetry Walnut Commode

The Value of Antiques for Modern Life

They Each Have a Story

Antiques have had a whole life before buyers swoop in to give them new ones. They probably had multiple owners; sat, hung, or were placed in multiple locations, homes, and rooms; and maybe even had multiple purposes beyond their intended uses. An antique chair could have been someone’s favorite reading spot 100 years ago, or where the head of a family sat for dinner every evening, 150 years ago. Sometimes the stories are known, and sometimes they aren’t, but in the latter cases, it’s satisfying to imagine what they are.

They Have History

Besides stories, antiques have a history. They were made in a different time, a different place, and a different era with manners, customs, etiquette, and ideas that are quite possibly long gone. Their history reveals what was important, worth noticing and remembering, to the people who made them and cherished them.

They’re Well-Made

Antiques have lasted throughout the years, sometimes hundreds of years, for a reason. They were probably crafted by hand with care and attention. This craftsmanship is a very good sign that they will last for a few hundred more years.

Granted, antiques require care. However, the fact that an object has stood the test of time in the first place is a good marker of its continued lasting quality. Better yet, even if an antique acquires a few scratches, marks, scuffs, or dings along the way during its long life, most antique enthusiasts will tell you that these are simply marks of character.

They’re Timeless

Some trends never go out of style. There’s a reason antiques look classic in any room and any situation. Their construction, lines, and design are timeless. They defy trends. These are wonderful pieces to add to a home’s décor for this reason. The investment is returned through the years of use the antique will provide, not to mention the enduring beauty it will afford. Some antiques, like wooden furniture, even get better with age as they acquire a patina.

Watson Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Three Piece Epergne

Watson Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Three Piece Epergne

Antiques from Estate Liquidators Have Enduring Value

While purchasing an antique piece is an investment, it is one that usually pays off. Antiques have the advantage of being well-made, which has helped them to last through multiple ownerships and all kinds of different uses. They also have a history as well as stories attached to them, which perhaps makes them more special than the run-of-the-mill items one might find at a big box store or furniture outlet. When one purchases an antique, they are truly buying quality as well as a piece of that history for themselves.



5 Unique Items That Only Could Have Been Sold at Auction

Auctions regularly sell items that are unique, mysterious, intriguing, or just plain weird. The selling platform is perfect for these kinds of objects, as usually they were once part of someone’s collection or an eccentric’s estate. There is no other place in the world where items of both enduring value and unique provenance are bought and sold. Some examples of one-of-a-kind items sold at auction illustrate exactly why art auctioneers are the perfect place to find a gem with a story behind it.

Thirty Nine Bushnell Foto Co. Glass Negative Plates From The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Thirty Nine Bushnell Foto Co. Glass Negative Plates From The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

One-of-a-Kind Items Sold by Art Auctioneers

Winston Churchill’s Set of False Teeth

He was the British prime minister during World War II, and Winston Churchill remains revered for his leadership during that time. He is perhaps the most famous prime minister ever to hold office in Britain, as he led his country to contribute to an Allied victory. Unsurprisingly, his dentures went for a steep price tag when they were sold at auction in 2010. According to the Daily Mail, the set of upper false teeth sold for 15,200 pounds.

The Violin That Serenaded the Sinking Titanic

A famous piece of the legend of the sinking Titanic involves a violinist leading his fellow band members in a rendition of “Nearer My God to Thee” in order to calm the panicked passengers. That man’s name was Wallace Hartley, who eventually died when the ship sank. His violin went up for auction in 2013. According to BBC News, it sold in just 10 minutes for a grand total of 900,000 pounds.

A Stuffed Ostrich from 1785

Representative of the opulence of the famous courts of the 18th century, a giant taxidermy ostrich from Italy’s “Little Versailles,” circa 1785, sold at a Christie’s “Out of the Ordinary” auction in London for $33,150. According to Christie’s, the bird measured 82.5 inches high — equivalent to almost seven feet tall – and was enclosed in an elegant walnut case.

This sale, in particular, is a prime example of some of the weird and wonderful items that can be found when one purchases from art auctioneers. Some of the other items included in the sale were a Victorian Gothic coffin stand, a bronze death mask of Napoleon, and a taxidermy peacock.

An Andy Warhol Line Graph

Pop artist Andy Warhol is famous for his Campbell’s Soup cans and his Marilyn Monroe screen prints, but one of his lesser-known works is a line graph drawing that depicts the U.S. unemployment rate from 1980 to 1984. Whether or not it was meant to be art is a mystery, but it sold at auction nevertheless for $32,500.

A Partially-Fossilized Elephant Bird Egg

Now extinct, the elephant bird of Madagascar was the largest bird of all time. The species could reach heights of 10 feet and weigh as much as 880 pounds, according to ZME Science. The elephant bird died out in the 17th century due to excessive hunting. One of these bird’s massive eggs, measuring roughly 9 inches in diameter and over a foot long, was sold at auction in 2013.



Using Art Auction Houses as a Source for Interior Decorating

Auctions aren’t just for collectors. They aren’t even just for those with a lot of money. Surprisingly, more and more interior decorators are using art auction houses as a source for finding unique furniture and décor for their design clients. The right unique piece can add the perfect element of surprise and interest to any room, and savvy interior designers know this very well. Auction houses are treasure troves for art, antique pieces, items of historical value, and more — any of which can be used as décor.

Sevres Style New Haven Clock Co. Gilt Metal Porcelain Mounted Clock Garniture

Sevres Style New Haven Clock Co. Gilt Metal Porcelain Mounted Clock Garniture

Reasons to Use Art Auction Houses as Sources for Interior Decorating

Most People Love the Idea of Owning Something One-of-a-Kind

Owning something no one else has, or something that is very rare, makes most people feel important and special. It’s something they can boast about, and it signifies their cultured status. The idea of the piece is just as important as the piece itself.

A Big Design Trend Has People Looking Backward

A design trend that is not going away anytime soon is vintage decorating. Large swathes of people enjoy combing flea markets and antique malls in search of unique items for their homes, ones they won’t find in modern stores. However, often a trip to a thrift store or flea market amounts to little more than sifting through piles of junk. In contrast, auction houses provide the best of both worlds: uniqueness and value. If something is not very desirable, it will not sell for much money. Truly valuable pieces go for higher amounts. Time is not wasted on items that belong at the garbage dump. Most of the items have historical value if not monetary value.

Auction Pieces Add Character to an Otherwise Bland Interior

Modern homes often suffer from a certain amount of sterility. They usually lack the architectural detail of homes built earlier in the 20th century, and can all appear alike. Interior decorators who wisely insert unique pieces from auctions into their designs bring life and character to these otherwise bland spaces. The resulting look is warmer and more inviting than could be achieved with modern furniture and décor alone.

French Walnut Standing Cheval Mirror

French Walnut Standing Cheval Mirror

Mixing Style is an Effortless Design Trick

Designers who boldly mix styles of art, décor, and furniture create an effortlessly stylish look for their clients. For example, mixing 19th century antique chairs with a modern table, or using a vintage trunk as a coffee table or end table with a modern couch. This juxtaposition creates interest, not to mention serves as a conversation starter. This design technique therefore proves to be anything but boring.

The art of using unique pieces to accent interior design is an old designer’s trick. However, sourcing these pieces can often prove difficult. In these cases, auctions can be an indispensable source for purchasing the perfect one-of-a-kind find, artwork, antique, or collectible item that sets off a room’s style and acts as the finishing touch.




Going, Going…Gone? No!

Missed Michaan’s last estate auction? For the following 5 business days post sale, you now have the opportunity to purchase unsold lots. Michaan’s presents “Buy It Now,” giving you a second chance at owning an unclaimed treasure. For more information and to view unsold estate auction lots, please click here.

mgallery copy



Feel the Love on Saturday, February the 7th

Ruby, 18k Yellow Gold Heart Pendant, jewelry lot 027, $600-800. Sweetly simple, featuring twenty-two calibre-cut rubies.

rubyheart copy


Five Red Glass Snuff Bottles, Asian lot 190, $1,500-2,500. May you be prosperous in all endeavors of the heart.

redsnuff copy


Viacheslav Vasilevich Kalinin “Lovers” Pastel, fine art lot 230, $1,000-1,500. Love cannot be defined, for it is a feeling within.

lovers copy


Six Paperweights For Your Valentine, decorative lot 346, $300-400. These adorable pieces are part of an 18 lot fine paperweight collection in the February sale.

paperweights copy



The illustrated auction catalog will be posted online at when it becomes available. Previews for the February Estate Auction will be held on January 30th to February 1st and on the day of sale, Saturday, February 7, 2015. For general information please call (510) 740-0220 ext. 0 or e-mail Michaan’s Auctions is located at 2751 Todd Street, Alameda, CA 94501.


2014 December Fine Sneek Peek

The end of the year means bringing the best property to bidders at Michaan’s, in the form of two fine auctions.  The first is scheduled on Monday, December the 8th, encompassing jewelry, fine art, furnishings and decorations.  The second event will be held on Monday, December the 15th as a stand-alone Fine Asian Works of Art auction.  The following provides a first look into each department’s offerings with a selected auction highlight; a sneak peek into what is looking to be a noteworthy December fine season.

Fine Art – “Angels with Flower (from In the Bottom of the Garden),” $6,000-8,000.

The Andy Warhol signed watercolor upon lithograph will be joined in the December 8th fine auction by two additional works in the series (“Deux Cherubins – Two Cherubs and a Flower” and “The End”).

WarholAngels copy


Furniture & Decorative Arts – Daum Nancy Cameo Pictorial Glass Lamp, $8,000-10,000.

Daum Nancy is favored by many amongst Art Nouveau lighting, with this lamp bearing the delicate foliage motifs coveted by many collectors.



Jewelry – Pierre Touraine Diamond & 18k Yellow Gold “Ram’s Head” Ring, $6,000-9,000.

This particular ring was declared the winner of the 1974 “Diamond Today Competition” as published in the April 1978 issue of “Arizona Highways” magazine.

RamRing copy


Asian – Pair of Champlevé Enamel & Gilt Bronze Jardinières, $10,000-15,000.

From each Qianlong period jardinière springs forth a painstakingly assembled rendition of a fruit-bearing tree, glistening in amber, glass and hardstone elements.

AsianTrees copy


The illustrated auction catalogs will be posted online at when they become available.  Previews for the fine art, jewelry, furnishing and decoration auction will be held on December 5th to December 8, 2014, the day of sale.  Previews for the Fine Asian Works of Art auction will be held on December 5th to December 8th, in addition to December 12th to December 15, 2014, the day of sale.  For general information please call (510) 740-0220 ext. 0 or e-mail  Michaan’s Auctions is located at 2751 Todd Street, Alameda, CA 94501.






Prized Fall Gourd

Your kids have their Halloween pumpkin, you could have the ultimate “Gourd.”  This circa 1910 Dirk Van Erp and D’Arcy Gaw Gourd lamp ($25,000-30,000) highlights Michaan’s Arts and Crafts auction on Thursday, November 6, 2014.  The lamp is of an excellent overall condition, with sound seams as well as the absence of any damage or dents.  When lit, the piece casts a gorgeous glow; no carving required.




The illustrated auction catalog will be posted online at when it becomes available.  Previews open at Michaan’s Auctions on October the 31st to November the 2nd, as well as the day of sale, November 6, 2014.  For general information please call (510) 740-0220 ext. 0 or e-mail  Michaan’s Auctions is located at 2751 Todd Street, Alameda, CA 94501.


Stone Cold in Love with June Fine Highlights

Michaan’s 2014 fine sale season begins with a June 6th auction encompassing fine art, jewelry, furnishings and decorations.  A highlight has been selected from each department represented in the sale, giving you a glimpse into the caliber of the offered property.  Fine Italian marble, Warhol cherubs plus a large fancy yellow diamond: hoping the combination leaves you stone cold in love with what you see at auction.

Andy Warhol lithograph

Fine Art – Andy Warhol lithograph “Two Cherubs and a Flower (from In the Bottom of the Garden)” ($10,000-15,000)


Carved Italian marble cistern

Furniture & Decorative Arts – Carved Italian marble cistern ($6,000-8,000)

Fancy yellow diamond ring

Jewelry – Approximate 5.19 carat fancy yellow diamond ring ($50,000-80,000)

The auction will be held on June 6, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.  The online catalog is available at  Previews begin on May the 30th and continue until June the1st, as well as on the day of sale.  For general information please call (510) 740-0220 ext. 0 or e-mail  Michaan’s Auctions is located at 2751 Todd Street, Alameda, CA 94501.


Love Is In The (Decorative) Details

Good ol’ fashioned love.  Love can of course be found in many different kinds of relationships, but perhaps some of the best old fashioned love stories are the ones held between a man and a woman.  Michaan’s February 2nd estate auction will present numerous lots celebrating the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day.  But, it is a select few offerings from the Furniture & Decorative Arts Department that seem to convey this blush of romantic love the most traditionally and beautifully.

Meissen Figural Group of Courting Couple

Meissen Figural Group of Courting Couple, with Deutsche Blumen decoration

Meissen Figural Group of a Courting Couple, Lot 498, $1,000-1,500
I like to think their names are Betty and George.

Large Louis XV Style Gilt Painted Trumeau Mirror

Large Louis XV Style Gilt Painted Trumeau Mirror

A Large Louis XV Style Gilt Painted Trumeau Mirror, Lot 102, $1,500-2,000
Their names are Venus and Adonis.  Look into the mirror and repeat, “My relationship will not end in the same way.”

Feel the love when previews open on January the 31st until February the 2nd, the day of sale.  XOXO