As Told to Hilary Masell Oswald
Los Angeles-based interior designer Ames Ingham might be the perfect guide to the summer antiques markets in sun-soaked Provence: As a child, she spent countless days trailing her mother through English and French markets—experiences that no doubt fuel her distinctive ability to combine bright color and bold graphics with antique and vintage pieces in her work, which has been featured in Domino, Elle Decor, Veranda, and The L.A. Times.
So it’s no wonder that when she invited her longtime pal Johnson Hartig, creative force behind the uber-chic fashion label Libertine, to join her, he couldn’t resist. (Hartig, an antiques enthusiast in his own right, swears you can find him almost every weekend at the L.A. flea markets.) Here, the style-savvy pair dish on a few highlights of their spree.
Johnson: I had always wanted to go to the antiques shows in the South of France. I collect all over the map. I’m what you might call a semi-hoarder. I have a garage full of stuff and a house full of stuff. I buy whatever catches my eye, so this might have been a dangerous trip for me. We stayed in Eygalières, at Ames’ parents’ house. It was fabulous.
Ames: I go almost every summer. I had invited Johnson for years, and finally, it worked with his schedule. It worked out perfectly that the Montpellier market was going on at the time. [The pair also hit Avignon and L’Isle sur la Sorgue]. I didn’t go for anything specific. I think that’s more fun—just going to get inspired and to look for deals.
Johnson: Montpellier! We got lost on the way there, driving around and around in circles with our guide. I almost had a nervous breakdown.
Ames: Yeah, that wasn’t Johnson’s finest moment.
Johnson: Once we got there—I found a gorgeous Syrian mother-of-pearl inlay table. Actually, the dealer told me it was Italian. I loved it, but the shipping deterred me. I’m guess I’m much more into immediate gratification. I didn’t want to have to wait.
Ames: But you did buy something beautiful.
Johnson: An Indian palampore. 18th century. It’s this hand-printed tree-of-life textile. Divine. I couldn’t leave without it.
Ames: That’s the great thing about antiques. I remember being half-dragged, half-excited going to these markets [with my mother] as a kid, and the more time I spent with her and with the dealers, I learned to trust my instinct. Designing and collecting should be about what catches your eye, what you just can’t live without, and it all works together because it’s a collection of things you love.
Once I found the most incredible clay pot that was glazed in creams and greens and smooshed in an abstract way. I went crazy for it. Everyone who came to my shop just loved it.
And the French really do know how to do markets. We’d take breaks and have these delicious sausage sandwiches and the best French fries you’ve ever tasted and wine. By the end of the day, everyone was drinking.
Johnson: It was fun to go into booths where I couldn’t afford to buy a single thing, just to see the gorgeous craftsmanship and quality. I can look on eBay until the sun goes down—I’m an addict—but to be there and feel it and smell it. It’s a beautiful thing.
I just love the romance of antiques. I love living with the age, and I love the energy that they bring. Not to get too hippy-dippy, but there’s a real energy to something that’s been around for a few hundred years. There’s a patina that can’t be replicated, a real elegance that mixes in perfectly with more contemporary spaces. That’s my favorite aesthetic.
Ames: It’s so fun shopping with Johnson. You can see why. Just being able to actually be together in beautiful surroundings, doing our favorite hobby. It was a triple threat.
Johnson: We’re going to London for Christmas. Stay tuned for part two.