YVONNE SAN­DERS

The an­tique dealer’s love af­fair with col­lecta­bles spans four decades and sev­eral con­ti­nents.

Simply You - - News - WORDS JES­SICA-BELLE GREER

The an­tique dealer talks us through her decades-long love af­fair with col­lecta­bles

Apair of golden li­ons from Egypt perch on the steps in­side the pol­ished front door. Pro­tec­tors of Yvonne San­ders An­tiques store in Auck­land, they have seen many trea­sures come and go; Vene­tian vases hand-painted with gold flour­ishes, tor­toise­shell Boulle cab­i­nets, Capodi­monte porce­lain fig­ures frozen in ro­man­tic nar­ra­tives, and myr­iad crys­tal chan­de­liers hoisted up on the con­verted 1940s ware­house’s ex­posed tim­ber beams.

For 46 years, Yvonne San­ders An­tiques has been the des­ti­na­tion store for a sen­sory over­load of beau­ti­fully unique home­wares, where ev­ery piece on the shop floor has a story to tell. At 78 years of age, San­ders, a con­fessed Fran­cophile, is a walk­ing history class in recher­ché re­tail.

Since she can re­mem­ber, San­ders has al­ways been a col­lec­tor. “At eight years of age, I had a weird as­sort­ment of things in a car­ton. I al­ways re­ferred to it as ‘my mu­seum’,” she re­calls. “My mother felt that it was un­suit­able for dis­play pur­poses and it had to be kept un­der the bed.”

While her Tau­ranga fam­ily home was devoid of an­tiques, a fam­ily friend’s home was full to the rafters with exquisite col­lecta­bles, leav­ing an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion. “Af­ter my first visit, I was en­tranced with the beau­ti­fully waxed tim­bers,” she muses.

Twenty years af­ter her first visit to this cap­ti­vat­ing home, San­ders found her­self liv­ing in Opotiki with two pre-school­ers, with­out an in­come and in need of a quick so­lu­tion. Ea­ger to pro­vide for her fam­ily while her now ex-hus­band was in a state of ill health, she bor­rowed $500 from the bank and opened an an­tique shop in the front bed­room of their bun­ga­low. “I had found my pas­sion!”

Af­ter trad­ing hap­pily for seven months, the fam­ily moved to Auck­land, where San­ders traded from two small shops on the busy Ep­som end of Manukau Road for 16 years, be­fore ren­o­vat­ing and mov­ing into the cur­rent site over the road. It’s a strip that has been the Auck­land an­tiques trad­ing hub since the 1960s. “It’s great to have kin­dred spir­its nearby. For­merly, there were 21 traders in the street, but to­day there are sadly only five.”

As time now tells, the store has rid­den the waves of fever­ish homeware trends. “Over the past 45 years the busi­ness has con­stantly changed and evolved,” says San­ders. “Fash­ion is a fluid and fickle thing.”

An in­dus­try dy­namo, San­ders can be cred­ited with pop­u­lar­is­ing the New Zealand colo­nial in­te­rior trend in the 1970s through to the 1980s, stock­ing lo­cally sourced fur­nish­ings such as heavy kauri fur­ni­ture. In an­other tastemak­ing move, she then moved on to mid-to-late Vic­to­rian fur­ni­ture. Ma­hogany and wal­nut pieces were the he­roes of the late 1980s, be­fore the English and Euro­pean pine show­pieces of the 1990s and the favoured French fur­nish­ings of the 2000s.

To­day the store is more eclec­tic than ever. “We trade in ev­ery fur­ni­ture style, ex­cept for in­dus­trial,” says San­ders.

The stal­wart is keep­ing the busi­ness in the fam­ily. Her son Richard has worked with her for 30 years and more re­cently his wife, Na­dine, an ar­dent col­lec­tor and dealer, has joined the team. Two grand­sons have helped out since they were young, with pol­ish­ing and the like. They’re all kept busy, con­sid­er­ing at any given time the store has in ex­cess of 1000 ob­jects, and that’s not to men­tion a very large ware­house stor­ing ar­chi­tec­tural items. Be­tween the French bed­heads, tin­kling chan­de­liers and dainty stacks of Li­mo­ges porce­lain plates, there’s plenty of del­i­cate dust­ing to be done.

San­ders has lit­er­ally writ­ten the book on the unique an­tique

trade in New Zealand. It’s called An­tiques in the An­tipodes and ex­plores how a young coun­try with a tiny pop­u­la­tion, which for a time had gov­ern­ment-im­posed im­port restric­tions, found a love of her­itage pieces.

Over the years, the col­lec­tor has ex­per­i­mented di­rectly with ev­ery dif­fer­ent style in her own homes, but she’s found firm favourites in French pro­vin­cial fur­ni­ture as well as gilded Ro­coco styles.

“I love the am­bi­ence that I can cre­ate with the finest fur­nish­ings, es­pe­cially from France. I am at last con­tent.”

An 1850s French porce­lain ta­ble cen­tre­piece is the cyno­sure of her be­long­ings. “It’s a gift from my close friend, John Mains, who re­cently re­tired from Por­to­bello An­tiques,” says San­ders. “It stands 65cm tall and is exquisitely hand-painted with sprays of pink spring flow­ers. It re­flects the fri­vol­ity of the pe­riod and is very rare.”

San­ders has flown to Eng­land and Europe over 60 times in her ca­reer, and she con­tin­ues to search the globe for the best pieces. “I don’t mind trawl­ing the world,” she says. In fact, the dealer was on yet an­other solo busi­ness trip in China when Sim­ply You con­ducted this in­ter­view.

When hunt­ing down the best bits, San­ders has a check­list to en­sure she finds qual­ity items that will be adored for­ever. She looks for au­then­tic­ity, rar­ity and aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing as­pects. Each item must be in good con­di­tion, or at least able to be re­stored if it’s not quite up to scratch. Style is im­por­tant to both en­sure the an­tique is well de­signed and that it will fit with in­te­rior trends. English and Euro­pean ceram­ics, for ex­am­ple, go hand-in-hand with to­day’s crafts­man­ship move­ment, as do Chi­nese porce­lain, pot­tery and bronze. Full of per­son­al­ity, these items are ideal for the grow­ing num­ber of home­own­ers who wish to cre­ate their own be­spoke in­te­ri­ors.

Hav­ing been in the busi­ness for so long, some of San­ders’ revered pieces are find­ing their way back to her trove, with cus­tomers who have amassed col­lec­tions over the years now need­ing to down­size. “As their chil­dren are fre­quently dis­in­ter­ested, they are now sell­ing back to me. So a lot of won­der­ful an­tiques are re­turn­ing on the sec­ondary mar­ket,” says the eter­nal op­ti­mist.

Try­ing to scale down her­self, San­ders’ job is an oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard. “I just love the su­perb stan­dard of crafts­man­ship of an age gone by; the patina on an an­cient and cher­ished piece of fur­ni­ture is ir­re­place­able,” she says. “I’ve had the hap­pi­est life deal­ing with an­tiques.” ■

“I love the am­bi­ence that I can cre­ate with the finest fur­nish­ings.”

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY RE­BEKAH ROBIN­SON

OP­PO­SITE Yvonne San­ders of Yvonne San­ders An­tiques has dealt in col­lecta­bles for 46 years. THIS PAGE (From left) A rare pair of Boulle cab­i­nets and a daz­zling chan­de­lier greet shop­pers as they walk in­side. San­ders’ beloved 1850s French porce­lain...

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