x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Where Hollywood shops for antiques

Cult shop If you are enticed by the warm glow of hundreds of light fixtures and old-world stained glass, then Eric Cohen's Vancouver Architectural Antiques is the place for you.

Eric Cohen sources his antique light fixtures from all over the world.
Eric Cohen sources his antique light fixtures from all over the world.

If you are enticed by the warm glow of hundreds of light fixtures and old-world stained glass that fills Eric Cohen's Vancouver, Canada antiques shop, you'll have to press a doorbell to gain entry. Someone at the shop's front desk will buzz you in but remember that, although the big space on Main Street resembles a museum, it isn't. It is the city's most upmarket store for antique light fixtures and other grand mansion and hotel pieces, which Cohen sources from all over the world.

For 31 years, Cohen, who started his business in Ottawa, has bought and sold antiques. He even rents them to movie crews to decorate the sets of the period films that are often being shot in Vancouver (the city is known as Hollywood North). Over the years, many celebrities have rung his doorbell and most have become regular clients. Kevin Costner, Vanessa Williams, Debbie Reynolds, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Natalie Cole and Courteney Cox have been patrons, as well as wealthy jet-setting types and their interior designers.

They are fans because Cohen understands antiques and doesn't sell anything that isn't exhaustively restored with hundreds of man-hours using custom-made pieces, such as the crystal that comes from Czechoslovakia. His expert in-house restorer, Robert McNutt, has been with him for 30 years. You can find McNutt in the back room knee-high in light fixtures in various stages of restoration, his fingers stained black from polishing.

According to Cohen, the economic downturn makes it a particularly fine time to be in the market for exquisite antiques; he recently purchased about 20 gramophones from a collection, circa 1920. "We're getting collections in silver and art, and porcelain and paintings," he says, seated in his office, surrounded by heavy wood furniture, vintage posters and gilded antiques and art. "People are just selling out."

Cohen says he has an instinct for finding hidden treasures, such as the US$189,000 (Dh693,727) oil painting hanging in his office he found at a US flea market. He recalls the time he found a Tiffany light fixture worth $47,000. He specialises in light fixtures, such as the 12-arm crystal chandelier made by F & C Osler, Britain's prestigious chandelier maker, priced at $29,650. For something altogether more extravagant, there is the rare 19th-century, 1.5 metre-high, five-tiered chandelier smothered with emerald green Baccarat drop crystals. Price tag: $58,519.

And there is a glorious selection of vintage stained glass pieces, too, almost all of them intended for mansions. In the centre of the store an imposing arched stained glass window, circa 1880, stands nearly three metres high. The light from outside illuminates the window's two cherubs, both glancing innocently over their shoulders. And then there's that little number that Cohen found neglected in a barn out in the country. One Friday afternoon he got a call that a woman had a hotel chandelier she wanted to unload. He drove for two hours to her farm and inside the barn he discovered a massive, though long neglected, Louis XV-style brass chandelier packed with hundreds of cut crystals, circa 1906, three metres high, from Victoria, BC. McNutt spent untold hours bringing it back to life. It now hangs in the shop, a showpiece among many.

"It's the finds like that that make this business worthwhile," says Cohen. "And I love this business."
Vancouver Architectural Antiques +1 604 872 3131, @email:www.vaaltd.ca