From his beginnings in the countryside of Ohio, to his current home in Los Angeles, California, Jeremie Adkins’ penchant for collecting has led to an impressive array of antique furniture and accessories in his expertly curated spaces at the Pasadena Antiques Center. He has garnered a sophisticated following including well-known designers and decorators (Nate Berkus is a regular visitor). Though countless finds of his have graced magazine pages and film and television productions, you might be surprised that Adkins is almost entirely self-taught. “I did not get a design degree,” he says. “I don’t watch every design show on TV. I react. I see and I pick it up and I feel it and taste it and I smell it. I am tactile. If the item moves me in my gut and soul, and I think I can make a nickel or two on it, I will buy it.”
Adkins shared more about the surprising influences that shaped his talent, the ins and outs of the antiques business, and the enduring connections he feels to the treasures he finds. Read on for more.
Viyet: What inspired this career path for you?
Adkins: My grandpa was a farmer, but also kind of an old junk guy. When I was little we used to drive around the countryside in Ohio, and he would buy old bicycles and Maytag washing machines we would see rusting in fields…he would fix them and sell them for 35 or 45 dollars. We were always treasure hunting when I visited, so I think it’s in my DNA…oh, yeah, and I love being my own boss!
Viyet: Who do you look up to in the design world?
Adkins: Nate Berkus is a regular at my shop and so is Madeline Stuart, and they both seek me out, I think, because I always have fun odd finds that work with today’s eclectic interior. I love what both of them do and the way their interiors are warm and accessible. I see a room they design, and I feel like I want to carry a mug of hot cocoa and adopt a rescue Lab and go sit in that room!
Viyet: Describe your style in 6 words or less.
Adkins: “Eclectic conversation-piece hoarder museum.”
Viyet: If you could design a space for anyone, what kind of space and for whom would it be?
Adkins: I want to design a room for my friend Paul, who never met a Crate & Barrel table he didn’t like. I am 43, some of my friends are in their 30s and live in this post-apocalyptic design world called, “I only own a phone, shoes, and carryout food boxes.” People live for experiences today, something to post on Facebook, photos of a meal or trip. This and school loans are where their money is going…everyone in my business is talking about the shift in collectors in the under-40 set…and you go to their homes and all they own are plastic plywood pieces that are falling apart and, like, a Maya Angelou quote on a poster or something. I am basically guilt-bullying all of my friends to buy antiques.
Viyet: Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without?
Adkins: Dynasty; it all starts with shoulder pads for me.
Viyet: What do you love about Viyet?
Adkins: I like that they feature both well-known, established dealers and designers, and newer ones like me! I think it is a great place for dealers to put up their treasures in a more streamlined and curated environment than other websites.
Viyet: What types of pieces do you collect and sell? How long have you been in this business?
Adkins: The great thing I love about this business is that it also enables me as a collector/hoarder/addict. And what I buy is always changing. There is so much to learn as a dealer. I will hear someone mention a name I have never heard before…recently it was David Cressey pots (look them up, they are fantastic)…I learned a little about them, and then I went out and found three at a sale! I have good object karma. I first started out eight years ago, collecting fifties red kitchen items and old cookbooks, very Martha Stewart meets Betty Crocker…now I collect bronze busts and 18th-century books. How does that happen?
Viyet: Tell us your favorite design-related word, phrase, or quote.
Adkins: Tony Duquette… “More is More”
Viyet: Currently, what are your favorite items in your collection and why?
Adkins: I just found this wonderful Sergio Bustamante ceramic egg with these little birds popping out of it. It is one of his signed pieces. I really think he will be an even more widely collected artist moving forward ten, twenty, fifty years. His items are fantastical, and rooted in Mexican folk art. As the Chinese buyers are driving up prices of their homeland’s treasures that went abroad earlier this century, I think Mexicans and Mexican Americans will be buying and collecting folk art treasures from their homeland in years to come. He is way up in his eighties, and still producing beautiful items that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Viyet: What is your favorite part of the curation process?
Adkins: Without question, the hunt is everything to me. All of my senses are popping, my competitive nature comes out, there are twelve-hundred items on tables or blankets or in little tiny cases in back corners of some antique store, all asking me to buy them. And then magic happens…I honestly feel it in my gut. I can’t explain it. I just react to the aesthetic of certain things and have to have them for myself. The real challenge then becomes whether I am going to keep them like Miss Havisham next to my old wedding cake, or present them for my clients to buy! Vegas odds are often on Miss H.
Viyet: How do you go about matching a specific fabric to a piece of furniture? Do certain types of fabrics work better with certain types of furniture?
Adkins: I sell almost all of the items I find, as is. Many people change fabrics anyway; it is not my forte, so I leave it to them. The less time and money I spend redoing every chair in cream linen that looks great in a store but is so boring, the more time and money I can spend hunting!
Viyet: Are you known for carrying particular items and/or do designers or collectors come to you for something specific?
Adkins: I am known mostly, I think, for filling out needed smalls (by “smalls” I mean desk and mantle and bookshelf type items). Designers and TV shows and my regular customers often come to my three spaces at the Pasadena Antique Center, 480 S. Fair Oaks, Pasadena (where there are 30 other eclectic dealers) and find great accessory items, conversation pieces that add character and dynamic to an interior. I find all of these great items and then (here is what I am perhaps infamous for) I stack and stuff them in my space! Literally every surface is covered. I stack tables on tables, and pile items in every nook and cranny. Tables on tables! “More is More.” Diana Vreeland once said of design, “The eye has to travel.” Well, in my spaces, the eye gets motion sickness!
Viyet: Share with us something the average consumer wouldn’t know about your business and approach to curation.
Adkins: I grew up in a small town in Ohio. I did not get a design degree. I don’t watch every design show on TV. I react. I see and I pick it up and I feel it and taste it and I smell it. I am tactile. If the item moves me in my gut and soul, and I think I can make a nickel or two on it, I will buy it. I feel I am still so new to this business and I feel I still have so much to learn. Why should you pay attention to me? I am often told by other dealers, designers, Nate Berkus, my mom, that I have a good eye. That is nice to hear, and I think it is becoming true and truer all the time. My journey in this business started with treasure hunting with my grandpa. I think of him all of the time when I am out hunting, and how he would get a kick out of what I do now. Perhaps a part of the eye I have comes from him. That thought makes me smile!
Here are just a few of our favorite pieces from Jeremie Adkins’ collection at Viyet: