1st Dibs is one of the most powerful sources of antiques furnishings and lighting on its almost perfect shape. And it’s a one of a kind online showroom / marketplace.
Every Wednesday, seconds before 11 a.m. Eastern time, furniture fans are stationed at their computers, poised to point and click. It’s the countdown to the weekly posting of new items at 1stdibs.com, the online decorative arts marketplace with dealers from the United States and Paris.
In a few words, “1stdibs.com has dragged what was a stuffy old business into the 21st century”, said Howard Settle, a co-owner of Antique & Art Exchange, an antiques dealer in San Francisco.
1stdibs.com was originally intended for professional interior designers and at first showcased antiques only from Paris flea markets. It now represents 390 dealers in 12 cities in the United States.
Carl D’Aquino of D’Aquino Monaco, an interior design firm in New York, is one of many designers who said they can’t imagine doing their jobs without 1stdibs. “It’s foolish not to use it,” he said. Though he loves to shop and prefers seeing items before he buys, he said the site saves time and shoe leather by allowing him to search this country, and Paris, too, for something as specific as, say, an 18th-century French bombé marquetry commode no wider than 2.3 feet.
Revealing hidden sources is the point, said Michael Bruno, the founder and chief executive of 1stdibs.com. He started the site in 2001 after moving to Paris following a lucrative run with Sotheby’s real estate division in San Francisco during the dot-com boom.
He decided to save them the trouble of America interior designers who went to Europe searching for rare antiques. He hired an interpreter and a photographer and began weekly Internet postings of flea market items which, for a 20 percent commission, he would purchase on behalf of site users.
In 2003, he expanded to include pieces from vendors in the United States. He also changed his business model to a subscription-based service, in which dealers pay a monthly fee plus additional fees per item posted. Although 1stdibs.com declined to disclose its rates, dealers report that fees range from $400 to $700 per month, plus $10-$20 per posted item.
Although there is an acknowledged slump in the antiques business, dealers on 1stdibs.com said they aren’t feeling the effects. To maintain the quality and consistency of the site’s look, 1stdibs sends photographers to dealers’ shops monthly to shoot high-resolution digital images of each new item. The site also has photo editing operations in Paris and Mumbai, India.
The site now lists more than 700 pieces from the 18th to 20th centuries, sold by dealers in Paris; New York City, the Hamptons and Hudson, N.Y.; Stamford, Conn.; San Francisco and Los Angeles; New Orleans; Miami and Palm Beach, Fla.; Chicago; and Atlanta. Dealers in Houston, Dallas, Boston and Philadelphia will be added by the end of this year. Prices range from less than $1,000 to more than $200,000.
A curious tendency is that there are a growing number of people shopping 1stdibs.com for themselves looking for incredible, distinctive pieces.
Here are some of the photos I took at the 1st Dibs, in the New York Design Center:
2 – Gustavo Oliveri Antiques