Five Questions: Jens Buettner
November 3, 2015
Text by Robert Kiener Photography by Lance Mald
1. How did you transition from being a dealer and photographer in Paris to being a U.S.-based antiques dealer?
After twenty-seven years in Paris, working as a photographer, gallery owner, and curator, I moved to New York City with my wife, Angelika, a fashion photographer, three years ago. We had long been attracted to the city, and once our children were in college we decided to sell our nineteenth-century Napoleon III house in Paris and make the change. After we bought a 1930s house in Weston that had been transformed by architect Peter Cadoux, I began filling it with furniture and art and other objects we bought at local auctions and estate sales. Eventually, we had so many nice pieces that I came up with the idea of selling some of them at Norwalk’s Fairfield County Antique & Design Center and then at Stamford’s Hamptons Antique Galleries. That’s how my business got going here.
2. How would you define the niche you have carved out in the design market?
I have eclectic tastes. I never want to be put in a box, such as, “He’s an Early American or British or Gustavian furniture specialist.” I don’t want to belong to one movement or one decade or one style. I like to mix things up. Unlike some dealers, who scan the market for certain objects that fit into their thing, I just buy what I see, what I love. A lot of what I buy is a result of a coup de coeur. It’s a very emotional thing! It is important to me that an object tells a story and is rich in spirit. I look for things that have a soul. I am a fan of the concept of wabi sabi, which says beauty can be found in the irregular and the imperfect. I think I am bringing a more European sensibility to this market.
3. What makes your vintage and antique pieces relevant to contemporary life?
Many times when you go into houses you encounter an interior design that is “too perfect.” It is missing the personality of the owner because everything is so similar and impersonal. I think a beautiful design incorporates a mixture of contemporary and older pieces. It’s why I buy both kinds of objects. I advise clients to go with their hearts when they buy something. If you find something you love, never mind how it fits into your house. It is pieces you feel so strongly about that help make a house a home. Don’t be a slave to trends. I hate trends. For example, this summer it is blue. Everywhere, everybody has blue; blue paintings to blue pillows. Some day the blue phase will be over. But people are crazy about it because some designer said, “Blue is the new trend this year.” So what?
4. Who are your buyers and
how do you reach out, especially to younger homeowners and collectors?
Because I have such a broad mix of objects, I have a very broad audience. This business is moving away from brick and mortar, so doing social marketing and having a presence on the Internet is very, very important. In addition to my website, I also sell on 1stDibs and use Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.
5. Is there one object you dream of finding and buying?
There is no one dream piece, but if I find a piece I love so much, I may keep it in our house and eventually put it on the market after I find another to replace it. I am always trying to top myself. For example, I had a Jens Risom dining table, but felt we needed something bigger. I found an old farm trestle table, but I couldn’t let go of the beautiful Risom table. I’m now using it as my office table. And I am crazy about chairs. I’m always falling in love with pieces. Too many, really! Ask my wife!
Jens Buettner Design Antiques, jensbuettner.com