Education of the Eye: St. Martin’s Gallery
by Abbie Walker
“I’ve been looking at antiques since I was 14,” says Anne Guion.
Guion, who co-owns St. Martin’s Gallery with Bob and Lee Malouf, opened the Jackson store in 1997 because she says there wasn’t really a market for European antiques in the area. Twenty years later, St. Martin’s continues to provide Mississippians with European treasures for their home.
Guion grew up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Benoit, but she’s done her fair share of international traveling. She spends weeks at a time abroad, hand-selecting pieces for St. Martin’s vast inventory. While the store acquires a variety of high-quality 18th and 19th century European antiques, Anne says they tend to carry more English and French pieces. They also specialize in the Georgian style of the late 1700s and early 1800s, Anne’s personal favorite.
St. Martin’s sells all types of home dÃ©cor–everything from lamps and wall art, to seating and sideboards. With a 7,000-square-foot facility, they have plenty of room to display larger furniture, such as dining room sets or bookcases, and wide assortment of chest of drawers.
Coffee tables, particularly French mirror-top tables from the early 20th century, are a current highlight of the store. St. Martin’s also carries one of the South’s largest selections of majolica, a colorful pottery from the 19th century, as well as a large collection of blue and white pottery. They have also added upholstery, offering an array of fabrics for sofas and chairs.
Guion’s knowledge of antiques comes from experience. She’s attended antique seminars, visited museums and toured European cities to get a feel for the market and what is genuine. Two decades of buying and selling European antiques have given her a rich understanding of the industry. She says it is amazing that she can still find handmade 18th century pieces for an affordable cost.
When selecting furniture for St. Martin’s, Guion says she looks for authenticity. She checks to be sure that the piece is original, with all its original parts. She examines the finish, the construction and more to determine the value.
“The thing about antiques is that it’s very hard to give them provenance,” says Guion. “But our goal is to bring back the best we can.”
The word “antique,” Guion says, actually means prior to machine-made manufacturing of furniture. Because of Guion’s experience and knowledge of the industry, her eye is trained to spot original, hand-painted items that she can ship back to the States.
Guion adds that with true antiques, especially European, their value increases over time. The quality is better because those furnishings were most often custom-made for an individual, usually by a skilled craftsman or in a local workshop. There is character and history behind each piece.
“We sell real antique furniture,” Guion says.
Guion’s role at St. Martin’s extends beyond the shop as well. She often goes into people’s homes to help them decide what furniture to add. She works with their space and individual taste to incorporate the right piece, keeping practical use in mind.
“Antiques should be taken care of and passed down,” she says. “But we believe antiques should primarily be used.”
She adds that antiques are also very green because they promote the re-use of furniture.
Guion says she loves seeing what other people’s tastes are. Her travels have established a network of dealers that she enjoys working with and learning from. “The people you encounter in business,” she says. “That’s what I love about doing this.”
St. Martin’s prides itself on expertise, as well as the store’s quality selection and customer service. “We are open to helping educate people about antiques and letting them know what exists out there,” says Guion. For those interested in buying real antiques, she suggests to “get out and look frequently. Educate your eye.”
St. Martin’s Gallery is located at 2817 Old Canton Rd in Jackson. They are open Mon-Fri 10 am to 5 pm and Sat 10 am to 4 pm. You can contact the store at 601.362.1977 or visit their website at stmartinsgallery.com.