“There is a story in every piece we sell”
Kristen Walls and Shane Robuck of ROBUCK are purveyors in every sense of the word. They not only seek and find the most exceptional antiques from around the world, they are experts in their field. Recognizing the importance of provenance, ROBUCK strives to preserve the story behind every piece they sell. Celebrating the sublime, the decadent, and the unusual in 17th-20th century antiquities is just the beginning of the process. They are equally interested in educating, enlightening, and sometimes surprising their clientele. Known for creating rich, textured vignettes in which scale and proportion are on display, ROBUCK has mastered the art of context. They paint a portrait of a piece in a room so that we can envision what its next story might be. Enter the World of ROBUCK
How did you get into the antique business? Have you always been interested in design?
S: I went to my first antiques auction at Tepper Galleries in New York City near the end of college. I sat in the front row and watched everything being carried out to the stage. I was fascinated by live auctions. People of all walks of life, vying for such an array of items. I learned what was valued and what simply sold. I quickly gravitated to the former, particularly Italian antiques.
K: I was always interested in design but didn’t study it until a few years after graduating college. My entree came through the Art Institute and showroom sales at Kravet. I was introduced to Shane through a mutual friend. The timing was right for both of us. Together, we created a position that naturally led to a partnership. However, it wasn’t until my first Italian buying trip that cemented my passion for the business of antiques.
Traveling the world, searching for exquisite pieces sounds like a dream. What do you love about what you do?
Curating pieces for our inventory is always exciting and enlightening. Even now, after 20 years of shopping abroad, it still feels completely unique and special. We love the entire process. Unwrapping, seeing the pieces again in our shop, and having more time to study all the intricate details is probably our favorite part.
And on the flip side, what are the more unglamorous aspects of buying and selling antiques?
Planning a trip can be daunting– especially when we are hunting for new resources. Where to go and how best to use the limited time we have abroad is key. Shane is expert at coordinating logistics. Once we begin the journey, finding nothing special is just as essential as encountering something spectacular. Shane is particularly good at seeing the forest through the trees, knowing what our restoration crew can handle once the piece arrives in Atlanta. My instinct is to seek quality, in addition to age and beauty, which is always more expensive and difficult to acquire. Buying with both philosophies in mind keeps our business in motion until the next shipment arrives. That may be one of the secrets to Robuck’s success.
Where is your favorite place to travel, either for work or play?
Paris, Venice, Lake Como, Amalfi Coast in any order.
Where have you not traveled that is currently on your bucket list?
Tangier, Morocco, Zermatt, Switzerland, and Ischia, Italy.
The stories behind the pieces you select are important to you. In the years you have been on the hunt, what has been your favorite piece? Is there a piece that got away?
As soon as something becomes a favorite, it is surpassed by something even more amazing. But it’s contextual. It’s about the journey, the emotion, and the timing of the find. The selling used to be thrilling. Now it’s all about the acquisition. We have experienced the waiting game when something is worth it. It took Shane two years to buy an Italian Empire Neapolitan Giltwood and Marble Top Console so incredibly rich with details. It ultimately sold to Bunny Williams and is still one of our favorite memories. Things do get away. You have to act fast and be committed to your vision. If you second guess yourself, what you truly loved from the start can vanish in an instant.
An important aspect of your business is providing context for the antiques you sell. How have you helped designers “understand” the pieces you find?
We spend a lot of time and energy working on the context of each piece that comes through Robuck. Upon acquisition, we learn everything we can about the furniture’s age, period, style, and use. Once the piece is here, any conservation or restoration is applied before it hits the photography floor.
In our rapidly changing world, how have you altered your business to navigate these challenging times?
Photography plays a huge role in our business and we are fortunate to have Doug Sears behind the camera lens. He has a critical eye for detail and color accuracy. A fresh revamping of our studio is also in the works. We can’t wait to update the setting for our website.
Tell us about your latest creation, WANDERLUST?
Wanderlust originated from discovering our pieces in rooms designed by illustrious designers, published in interior design magazines. After gathering these inspiring images, it occurred to us how beneficial it would be to share them alongside new inventory. The Wanderlust newsletter introduced available pieces next to professionally appointed interiors. Quarantine spring allowed us time to create a new version of Wanderlust as a digital catalog. The intention is the same, just evolved, and interactive. The idea is to assist our clients in gaining access to the shop without leaving the comfort of their own home. The next Wanderlust will have an embedded video of inventory for a 3D effect.
You have such a successful partnership. What’s your secret?
We have been working together for over 20 years and continue to learn and appreciate each other’s strengths. Laughter helps, but check back after the next 20–it may be more clear how it all works as well as it does. At this point, we are still a work in progress!
Thank you, Kristen and Shane! We look forward to seeing what treasures await at ROBUCK!
For more information, please visit robuck.co
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INTERVIEW BY LESLIE NEWSOM RASCOE
Images courtesy of ROBUCK