Serious antique collectors know that when they’re in New York City or Washington, D.C., there’s one place they can’t miss visiting: John Rosselli Antiques. For the past fifty years, John’s keen eye for the unusual has kept him at the top of the antiques and decorating world, and he’s become a legend for a style that’s at once effortlessly eclectic and entirely livable. John was originally trained as a decorative painter, and he takes that artistic sensibility with him on his near-constant shopping trips, whether to an estate sale in upstate New York or a marketplace in India.
We sat down with John to learn more about his incredible career and get his take on decorating with antiques.
Fresh American: Over the years and your many travels, which places have become your favorites for sourcing unusual pieces?
John Rosselli: Belgium and Istanbul.
FA: When you discover a fabulous accessory, object, or piece of furniture, how long does it usually take until you (or your clients) find just the right space for it?
JR: I tell people not to worry too much about finding an exact place for it. Just buy what you love, and you’ll work out where it will fit in.
FA: You’re known for your eclectic mix of furniture and objects. What’s the key to keeping eclectic decorating from tipping the scales into crazy, over-the-top decorating?
JR: The most important point to remember is that things don’t have to match. That said, I think that certain collections—blue-and-white or white bisque porcelains, for example—look better together than spread out all over. Generally, you want to group things by like colors and styles. You’ll be able to show them off better, and they’ll look more put together as collections.
FA: You’re also known for helping to re-popularize blue-and-white porcelain, and even have your own, rather famous collection of nineteenth-century blue-and-white porcelain. What do you think makes this combination so appealing to such a wide range of people?
JR: It’s quiet. If you mix in a lot of Chinese colors, it looks like a pile of confetti, but the blue and white are more subtle. They also work well in collections and around the round in garden furniture, vases, covered jars, on sideboards and in entries.
FA: What mistakes do you typically see people make when trying to incorporate antiques into their décor?
JR: They treat them as art objects instead of something to live with. You want to keep them safe, but not hide them. Don’t put your antiques away; showcase them on a mantelpiece, on tall shelves, in a cabinet. Use them. I have a collection of blue-and-white nineteenth-century porcelain platters that we use for parties here. They get scratched and show some wear, but they still look great—even better with food on them.
FA: What is your most sentimental piece in your own collection—the one item you would never part with?
JR: I have a bronze whippet sculpture that I got over 40 years ago in London. I love whippets, and those things you pick up when you’re young can be very sentimental.