It’s been a personal pleasure of mine getting to know David Teague and Ginger Hall, proprietors of America Antiques & Design, and Compromise Lodge (Ginger’s upstairs vintage hideaway inside America Designs). Their shop full of vintage and custom treasures is nestled in at 5 S. Main Street, Lambertville, NJ– the bucolic Bucks County sister town of New Hope, PA sitting just across the Delaware River. David & Ginger are as unassuming and low key as they come, yet draw a loyal and very notable following. Creatives in the world of furnishings, fashion & film come from around the globe in appreciation of the couple’s discerning eye and uncommon taste level. For anyone looking to get off the homogenized grid and have a true experience of eclectic discovery and one-off finds– this is the place.
David Teague of America Antiques & Design in Lambertville, NJ.
TSY: So I’d heard about America Antiques & Design long ago, and then found you on instagram (@compromiselodge @dgteague). Your aesthetic comes across strongly, even on the small screen. How long has the shop been in business, and how did it come to be?
DT: Thank you. Back in 1991, I started out in Dublin, PA– a more rural area where I rented a tiny little shack. I was working in construction at the time– and not enjoying it that much. I started making furniture on the side, and I thought I’d see what would happen if I put some of my pieces out in a retail setting– see if anyone salutes. That’s how it started– I got a good response. The location was not great though, in terms of the number of people coming through and the type of people. Where I was, a lot of traffic was speeding by at 60 mph. So I’d try things to get them to stop. It was kind of a difficult spot to slow down, but I’d try to seduce people. I’d put new stuff out by the road all the time. I had little chalk signs that I’d put out by the road with clever expressions on them– a different one every day. Designers started to find me, and a lot of dealers started buying stuff from me for their shops in Lambertville. So after a year or two of that I decided to set up base there too.
TSY: Fish where the fish are, right?
DT: Yes, but it’s still not where the real big fish are. I sell to a lot to dealers in New York who buy from me and resell it there. Also dealers in Los Angeles, DC, and big cities. But, the world is a little smaller now, and with what we do online, people find our shop one way or another– via online, or magazines, a blog, etc. They get to me.
TSY: Was there an “AHA” moment in the beginning where you clearly remember thinking, hey this is something?
DT: One of my favorite stories is from when I was back in that little shop in Dublin by myself, and this little British guy came in. He seemed quite fascinated with the store, and was piling up different things in the shop that he was going to buy– antiques, old toy cars, lots of different things. And I was just fascinated with the fact that this British guy came in. So I was talking to him a little bit and he said he had a weekend house here, a place in LA, and a place in London. He was a film director, and I thought that was really cool. That a film director would be fascinated with my little stuff in this tiny shack. So two days later, there was another little British guy who came in, and he started making a pile, just the same way. And I said, “Huh. There was another short British guy in here the other day…” and he said, “Yes. That was my brother.” So one brother was a director in London, and the other a director in LA. That really was the moment where I realized– ok, I can hold the attention of people who are doing cool stuff worldwide.
That’s the part that I really love about this business– I get to know people from all over the world. I have people coming in from Japan all the time. London, Germany– all over the place. And we’ve become friends. That’s my biggest pleasure– to meet people who are like minded about the art and the aesthetic of what we do. I get to travel, and know people all over the country, and all over the world. That really is the most satisfying thing for me.
TSY: What would you say you’re known most for? A look, a feel, any certain styles or items? What brings people in?
DT: Yes, It is a certain look. People often will come in here that are naive to the business, and they’ll say, “What is this place? Is this a shop? Is this a night club? I mean, WHAT IS THIS PLACE?” It doesn’t look like your grandmother’s antique store. There’s all different styles– it’s an eclectic mix and a lot of people don’t understand it. People who want to understand it do understand it. My customers are people in the film business, a ton of people in the fashion business, and because they get around– they see something different and can appreciate that it’s special. This is not like every other shop you see.
TSY: What are some of your favorite items you’ve acquired over the years?
DT: I love the giant sign we have upstairs from Father Divine. There’s a an old abandoned hotel in Philadelphia called the Divine Lorraine Hotel, that was run by Father Divine, starting back in 1942– it was sort of a cult. It’s in the news a lot now because someone is trying to restore it. It was a beautiful old hotel in North Philly, and under Father Divine, I believe they separated the men from women on different floors, because sex was something that was not allowed in their religion. Father Divine was a black man who drove one of the finest Duesenbergs that money could buy. He ended up marrying a 21 year old white woman. So even though he preached celibacy, he was driving around in this car with a beautiful young girl. They had a church in Harlem, and the headquarters in Philly. Well, there’s an 8 foot sign upstairs in our shop celebrating the marriage of Father Divine to his virgin, rosebud bride. It’s one of my favorite possessions. I bought it at an auction, and I don’t think I’d ever sell it. It would be tough for me to part with it. Ginger does not like it– she won’t let me bring it in the house. So it resides upstairs in my workshop. It creeps her out a little bit. I’ve always been fascinated with the building, having grown up in Philadelphia. I have a little breakfast table in my kitchen at home that came from the hotel as well.
TSY: Sometimes what’s so rich about an antique or relic isn’t even the thing itself, but the story and history that it possesses, right?
DT: Yes. One time I went to an auction and had bought a bunch of beautiful Venetian Italian antiques and among them was the collection of a priest who worked in the Vatican. All of this stuff was kept inside his apartment at the Vatican for years. One of the things I got in that auction was a porcelain bidet that was gold-leafed, and it was told to me that the priest swore to the auctioneer it had belonged to the most famous actress of the stage and screen. It was one of his prized possessions– the bidet of French superstar Sarah Bernhardt. Like a lot of my clients, his pleasure was acquiring things, however strange or not, that spoke to him. We like to surround ourselves with things that have a story. That’s what I like to bring in, and most of my customers share that same feeling.
There’s not a weekend that goes buy that someone doesn’t come in and say something like, “Oh, do you remember me? Fourteen years ago we bought a clock from you and it’s our prized possession. We’ll never part with it.” Every single weekend someone will say something like that to me and it makes me feel good. Most Dealers, honestly, they say that their biggest pleasure in this business is the hunt. Finding the thing. It’s not for me. I don’t really love the hunt that much. I like it when I sell something to someone artistic like Julian Schnabel (rather than a hedge fund guy), or it ends up on a movie set for a Quentin Tarantino film. Those are the kind of things that give me pleasure. When I place it, and find the right home for it. I like the rescue, and the adoption process when it goes back into the world to someone who really appreciates it. I’ve become good friends with many of my clients, and I really like that. That’s what makes me happy.
America Antiques & Design
5 South Main Street, Lambertville, NJ 08530 | (609) 397-6966