My husband and I have always been drawn to antiques, partly because of their craftsmanship, which today is too often sacrificed to the demands of modern manufacturing techniques, and also because of the history the pieces carry with them.
When we lived in 680 square feet in Manhattan, such niceties as antiques were out of the question. But a move to Boston, and the purchase of a 123-year-old home, offered an opportunity to fulfill our fantasies of becoming, if only in the most casual sense, collectors. Part of the fun of collecting, we dreamed, would be travelling to quaint little country hamlets where we would ramble through cramped shops, old barns, and yard sales hunting for treasures that we could proudly lug home.
For years, New Yorkers have sung the praises of the Berkshires as one such rural enclave—one that remains underexplored for the most part by Bostonians, who are more likely to head north or south for rest and relaxation. This popular mountain retreat is nevertheless popular for such varied diversions as classical concerts at Tanglewood, contemporary dance performances at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and world-class art museums, as well as the natural highs of hiking mountain trails and downhill skiing. The busy season starts at the end of May and runs through October. April, locals say, is quiet—and muddy.
But in addition to high culture and country air, the Berkshires offer another recreational activity—one that is undaunted by the change of seasons. Here, along Route 7 from Great Barrington into Connecticutt, hundreds of antiques dealers present a staggering array of wares to homeowners and second-home owners, tourists and passerby...
Moving from the general to the specific, we continued south on Route 7 to Elise Abrams Antiques, specialists in porcelain, glass, and dining-room accessories. Abrams, a native of Princeton, New Jersey, concentrates primarily on English porcelain bearing the marks of Minton, Royal Worcester, Royal Doulton, Coalport, and Royal Crown Derby. She also carries Dresden, Meissen, and Sevres in her collection, which dates from about 1780 through the thirties.
"The thing that sets me apart is the quality of the merchandise," she says. "I have very strict standards about knife marks, gilding wear, and repairs of any sort." Such quality comes at a price: at the top of the spectrum, a set of 12 heavily gilded circa 1882 dinner plates is $3,600. More moderate offerings include 12 Royal Chelsea rose decorated plates for $600.