A visit to Umbrella at the Tomato Factory is a visual pleasure. Filled with the colorful and intriguing art of Fay Sciarra and an eclectic selection of antiques and home furnishings from a number of dealers, this “gallery and more” is a haven for collectors, buyers, and browsers.
Located on the second floor of the 100-year-old Tomato Factory, an antiques cooperative at 2 Somerset Street in Hopewell, Umbrella recently expanded, doubling its space, which provides an opportunity to display the collections of even more dealers.
“We call it ‘Umbrella’ because it is a collaborative group of creative people,” explains Fay Sciarra. “We wanted people who could think beyond the traditional; people who could create a wonderful environment.”
“We have a very eclectic selection, including unusual items you won’t find everywhere,” adds Linda Sciarra. “We sell such a wide variety. Each dealer has his or her own enclave or ‘vignette’ and their own aesthetic but everything blends together.”
Vintage Coco Chanel
Among the dealers who are represented are Maria Gage Antiques, Robert Evans Antiques, Russell Hutsko and Richard Hoffman Antiques, Nancy Furey Design, Jeffrey Henkel Antiques, and Gary Gandel Antiques.
“For the holidays, we have items from Katy Kane, the vintage couture and clothing dealer,” says Ms. Sciarra. “It’s a special selection of vintage Coco Chanel, a Hermes handbag, Gucci alligator belt, Christian Dior necklace, Chanel-style gold cuff bracelets, and beaded and sequined evening bags. We want people to know they can come here and see different things. We want them to be visually stimulated.”
Of course, Fay Sciarra’s art is a highlight. Noted for her vibrant use of color, rich texture and patterns, and imaginative whimsy, she works in many media: acrylic on canvas, reverse painting on glass, mixed media, sculpture/assemblage, and collage.
“I’m a painter and assemblage artist, so I know a lot about famous post impressionists and modern artists whom I’ve studied,” says Ms. Sciarra. “But Umbrella has opened my eyes to iconic furniture designers like Philip and Kelvin LaVerne, Vladimir Kagan, Le Corbusier. I’m learning every day about antiques. And then there are interior designers like Tony Duquette, Nate Berkus, Anthony Barrata, and Kelly Wreastler.
“The amazing thing is that some of them (the ones who are still living) are customers of ours because of the internet. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself that we have created such a thriving business tucked away on a side street in Hopewell!”
Customers enjoy the engaging display of home furnishings, antiques, and accessories, including one-of-a-kind lighting. A ceramic “asparagus” table lamp and vintage sconces are appealing specialties. Unexpected and unusual items are creatively exhibited in the spacious quarters. For example, visitors will find an industrial coatrack, recycled from a Manhattan art school. With numerous hooks, it is perfect for a family mudroom. Very popular, only one is left of the four initially available.
“We enjoy offering recycled items from the nationally renowned ‘architectural archeologists’ Olde Good Things,” says Linda Sciarra. “They are one of the largest salvage companies in the U.S., and really became known for making farm tables out of wood, such as pine, that comes from old buildings. There is a lot to be said for repurposing old items.”
Among the popular pieces from Olde Goode Things is tin wall art recycled from a tin ceiling, she adds. “They also wrap tin on wood, and make small decorative pieces, as well as mirror, which become art objects. This is really creative recycling. The company makes chandeliers out of old globes, which are terrific. We also have chandeliers in lucite, iron, crystal, and wood. We have lamps made from vintage grape and olive buckets, and the buckets can also be used as magazine and newspaper containers. This company is so inventive.”
In addition, Umbrella displays a large table top of galvanized steel, with industrial iron legs, from Olde Good Things. The company has also provided handmade chalk boards made of real slate. Another intriguing item is a vintage Buick grill, a perfect addition to a “Man Cave”, whose inhabitant loves old cars.
The custom farmhouse tables are very popular, notes Ms. Sciarra, and customers can select the top they prefer. A number of other antique tables are also available, including a large elm, burlwood, and mahogany dining table (c) 1940s, featuring lions’ claw feet.
“We have mid-century (1950s) one-of-a-kind furniture from all over, including the U.S., France, and England,” she points out. “It is really beautiful, including a very impressive George III-style partners desk circa 1940s, in mahogany with leather top. An 18th century French provincial farm table is another outstanding piece.”
A variety of decorative pieces include animal replicas: a terra cotta horse’s head, an Italian terra cotta lion (ready to pounce!), and a pair of marble lions, each playing with a marble ball. Two carousel horses, old-time ceramic piggy banks, brass telescope, giant brass candlesticks, and vintage 1930s/40s suitcases sporting travel stickers, decanters in assorted styles, and a large mirror from the Marx Brothers estate are all part of the very eclectic selection.
On the Road
“We go on the road to find things, often in New England, and also, people find us,” says Linda Sciarra. “They may be downsizing and need to part with some of their belongings. We find that comfortable chairs are very popular. People are always looking for a pair, especially vintage club chairs.”
Umbrella also has a flourishing on-line business. “This supplements our in-store business very nicely. We are on 1stdibs.com, which has a huge customer base throughout the world. It is one of the largest on-line retail sites. We have now shipped throughout the world — to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, among other far away places. It really gets our name out worldwide, and we’re becoming known to important decorators at Umbrella.1stdibs.com.
“We also have a store front on e-bay, and we have gone on-line with Houzz, the number one on-line site for decorators. Someone can go there and say ‘I’m looking for ideas to decorate the family room.’ It’s a great source for people wanting to decorate.”
Umbrella will have its fifth anniversary next April, and both Fay and Linda Sciarra are enthusiastic about the gallery’s future. It already has a large customer base of regulars and repeats.
“We have really become a destination place, and people can find such a variety here. Sometimes, a shopper will come in and be looking for a particular item, but then see something else that catches their eye. And the inventory changes all the time, so there will always be something different to see.
“We are also very much hands-on owners. One of us is always here. We believe in having control of the business, and this has been a very successful concept for us.”
Customers will find a wide price range, from $25 up to $1000s, and everything in between, add the owners. “We have wonderful aesthetic pieces that will beautify the home, and we have met so many wonderful people. We want even more people to know about us, and we look forward to having them come to see what we have. We continually update our website, and we are also on Facebook.”
Umbrella is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 to 5. (609) 466-2800.