October 2, 2009 at 11:28 am , by cdewet
I love to travel, and I’ve already disclosed my absolute passion for scouring flea markets, come rain or shine (picture me in a yellow hooded slicker trying to persuade an elderly woman to hand over her mirror). What if there were a job where you actually got paid for doing both? Sounds to good to be true, right? Wrong! Keith Johnson, the antiques buyer for the retail store Anthropologie ( I know, I’m obsessed with that store, too) travels the world doing just that. Now Sundance Channel will offer a glimpse into his world in “Man Shops Globe,” an eight-part original series documenting his shopping adventures in India, Paris and South Africa, just to name a few.
I had an opportunity to speak with Keith at Anthropologie’s store in Rockefeller Center during a press event. Okay, and I did some shopping, too. Can you blame me?
Do you have any tips for flea-market shoppers?
I think you really have to have somewhat of a shopping list in your head, but at the same time you can’t be really really specific, because you might end up disappointed. If I go into a flea market and leave without anything, I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like there is always something to be found. It is so easy to miss things, you just have to keep an open mind and be able to envision objects in a different light. I travel with a group of really talented, creative people. They often help me to see treasures I might have missed otherwise.
Do you think there is an essential item that everyone should try to work into their decor? Something that you can’t live without?
Actually, what I really don’t like today is a uniformity of taste, and when there’s too much good taste. I find it incredibly boring. There are so many shelter magazines and when I look through them I don’t see the person behind the design. I want to see the person. Some of the worst apartments are the most memorable—you go into them and you think, what were they thinking? But this is who they are—this is what they were thinking, and they’re not afraid. It’s wonderful.
What are your thoughts on impulse buys?
If something speaks to you and you love it, you will probably always love it. I still have things in my home that I fell in love with 25 years ago. You might have to put them away for a year or so but when you bring them back out they still look good.
Is there a certain market abroad that you always tend to go back to, that you’ve fallen in love with?
The Clignancourt market in Paris is truly wonderful—one of the largest in the world. Some of the stall holders there are so amazing at putting together new ideas—it’s so fun to see. It’s like visiting people’s homes in a way. It is so interesting to see how antique dealers’ personalities are reflected in their merchandise. I also love La Sorgue in the South of France and the Parma fair in Italy. They all offer something different and exciting.
One last question. Do you have a budget, or do you get to buy whatever you want?
Honestly, it is so hard to find truly wonderful and unique things… Ultimately of course we are a profit-making company, so yes, I do have budgets, but I am constantly exceeding them. The good thing is that just about everything I bring back is for sale in the store, and I’ve been know to buy a thing or two myself!