Recently, I was lucky enough to meet and then sit down with Shane Brown of Big Daddy’s Antiques (THE Big Daddy!)
I’ve loved BD’s for quite some time, I love to go to their massive store off Jefferson and just get lost. They always have creative, fun, and funky pieces (antiques and custom made!) that will take your rooms up a notch and make your space special. In the store, we started talking, and Shane told me about how he got interested in buying and selling furniture, and I knew I had to interview him.
We talked about the business and how he got started, the find that got away, and he even gave me some tips for negotiating prices!
RR: What’s your biggest source of inspiration?
Shane: Walking in here. There’s nothing more inspiring than moving stuff around and combining different things and having it sell in the next day or 20 minutes even.
I also look at a lot of magazines for inspiration.
It’s interesting because (Big Daddy’s) hits every outlet. My creative outlet, my business outlet, and I think that’s why I still have a lot of passion for it. Other than that, the business is really fun and every day is different– I can go to the San Francisco store. I can go buying in the south of France or somewhere else. Its just fun!
RR: How did you get started?
Shane: I decorated a girlfriend’s house, and when it ended, I was selling off the pieces, and the buyers were telling me I had a great eye. I guess that’s why I’m still in business—I have a good eye.
When I first started, I was schlepping stuff to the Rose Bowl at 4 AM in a $800 van I bought from my uncle. I’d be praying that it would make it to Rose Bowl so I could make money to feed myself and buy more stuff.
RR: What do you look for in a piece?
Shane: Patina and character. What’s going on at the time influences it. How I’m feeling, what people are buying. It evolves constantly. I’m not buying the same kind of stuff I was buying 20 years ago. Thank God!
Also, I think what I look for has evolved with the amount of money I can spend. I had a good eye in the beginning, but I didn’t always have the money to back my eye. My eye is ALWAYS better than my pocketbook.
RR: How has your style evolved?
Shane: I’m moving away from the look Restoration Hardware has started doing now. (Author note: he’s been doing it for about 10 years already!) I’m going toward a more minimalistic, contemporary look with my twist on it. That might be some leather…(the twist) will come organically within the next year. I’m looking for the next thing– “what are we doing, what we should be doing?”
RR: A lot of rehabbers dream of having shops. How did you go from buying and selling pieces to having a brick and mortar establishment?
Shane: People couldn’t always come to markets, or they would call me and want to see stuff during the week. I heard that enough, so I finally opened here in LA. I was doing markets up in San Francisco, and I started hearing that enough. I would set up my area like a store, and people would ask where the store was, and I had some people come down to LA to see the store, and I realized it was time to open a store in San Francisco.
RR: Most memorable buy(s)?
Shane: When I was first getting started, I bought some paintings for $5 each, they sold for $1300 each.
I bought a Louis Vuitton trunk for $600. I still own that, and it is now probably worth $15,000.
RR: Has there been a “find that got away”?
Shane: A sterling silver trophy. The price was fine, he just wasn’t negotiating with me. Someone else bought it about twelve steps later.
When I was younger, there were a lot of things I had to let go because I just didn’t have the cash to buy them. Now, I usually just buy something if I think its great!
RR: Where do you find this amazing stuff?
Shane: People text me photos all day. I have two containers coming in that I bought off photos.
Also, I find a lot of stuff in Europe. I do major buying trips about 6 times a year.
RR: What’s the best part of the job?
Shane: I meet the most interesting people. You meet the whole spectrum of society. I might meet a broke artist making really cool things, or a billionaire collecting odd and interesting things.
Like yesterday, I wasn’t planning on going downtown, but I went and met this amazing artist from Portugal who is doing all of these murals on the sides of buildings that are crazy and a client of ours took me down there. I’ve flown on a customer’s private plane to go install a rock from Bali. That’s the best thing—meeting really interesting people.
Also, I’m living exactly the dream I created in my head as a child. I mean, to the wife, to the kids, to the business, to multiple homes… everything I wanted as a kid. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to travel, have a healthy family, and I wanted to have a fun, interesting lifestyle. And, I think I’ve done it!
RR: Have you had any “what was I thinking” moments?
Shane: I’ve been married for a long time now, so I don’t really have any of those!
In business—I’ve been pretty lucky. The hardest thing, really, has been the employees. “Why did I hire that particular person?”
What I’ve created– I don’t look back at things I’ve created negatively. I saw some photos recently from when I first started and said, “wow! look how far I’ve come!”
RR: What are your design pet peeves?
Shane: Dead plants, plants in cheap container or the black plastic container. If you’re sitting in a multi-million dollar home and have really cheap pottery because you’re too cheap to buy nice pottery, it really irks me.
Also, lamps without lampshades drive me crazy.
RR: Do you have any negotiating tips?
Shane: The best way to the best price is to be nice. Show that you love a piece, don’t knock it down and point out the flaws. Have respect for the seller, be honest if something is above what you can pay but you really love it. Put a package together and buy multiple pieces. Ask for the seller’s “friendliest price.”
RR: Any parting words?
Shane: We’ve become a throw away society. They aren’t as interested in quality because they don’t expect it to last. People used to pay $20,000 to decorate their living room and expect it to last 30 years. Now people just buy mid-priced things and expect to throw them away. I’m trying to teach my little girls that is not all about looks, it is about what’s on the inside that counts.
My note: This also applies to quality furniture. It’s about finding the good bones and quality pieces that will last. This is the kind of stuff Shane is attracted to and sells in the store.
Another note: We had a wonderful long interview. In some instances, word order has been modified for flow.
I loved talking to Shane and learning about how Big Daddy’s became what it is today. It was so much fun to hear his stories and learn about the business. After more than 20 years, he is still passionate and excited about the work that he does. Talk about a dream job!
Visit Big Daddy’s or Georgia Brown for your last minute Christmas needs or if you just want something really special. You won’t leave disappointed (or empty handed!)
Big Daddy’s LA Location: 3334 La Cienega Place, LA, CA 90016
Big Daddy’s San Francisco Location: 1550 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
Georgia Brown Aspen: 217 Galena St, Aspen, CO 81611