Why wait for Valentine's Day to show your loved one how much you care? Go shopping now and take advantage of the Winter Antiques Show aftermath. Head straight for the antique district, New York's highest concentration of decorative arts, located South of Union Square on Broadway, 10th and 12th Streets. Every other door opens to new delights, mysterious bazaars, and the smell of exotic woods mingling in the air.
If your beloved needs a little help with his billet doux perhaps this is a good time to send a hint -- give the guy a desk. A prize example by Frank Lloyd Wright is up for grabs at Cathers and Dembrowski, 43 E. 10th Street. It's a stunning oak piece designed in ca. 1900 for the B. Harley Bradley House, "Glenlloyd," which marks Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Period. What will a desk by the most influential American architect cost? It will set you back $385,000, and its worth every penny. Barbara Streisand owned it once! Cathers and Dembrowski deals mostly in furniture, lights and metal works from 1900 to 1950.
Around the corner's Kentshire at 37 E. 12th Street, dealing primarily in 18th- and 19th-century English furniture, decorative arts, antique and period jewelry. One significant piece that may strike your fancy is a superb Regency mahogany bench from 1805. It's painted with the coat of arms of the Smith family with carved eagle heads on the arms and eagle talons for support. Its magnificent family history values this symbol of an epoch at $275,000.
At Karl Kemp, 34 E.10th Street, you can feast your eyes on a pair of wooden chests, ca. 1770-80, that used to belong to Valery Boothby, an English actress from the 1950s and '60s who married the title Countess of Colonna. This excellent example of Neo-Classical design is unusual in its complex marquetry of walnut, cherrywood, plumwood, maple and oak. Kemp sought to buy these chests for four years before the owner could be persuaded to part with them. Stop by and see the store's other trophies, especially the art deco and Biedermeier pieces.
If you lack a sexy silhouette in your home, cross the street to Reymer-Jourdan, 29 E. 10th Street, a shop known for its eccentric Neo-Classical pieces. A pair of Jansen fireside chairs from the 1940s with curvier lines than Mae West beckons to be stroked gently as well as sat on. It's a seductive buy at $6,000 for the pair. Also available is a line of Reymer-Jourdan self-designed furniture and lamps that compliments the collection of late-18th- and early 19th century furniture.
To get those Irish eyes smiling, head over to O'Sullivan Antiques at 51 E. 10th Street to browse through the rosewood and walnut pieces. There you'll be surrounded by Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian furniture that transports you to the set of BBC's Pride and Prejudice. Where else can you have a classic fainting spell into the lap of a $12,000 George IV library chair in red leather or lean surreptitiously on a 19th century mahogany table with paw feet?
And don't miss Seidenberg Antiques, which has moved to a new space on 12th Street. Seidenberg specializes in European and Oriental decorative arts, mainly from the 18th and 19th century -- but don't worry they're in glass cases, well protected from wandering elbows. One eyecatching item is the Egyptian revival clock. It's bright, brash and quirky with cartoon-like images in teal, orange, royal blue, and deep red.
Hyde Park is expanding into Seidenberg's former space on Broadway at 13th Street. Hyde Park is best known for fine English furniture and first-rate Chinese porcelain. It's one of those stores where you start to daydream and the histories of the objects blur together to create a serious collector's fantasy.
Also worth a look: B. Adler at 40 East 12th, Proctor Antiques, at 824 Broadway and Mason Gerard, at 53 E.10th Street. Ritter Antik, 35 E. 10th, is especially good for Beidermeir and an amazing display of round tables. The grandest window displays belong to Pall Mall, at 99 University Place. H. M. Luther Antiques is around the corner at 61 E. 11th and filled with enough goodies to keep you in the district until the shops close.