Inside Antiquities Warehouse in Phoenix, “wow” is the operative word.
By Nora Burba Trulsson
Photography courtesy of Antiquities Warehouse
For those doing a project that needs a patina of age, Antiquities Warehouse (antiquitieswarehouse.com) in Phoenix is a magical wonderland. Inside the voluminous, 40,000-square-foot facility, vintage canoes dangle from the ceiling, a gigantic clock from a Parisian railroad station dominates one wall and old leather chairs from Amsterdam beckon in a corner. Old motel signs flash “vacancy,” stacks of rustic grape harvest baskets make up one aisle and a massive tobacco store cabinet seems destined for an estate dining room. And then there are doors and more doors. Did we mention doors?
Founded in 2013, Antiquities Warehouse is the brainchild of Michigan native Louse McDermott, who started her career in fashion, in Chicago. As what we would now call a side hustle, McDermott began redoing old houses in the city, often traveling to Europe to buy accessories, vintage furnishings and architectural elements to finish and stage the projects.
At a friend’s suggestion, she came out to Arizona in the late 1980s and impulsively bought a place in Scottsdale’s Gainey Ranch. “It was one of the smartest dumb moves I’ve ever done,” McDermott recalls. Before long, she began redoing houses in Arizona as well. “I quickly realized that people wanted to shop in the warehouse where I stored all of my things,” she remembers. The business was born.
Rather than opening up a location in a mall or on a busy pedestrian street in Scottsdale, McDermott chose a low-key industrial locale not far from Sky Harbor Airport and keeps it as a retail operation, open to not only builders, architects and designers, but to homeowners as well. “We are a destination,” says long-time business manager Robert Pargmann. “We don’t rely on foot traffic.” Today, much of the sales is online, thanks in part to an enthusiastic Instagram following.
But for those who do make the journey, Pargmann suggests at least an hour to peruse the 10,000-plus items, stocked floor to ceiling along numerous aisles, astutely organized into themed groupings, like wine-making accoutrements, outdoor elements, carnival items, cabinets, industrial items and more. “The doors are our best-sellers,” says McDermott, who recently opened a second location in Traverse City, Michigan, where she spends the summer. “We get a lot of them from France and Belgium, and, every once in a while, we’ll ship them back there to someone who’s doing a new build and needs old doors.”
McDermott chooses her products judiciously, relying on a network of contacts in Europe, the U.S. and beyond to send her images of items, which receive a thumbs up or down. “Louise has a certain aesthetic, and she buys what she likes,” says Pargmann. “It’s natural, raw, stripped or bleached. It’s nothing really shiny or new.” Prices, he says, range from smaller items marked at $50 to $75, to doors at $30,000 or more.
Antiquities Warehouse has drawn attention from well beyond Arizona’s borders. Customers have been known to fly in, just to shop the warehouse. It’s not that unusual, Pargmann points out, for the business to ship items to Australia and Canada, in addition to back to Europe. A table was recently sent to South Korea. A-list celebrities have also found their way to the warehouse, looking for items to finish off their dream estates. Ralph Lauren retail shops also make use of Antiquities Warehouse’s unique pieces for displays or to add ambiance to the stores.
Still, the most fun is to browse the aisles, using imagination to place items in a project. Perhaps a garden patio updated with Swiss designer Willy Guhl’s Loop chairs or some mossy planters? French prison doors for a wine room? And doesn’t every project need the back end of a yellow school bus or an industrial cherry pitter?
“Probably the most used word here for first-time customers is ‘wow,’” says Pargmann. In fact, he says, some clients have been so wowed they forget the time. “We’ve turned off the lights, locked up and then realize there’s a customer’s car or two still in our parking lot. We’ve had to go back in and find them.” Antiquities