Welcome a regular feature where I take a look at those in the business of MCM. Whether dealers, pickers, restoration specialists, auction houses, or other experts we hope to shed some light on those who work ‘behind the scenes’. This week I ask a few questions of picker and dealer Bobbie Ann Tilkens-Fisher, a Philadelphia-based purveyor and interior stylist specializing in vintage modern art, furniture and objects from the second half of the 20th century. I’ve been featured in/on Houzz.com, Apartment Therapy, Atomic Ranch Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2014, Philadelphia Magazine named the living room of my (former) mid-century modern home one of Philadelphia’s Hottest Spaces. Bobbie is also the proprietor of At Home Modern.
1. In a sentence, what is a picker?
I think this word has really evolved in the last few years. For me, it used to evoke images of Fred Sanford, beat-up pick-up trucks and junk yards. Those folks still exist, and I buy from them! But today, pickers are as diverse as the objects from the past they find and sell! (This is three sentences, LOL!)
2. How did you come to picking / what did you do before picking?
Before I began buying and selling vintage modern décor full time, I was an Art History and Museum Studies professor at an art school here in Philadelphia. Connoisseurship has always fascinated me.
3. What is the furthest you’ve traveled for a pick?
I always pick when I travel, but I’d say the furthest I have traveled specifically to find something is about 250 miles. I’m fortunate to live in an area rich with flea markets and auction houses. I don’t really need to travel far or shop often to keep my online store stocked with wonderful items.
4. What do you consider your best find/pick?
Does a house count? Our last home, a 1958 home by Architect Irwin Stein was the best thing I ever bought and sold. It started a new career for me and changed my life in many ways.
5. What would say is your most disappointing find/pick?
My most frustrating recent purchase turned into gold!
I accidentally bought a pair of chairs at auction recently and paid a hefty sum. I thought I was bidding on something else. When I first saw them, I thought they looked OK, but closer inspection showed a lot of damage, fake wood veneer, etc. I went home angry with myself for making such a rookie mistake.
I planned to put them right back in auction and figured I would lose money. After chatting with my upholsterer, we decided to reupholster them and give them brushed brass bases – nerve wracking, because the repairs would not be inexpensive. Once I listed them online, they sold for a lovely sum of money and are on a boat to London as I write this!
6. What has been your favorite pick(s)?
7. As a picker what has been your oddest/strangest picking situation.
Oh gosh, years ago, I went to the apartment of a woman that was moving. I purchased a Saarinen Tulip side table, Brasilia server and a Danish teak cabinet. She was about 30 years old and had these strange contraptions all over her apartment. She said they sent electrical currents through her body and that they could cure cancer! When it came time to load my van, she called her boyfriend to come over and help. He was at least 70 years old! I felt guilty letting him help me while she sat and watched!
8. What would you say are a picker’s three most essential tools?
9. What piece have you found that you would never sell?
I’m a Philadelphia-based purveyor and interior stylist that specializes in vintage modern art, furniture and objects from the second half of the 20th century. I’ve been featured in/on Houzz.com, Apartment Therapy, Atomic Ranch Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2014, Philadelphia Magazine named the living room of my (former) mid-century modern home one of Philadelphia’s Hottest Spaces.
I’ve had the pleasure of sourcing objects for retail stores such as Anthropologie, movie sets and private collections. I’ve worked with a number of residential clients to help them revitalize their homes and I’ve shipped furniture as far as Paris and Rome!
My business, At Home Modern, evolved organically after decorating my own mid-century modern home in 2010. My goal was to create a modern environment that was stunning, inviting and warm, and importantly, didn’t take itself too seriously. At Home Modern began as an online store in 2011. That store quickly expanded to include personal shopping and interior styling services .
When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling, eating the most adventurous foods I can find, baking with my husband and playing with my two cats, Lincoln and Lucha. I grew up in Green Bay, WI and was raised by my grandparents, an avid fisherwoman and a taxidermist!
Click here for more photos of Bobbie’s wonderful (former) home designed by Architect Irwin Stein in 1958.
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Great Article. Good Pickers are the rocket fuel of the Antiques/Collectibles Industry. I worked for one of the best estate sale buyers, Rocky Boldman, that happened to have a great shop. We love buying and selling to Pickers. And sometimes we are Pickers, too. And collectors… It goes on and on!
It is great to see more women pickers-also today’s picking requires study and if not a PHD for sure a lot of intellectual work……can’t be qualified as pejorative any more…