I've lived in San Francisco for just over 11 years (the last three and a half of them in the Castro), but in all that time, it wasn't till last year that I stopped into Earthtones. I learned that proprietor Omar Hampton has been in business selling antiques and lighting for 30 years and was always more than happy to support the local design community. When I went to pick up his incredibly generous donation (a beautiful porcelain lamp with silk shade) I realized what an important resource Omar truly was.
I was taken by the lamp's unique red, blue, and white floral design. "This is Imari porcelain," he informed me. "If you're gonna be in this business, you gotta know the difference between this and other Delftware and pottery." And with that, he spent the next 20 minutes schooling me in different kinds of porcelainware. This was a lesson I did not get in the classroom.
A few days later, he put up big "Going Out Of Business" signs in the window. I was shocked.
"Everybody's going to Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn (across the street) these days," he said. "They're not going for the antiques anymore."
Not true! I thought. Even though the current mass-market trends favor minimalism and simplified forms, the pendulum is swinging back. Many of my then-classmates (and I) prefer a truly eclectic design for a room, mixing periods and styles. (In fact, Caroline—a lover of antiques—ended up winning the Imari lamp donated by Earthtones at the charity auction.) I know that my clients want personalized spaces, not just a look from the pages of a catalog. (In fact, I recently read that the Pottery Barn across the street will be closing. So much for the power of the major retailers.)
Sadly, Omar is still clearing out his extensive inventory. Earthtones will still be around for a few more months, and merchandise is at least 25% off regular prices (some pieces have additional discounts.) New items come in constantly from his warehouse. I picked up a pair of these Chinese zodiac incense holders a couple of weeks ago:
In the same way I envy Accident & Artifact, there's a part of me that wishes I could have a retail space like Earthtones. There's even a raised, dais-like area that would be just perfect for an interior design office. Currently, it's the perch for Omar's big friendly dog:
(Any shop with a dog or cat always gets points in my book!)
Stop by and check it out before it's too late. You might score a piece with an interesting story, like the half-finished Korean painting of Quan-Yin. Better yet, you might just learn something from Omar.
Earthtones is located at 2323 Market Street, between 16th and 17th Street. Hours may vary during the liquidation, so call ahead. 415-626-1460.