Backstory: The Winter Antiques Show

The Winter Antiques Show is America's most prestigious, pedigreed, patinated fair. The waiting list to become an exhibitor is long, and once admitted, dealers hoard treasures all year long to unveil opening night.

But with so many delights competing for the eye, how to make sure that your booth will stand out? Unless you're the Antiques Roadshow blond dynamo Leigh Keno who is an energy force unto himself, your secret weapon may well be interior designer, architecture historian and preservationist Ralph Harvard.

For the past several years, Harvard has been designing jaw-dropping booths to showcase the equally breathtaking wares of miniature specialist Elle Shushan and American Decorative Arts dealer Sumpter Priddy III. But don't take my word for it - the proof is in the pudding:

Every year Elle chooses an inspiration and Ralph runs with it. This year (above) was Josephine's Malmaison. 2008, seen at very top, was Palladian polymath William Kent's 1730s folly for Queen Caroline.

Elle's favorite was the 2007 booth. In homage to her hometown New Orleans which had just been besieged by hurricane Katrina, Elle chose the mid-19th century Gallier House, located in the historic French Quarter. I believe some lucky girl received the booth after the show's end as a playhouse!

Ralph created intimate, sheltered spaces which were conducive to focusing on and appreciating the miniatures. For University of Virginia school chum Sumpter Priddy, a different approach was warranted.

This year's booth

By attending to every surface, Ralph evokes the grandeur of an 18th century drawing room, which was the original setting for many of the objects on display in the stand. As you can see in the pictures below, the architecture of the booth stays the same, but it is transformed every year by changing the color scheme. Gallery Associate Laura L. Libert says they tried the patterned floor and moldings for the first time in 2007 and received so many raves, they've kept it ever since.

Only 11 months and two weeks until next year's show, but who's counting!

2008 - the vibrant grass green color scheme was taken from Blandfield Plantation seen below:

Sumpter's 2007 booth - a dramatic stunner. The dark walls create a jewel box effect, while the geometric floor makes it pop.

Top Photo Hiroko Misuike for the New York Times, #2 from Habitually Chic, #3 & #4 courtesy Antiques and the Arts, #5, #6, and #8 courtesy Sumpter Priddy III, and #7 courtesy Blandfield Plantation