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Bernard Karr of Hyde Park Antiques with author Emily Eerdmans and designer Mario Buatta.



Broadway and 13th Street was once the heart of New York’s wholesale antiques district. Center, with green awnings, is Hyde Park Antiques.



Bureau bookcases and globes are two Hyde Park specialties.



Hyde Park’s inventory fills 20,000 square feet of showrooms.



Early walnut and floral marquetry cushion mirror, circa 1685.



Dublin mahogany bureau bookcase, circa 1760, displays many characteristics of Irish cabinetmaking.



Pair of circa 1760 French-style carved walnut chairs after a design by Thomas Chippendale.



Black and gilt japanned cabinet-on-chest, circa 1715, surmounted by three rare ancient Chinese figures carved out of camphor wood.

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Classic English Design, Period Styles and Furniture: The Hyde Park Collection by Emily Eerdmans. Foreword by Mario Buatta. Introduction by Rachel Karr. Rizzoli International Press, New York City; 2006, 304 pages, $60 hardcover.

By Laura Beach

NEW YORK CITY — For decades, 9th through 13th Streets south of Union Square in Manhattan formed a bustling antiques district, populated by auction houses, bric-a-brac stores and to-the-trade-only galleries supplying designers and dealers from around the world.

One of the few great firms remaining in the area is Hyde Park Antiques, specialists in Georgian through Regency period English furniture. Exhibitors at the Winter Antiques Show and the International Fine Art and Antiques Dealers Show in New York, Hyde Park has a reputation for quality and quantity.

“We have the biggest inventory of English furniture of any dealer in the United States,” says Bernard Karr, a born and bred New Yorker who founded Hyde Park Antiques with his wife, Barbara, in 1965.

At any given time, Hyde Park’s 20,000-square-foot premises at 836 Broadway is apt to contain a dozen or more Georgian dining tables to choose from. Case piece and seating furniture, mirrors, clocks, barometers, globes, lighting, tea caddies, sculpture and ceramics fill the spacious quarters whose high ceilings, complex moldings, and soft shades of green suggest the plummiest of English stately houses.

How Hyde Park Antiques grew to its current stature is chronicled in Classic English Design and Antiques: Period Styles and Furniture. Published on the occasion of the company’s 40th anniversary, the book is well-designed, handsome and useful.

Written by Emily Eerdmans, a Sotheby’s Institute graduate who is on staff at Hyde Park, with a foreword by noted interior designer Mario Buatta and an introduction by Rachel Karr, who joined her parents in business in 1993, Classic English Design and Antiques provides a detailed history of the William and Mary, Queen Anne, Palladian, Rococo, neoclassical, and Regency styles in Britain.

Mario Buatta’s interiors — colorful, whimsical and never dull — owe much to the doyenne of English design, Nancy Lancaster, and the decorating concern Colefax & Fowler. Buatta writes that an earlier influence on his career was his Aunt Mary, who took him to the Manhattan department store W&J Sloane, where he learned about “Chickendale,” “Hecklewhite” and “Chinooserie.” Buatta, of course, long ago mastered the terms, but, for those still learning, a final section of the book features a pictorial history of furniture styles, focusing on chairs, chests and commodes, mirrors and bureau bookcases.

Interspersed throughout are objects owned or formerly owned by Hyde Park. Highlights include an early walnut and floral marquetry cushion mirror dating to 1685, an Eighteenth Century Dublin bureau bookcase that is a brilliant example of Irish cabinetmaking, a pair of circa 1760 walnut library armchairs in the French style after a design by Chippendale and a spectacular black and gilt japanned cabinet-on-chest of 1715.

Classic English Design and Antiques is opulently illustrated with archival drawings, period paintings of interiors and contemporary photographs of some of Britain’s best-known historic properties, among them Houghton Hall, Chiswick House, Strawberry Hill, Osterly Park and Syon House.

There are also lavish illustrations of the Karrs’ Upper East Side apartment, decorated by the late George Clarkson. The rooms, little changed since Hyde Park’s owners moved into them in the 1970s, demonstrate the timelessness of good English design, as well as its broad appeal. 

An inveterate collector, Karr moved into his first shop, a Third Avenue storefront, in November 1965, days after Mayor John V. Lindsay’s campaign staff moved out. Karr was originally a general-line dealer who bought a little of everything. He weathered the great New York City blackout as well as garbage and subway strikes in his first months, but soon prospered.

In 1969, Karr moved his business to lower Broadway. George Subkoff Antiques was across the street. Philip Colleck was two doors down. Kentshire Galleries is still around the corner. Karr bought his present building, a six-story cast-iron structure dating to the late 1860s, in 1979. By then he was inventorying only English furniture and accessories.

Though the dealer is mum about his clients, the pages of Classic English Design and Antiques is liberally laced with interiors furnished by designers Mario Buatta, Charlotte Moss, Ellie Cullman, Cullman and Kravis, Parish Hadley, Ralph Harvard, David Kleinberg, Nancy Serafini and Connie Beale with pieces from Hyde Park Antiques.

While we are talking, Karr gets an overseas telephone call. When he returns, he explains, “My business is very international. There’s hardly a part of the world that I haven’t sold to.” Many customers had their first introduction to Hyde Park Antiques at the Winter Antiques Show, where the Karrs have exhibited for 25 years.

After 40 years in business, Hyde Park Antiques seems as timeless as the furniture it specializes in. “If we weren’t having fun, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Bernard Karr explains.

For information, 212-477-0033 or www.hydepark.com.

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