Midtown East is gridlocked. So I can’t understand why the Schindermans have chosen to meet at The Water Club on 30th by the East River. They are New Yorkers — surely they know it’s the worst possible place when the UN is in session? But it turns out that, compared to my hosts, I still know nothing about New York. This is in fact the perfect time to visit the normally crowded restaurant and bar owned by Michael ‘Buzzy’ O’Keefe (also owner of The River Café, Brooklyn). We have the place pretty much to ourselves and are treated like royalty.
If New York had royalty then Herbie would surely qualify. The Schindermans have defied the odds by maintaining a successful family business, Ann-Morris, Inc., since it was established in 1947 by Herbie Schinderman’s father, Morris, and his sister, Ann.
‘Everything comes back to Aunt Ann,’ says Herbie. ‘She was imposing. Over six foot tall, always smoking. Probably the first and only woman antiques dealer in New York back then who really made it. She was fearless — travelling to Europe after the war, buying everything from jewels to fine art and furniture, shipping it back and selling it to an eager New York clientele.’
19th-century English and Scottish hunting and outdoor scenes adorn the 28ft-high space
The view over the Upper West Side, with Herbie’s tobacco boxes on a table in front
Ann and Morris were a formidable pair — she the business tour de force, he the tireless worker putting in long hours to sell the antiques shipped over by the container-load each month. Commuting from Brooklyn every day for 50 years, Morris instilled in his son Herbie and grandson Sam the imperative of hard graft; Aunt Ann was simply ‘something else’.
‘There’s a wonderful story of the day the Duchess of Windsor, Wallace Simpson, entered the store,’ says Herbie. ‘She swept in with her entourage and swept out again leaving one of her attendants to make the necessary arrangements. Aunt Ann was the first to ask “Where’s my cheque?” and when the reply came that it should be an honour to give these pieces to the Duchess, Ann simply showed them the door.’
Ann and Morris didn’t need to give away good business. By the 1950s and 1960s they had established the brand as the first choice for high-quality furniture and lighting, supplying Sister Parish and latterly Carleton Varney and Mark Hampton — all designers to US presidents. Herbie has built on this legacy by adding the next generation of New York’s decorating elite — including Victoria Hagan, Cullman & Kravis, Mac II, Polo and current White House designer Michael S Smith — to the company’s devotees.
An Arts and Crafts table and a George IV chair
‘It was the flagship Polo store in the Rhinelander mansion on Madison that changed things for us,’ says Herbie. ‘We had three antique sconces in the store, and Polo’s head designer came in. He said: “I want those. And I need 40 of them.” That’s how we started the reproduction side of what we do. Sourcing unique pieces from fairs and auctions across Europe was always at the core of our business, but recognising » the opportunity to replicate them to a high standard and finish as custom pieces was a turning point.’
Sam, just 27, now heads this aspect of the business, which is the company’s motivation for collaborating with Christie’s Living with Art sale this December.
‘We want to celebrate what we’ve always done well — English furniture and vintage lighting — but also move forward,’ says Sam. ‘This is an opportunity to showcase what we do to a different audience. We want to focus on our online market and broaden our reach.’
A Victorian dining/billiards table
Assorted English antiques
Gone are the days of chauffeur-driven buying trips in Europe and flying home on Concorde. Sam now focuses on digital campaigns sharing the history of Ann-Morris products and targeting new markets.
Despite the Schindermans’ distinctive style, evident in their home in the historic Hotel des Artistes building on West 67th Street, they have never added a decorating aspect to their business. ‘Sticking to the simple lines of English furniture and pairing it with task lighting has stood us in good stead,’ says Herbie.
When decorating any space, he prefers to start from scratch: ‘The problem with so many New York spaces is that they are already done with someone else’s vision. When we bought this apartment, it had been on the market for months and no one would touch it — it was a white elephant.’ Irish and Scottish workmen fitted the 28ft-ceilinged space with fireplaces from London and Belgium and chandeliers from Paris. ‘The trick is to take somewhere in New York and make it your own,’ he says. ‘But the nature of the city means things need to work, too. You need functionality and style.’
Main image at top: Sam and Herbie Schinderman in their apartment at the historic Hotel des Artistes, an artists’ cooperative building in Central Park West
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