Story by Michelle Baker
Designer Louis Shields, owner of Hastening Design Studio, may travel the world looking for beautiful pieces but he always returns home to Middleburg.
His newest work space is located at 108 West Washington Street in the Hockman Building.
This antique business which has spanned the globe and decades began almost by accident in London years ago when he moved there to paint in the late ’60s.
“I went there thinking I was going to be a painter and instead I fell in love with antiques,” Louis says. So, the young entrepreneur opened his first shop in the United Kingdom.
Today, many moves later including several moves locally, he feels he has found the perfect space. Hastening Design Studio is a cross between a gallery, a showroom and a working studio.
Pieces range in size and price. One huge ornate piece in the front showroom holds dozens of antique books for sale.
“Yes they’re for sale because I have about two or three thousand, I bought them when I lived in England, I would buy them by the box, by the foot really,” Louis says. “I just loved it because they are art vogue, they’re from about 1890-1920.”
“I just started doing it and they had a shop in the consul’s and was one of the first people to start bringing French furniture into England in quantity they hadn’t kind of figured it out at that point.”
“I spent eleven years in England and then we came straight from England to Middleburg because it was the closest thing to England,” he recalls. “I’ve been here ever since on an 18th century farm outside of town.”
“All the English dealers were buying for me, they would come in with a huge truck and then we would sell it all out and just go again,” he remembers. “It was difficult because I was young and I was an American and I was dealing in French furniture.”
His love of the find and eye for detail turned him into a nationally recognized dealer. “It was hard work and I became fanatical about being able to identify wood and origins of things and that kind of thing so I got a bit of a reputation.”
“Then came back here kept my business in England, my workshops and my warehouse and I would fly to France buy a truckload go to England, sell it to the dealers I was dealing with and then fly back here, so the first year we didn’t have a store or anything but I went to Europe 14 times,” he says.
While it may be baffling for many to try and predict the market, Shields has been able to be ahead of he curve in ways and read the sign of the times.
To know where the markets will be and becoming an expert in analyzing the trends is what has kept Hastening Design Studio on Main Street. Due to his busy schedule, he has not planned a “Grand Reopening” event. However, he hopes his friends and customers stop by his new location.
“I’ve got two really big projects out here right now,” Louis says. His projects range from working on an estate in Middleburg where the main house was built in 1798 to a home with a 20th century art collection. Shields and his team research and find the pieces to complete whatever look the owner is looking for in their space.
Locals can even take an antique restoration workshop from Shields at his farm out on Foxcroft Road. Check the website for details on upcoming workshops.
“Everything I buy we renovate, do that and everything right and then I started doing the furniture design.”
In addition to functional one of a kind pieces and antiques, the new space also features original paints by Shields, many of them parts of a series. “I’ve always drawn. I’m one of those weird people you can write your name I can can copy it exactly,” Louis says.
“I should have been a forger.”
This artist may travel with a lot of baggage but it’s beautiful baggage awaiting its forever home. ML
Hastening Design Studio, located at 108 West Washington St., is currently open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
—Originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Middleburg life.–