What's Old is New Again

Theta Design Weekend is Not Your Grandma's Antiques Show

In its 65th year, the annual Houston event is less Antiques Roadshow and more West Elm showroom.

By Abby Ledoux November 28, 2017

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A Florida home features architecture by Bobby McAlpine and Greg Tankersley and interiors by Susan Ferrier, all featured designers at this year's rebranded Theta Design Weekend.

A 65-year-old Houston tradition just got a facelift. Formerly known as the Theta Charity Antiques Show, the upcoming Theta Design Weekend at the George R. Brown Convention Center from December 1-3 has undergone a major rebrand in organizers’ efforts to expand its reach and, well, keep up with the times.

“It’s been stale for a long, long time,” event chair Waverly Gage admitted. “People are not collecting antiques anymore; that’s not what they want. It’s gone out of fashion.”

That was hardly the case in 1952, when the Houston Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta took a cue from New York City socialites who successfully employed antique shows to meet their philanthropic goals.

Then, Theta women capitalized on Houston’s lackluster antiques market, which forced buyers to venture east to New Orleans or north to New York to collect. They held the first Theta Charity Antiques Show at Houston’s downtown Shamrock Hotel, building a lasting tradition and raising over $7 million for Texas charities along the way. 

That was all fine and well, Gage said, until the market changed. For the last three years, Thetas have worked to combat the fact that people just don’t collect antiques like they used to. Plus, unlike in the ‘50s, Houston’s vibrant marketplace wants for nothing. 

“Anything you want for your home, you have it here,” Gage said.

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Houston-based luxury Italian linen company Tribute Goods will have a presence at this year's Theta Design Weekend among 80-plus other exhibitors and designers.

So, with a fresh set of eyes and renewed sense of mission at the helm, Theta pivoted to embrace that reality. Now, the weekend is less Antiques Roadshow and more West Elm showroom. Attendees can expect a “three-day shopping extravaganza,” and organizers (and hundreds of volunteers) took pains to thoughtfully meld tradition with modernity; antique with contemporary; high-end with low.

“It is completely different. We’re not walking away from the tradition of having fine antiques and art, but we’re adding [more] to make it a different show,” Gage said.

Indeed, traditional collectors can still obtain fine antiques this weekend, but they’ll also find more than 80 exhibitors and designers offering everything from rugs to fine jewelry at varying price points.

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A pair of art deco platinum, ruby and diamond pendant earrings by J.S. Fearnley, an exhibitor at this year's Theta Design Weekend, which now includes much more than just antiques.

The weekend’s schedule varies by day but is chock-full of designer panels, speaker luncheons (with Mark D. Sikes and the McALPINE Group), art walks, lectures and more. Some events, like the luncheons and a Sunday mother/daughter brunch, are ticketed; most are accessible with $20 advanced purchase general admission.

“We also want to make it more democratic, if you will,” Gage said. “Anyone that likes design, we want them to be able to come into the show and be able to buy something.” Whether that’s a book on architecture or an antique barometer, there’s “just a little something for everyone,” Gage said, “but beauty all around.”

View a complete schedule, list of exhibitors, sponsors, designers and more online. Doors open Friday, December 1 at 10 a.m.

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