Sally Serwer
Sally Serwer

While Serwer has perfected the art of finding and selling rare or unusual items, clients also come to her with specific asks, which she then seeks out.

When Sally Serwer was 6, her mother, Adeline Steinman, would take her to antique shows at Temple Israel. “It was in my blood very early on,” the interior designer and antique dealer says.

For more than 40 years, Serwer, 67, of Bloomfield Hills, has worked in interior design as the owner of Sally Serwer Designs. She’s also sold items at Berkley’s Odd Fellows Antiques for 15 years as an antique dealer, serving clients throughout Metro Detroit and beyond.

At the forefront of Serwer’s unique style and taste is an aptitude for classic and vintage pieces, which she aims to incorporate into any space she decorates. 

1960s rare collection of Abraham Palatnik lucite animals.
1960s rare collection of Abraham Palatnik lucite animals. Courtesy of Sally Serwer

“I have been known to be a person to use antiques with all of my designs,” she says. “Even if it’s a very modern house, I feel like you need to have new and old to make it different from everyone else’s.”

Catching what she calls the “retail bug” from her father, Alvin Steinman, who owned women’s boutique Alvin’s Bride with several locations throughout the state, Serwer combined that passion with her mother’s love for antiques (another trait she says was passed down) into her business.

Throughout her career, Serwer began to collect antiques that she could later sell to her clients. She assembled a vast collection that she stored in her garage, turning antique dealing into a side business that she could add to her main interior design business. 

“I sold on my own,” Serwer recalls, “and then I went to the best store in town, Odd Fellows Antiques.”

Sally’s booth at Odd Fellows Antiques
Sally’s booth at Odd Fellows Antiques Courtesy of Sally Serwer
Inside the Business of Antique Dealing

Odd Fellows Antiques is home to some 50 antique dealers. Once a week, Serwer brings in her latest goods to sell at her booth, which includes a wide range of everything from beautiful fine antiques to flea market finds.

“I’ve got great artwork and furniture, mid-century chairs, old French chairs,” she describes. “A lot of antique dealers who are there, they specialize in one area, and I don’t really have a specialty because I love too many different genres. I have a gamut for everything.”

While Serwer has perfected the art of finding and selling rare or unusual items, clients also come to her with specific asks, which she then seeks out. 

“They’ve hired me to begin with because they like my taste,” she says of her clients, who are mostly high-end customers. 

Depending on the day, Serwer can work with anyone from celebrities who live in Michigan to young families looking for one-of-a-kind furniture and artwork. “I try to find things that are very classic and will never go out of style,” she explains. “I try not to buy things that are too trendy.”

Murray Eisner-signed Woody Allen print.
Murray Eisner-signed Woody Allen print. Courtesy of Sally Serwer
Finding and Collecting Antiques

For Serwer, the search for antiques never stops. “I crawl through holes to get the items,” she laughs. Whether she’s traveling with her husband, William, and spots something distinctive, or browsing estate sales, Serwer continues to keep an eye out for her next greatest find.

Before selling an item, particularly chairs, Serwer also makes sure everything is in excellent condition. “If I find an old chair, I’ll always have it redone,” she explains. “I like the idea of having a fresh new fabric.”

Over the years, Serwer’s business has mostly been through word-of-mouth. “I don’t like to do too much advertising,” she says.  

When an interesting piece or collection, the latter of which she tries to assemble so people can have matching decor, becomes available, she’ll post the antiques on her Facebook page, which can generate anywhere from one buyer to hundreds of calls.

In antique dealing, it’s always busy season, Serwer explains. Yet her favorite time to sell is in the summer when she can offer outdoor items. 

“I love anything that’s old stone or architectural,” she says. 

The holidays are also a great time for antique sales, thanks to a large interest amongst customers for vintage Christmas furniture and decor.

“Odd Fellows is known for having vintage Christmas stuff,” Serwer says.

After more than four decades in the interior design business and 15 years dealing in antiques, Serwer has learned exactly what it takes to find rare items — and everyone can do it, she says.

“Don’t turn down a garage sale,” Serwer advises. “Go to consignment stores. They’re almost like antique stores, but they don’t make it to antique stores because the dealers are buying from them.” 

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