Reggie Marshall, co-owner of the antique store Marshall Clements in Little Rock’s Riverdale neighborhood, became passionate for garden ware when he was a college student in search of affordable ways to spruce up his first apartment. As it turned out, it was a unique means of giving the interior of his space character as well. Marshall later began collecting older styles, and when he opened his store in the early 1980s, he saw a void for outdoor antiques that he wanted to fill. “You couldn’t find it many places back then,” he says. “But there’s a craze for it today, because people are willing to accept the fragility of an antique in order to have something distinctive.”
Rather than searching in local garden centers, Marshall, accompanied by co-owner Jim Clements, now travels to Europe and Asia for outdoor products. Via planes, trains and automobiles, they look high and low, scouring markets throughout France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and beyond, for items that meet their criteria. Topping their list of requirements, each purchase must have a distinct appearance, whether in patina, color or scale. It must also be multi-functional. This is evident in the vivid yellow settee and green bistro set they found in France, which “could be placed in a bedroom sitting area,” Marshall says. It’s also seen in their preference for architectural elements, including wrought iron from Hungary, which can be sized to mount on a wall or used to liven up the exterior of a home that has a plain façade.
Inevitably, there are always those objects that Marshall can’t resist snatching up for his own collection. “I like larger things and fewer of them,” he explains. “I also like to play with scale.” That’s what he did recently when he moved into a home with less square footage. To create more living space, he designed a formal backyard with areas divided like rooms, filled it with plenty of antique seating, and then created the illusion of depth with a garden path that narrows towards a large antique statue. “It draws your eye outward,” he explains. To complement the larger elements, he threw in some interesting accessories as a finishing touch. “Always look for things that are flexible,” he advises. “Like cement urns that could be clumped together on a kitchen counter or in a bathroom.”
But if this outdoor antique connoisseur had to give just one piece of advice, it would be to think outside the box, like the time he fell in love with a stone cherub on the face of a crumbling chateau near Lyon, France. Although uncertain where it would go, he couldn’t leave without it—and it’s now happily ensconced in Marshall’s garden. “If I love something enough,” Marshall laughs, “I always find a way to make it work.”