They are northern Europe’s leading antique dealers and clients fly in from every corner of the world to visit one of Europe’s largest and most amazing antique showrooms.
By Theresa Valbæk
A visit to Green Square is an overwhelming experience. Antiques are showcased in outstanding ambiances everywhere – it’s awe-inspiringly ostentatious. You cannot help but be drawn into this amazing world. There is a magical melange of thousand-year-old Chinese chairs, grand chandeliers, magnificent drapery, and ultramodern interiors. Lars Holbak leads the tour through the no less than ten immense showrooms, covering more than 10,000 m2/ 33,000 feet, which highlight prize displays of antiques. “The further clients venture into the store and through the showrooms, the more casual the displays get, and the very last of our showrooms features antiques still in their rough condition and in need of repair. But clients enjoy access to all rooms,” says Holbak. Apart from antique showrooms, Green Square is also home to an interior design studio, carpentry and upholsterer’s workshops, an art gallery and a boutique for home fabrics, wallpapers and bathroom designs. The one-stop interior store will help you furnish your entire home, but you are also welcome to browse for a few ornamental treasures. “Our clients are very different. Some place large orders and arrive in private jets with their personal secretary and family. They also avail themselves of our interior design department. Others are regular shoppers who buy small items now and then,” reveals Holbak.
Antiques in a modern world
Holbak takes a seat in a magnificently upholstered antique sofa. He is casually dressed and gestures enthusiastically while speaking of his business. Green Square, he emphasises, is no ordinary antique shop. “We are very conscious of keeping up with new trends and incorporating antiques into modern interiors. That’s why we deal a lot with Chinese antiques. The old flat-topped Chinese coffee tables and high-varnish cabinets are well suited to Scandinavian living rooms.” The notion of eclectically blending antiques with modern designs is a prevailing feature of the many outstanding interior ambiances. There is something for every taste in this huge shop, which features as a unique catalogue of home interiors. Furniture is upholstered, sanded, polished and repaired – and given pride of place in luxurious displays. “It is no doubt one of our strong points that we with our large stock of antiques do not design traditional interiors. We manage to make each piece seem in tune with the times, despite being hundreds of years old,” explains Holbak. Green Square also offers value for money. “Mads and I have always subscribed to the idea that our prices should be absolutely fair. In our business there are many charlatans and we have always sought to distance ourselves from them. We source prize items and retail them at what they are worth. I believe people perceive us as being trustworthy partners in a business that often lacks integrity.”
Learning by doing
Lars Holbak was originally trained in the fashion business and Mads Holst holds a degree in forestry. The two friends started their business back in 1974 at a time when they knew little about antique dealing. They started out merely for the fun of it, taking over an old junk shop and going into business for themselves. Holbak remembers the first big-time American dealer who chanced upon their newly opened vintage boutique in Copenhagen’s urban district of Nørrebro. Back in the 1970s, stripped pine furniture was all the rage and the American dealer wanted 10 containers of it. “Our prices were apparently a world apart from those in the US at the time,” he says with a smile. Since then their success has grown year by year. “It’s been learning by doing, but we’ve also benefited from very knowledgeable mentors, and we’ve always had a flair for the trade. The days of dealing in stripped pine furniture are long gone and we’ve since acquired unique knowledge on antiques and art.” Lars Holbak is in charge of the shop in Copenhagen. Mads Holst travels the world and does the sourcing. Despite 35 years in the business, Holbak has lost none of his enthusiasm and plans to continue as a dealer for years to come. “Well, I just can’t spend all my time playing golf, for what should I talk with my friends about? That would be too dull. No, I’m in it for the long term and so is Mads – right until we drop.”