A Life in American Antiques
Before moving to The Hill at Whitemarsh in 2007, Lita Solis-Cohen lived in a converted stone barn in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, that was built in 1740. It’s not surprising that she spent 42 years in a house with deep historical roots, since Lita has devoted her life to antiques–both personally and professionally.
“I worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for 20 years before I started writing about the American art market for The Philadelphia Inquirer,” Lita said. “Soon after my column was nationally syndicated, I was offered a position as a staff writer at Maine Antique Digest (MAD), which is the newspaper of record for the American antiques market.”
Lita, who has been with MAD since 1974, still serves as the senior editor of the publication, with no intention of retiring.
“I covered major auctions and antiques shows in New York City until COVID,” said Lita. “I still attend auctions, but so many of them are online now. It’s more economical for the auction houses and convenient for bidders. I love covering sales for MAD because I pick out the best of what is offered and then see if the bidders agree with my choices.”
Although Lita sold most of her collection before moving to The Hill, she mixed what was left with modern furniture, influenced by the aesthetic principles of German industrial designer Dieter Rams, who is known for his timeless designs that avoid visual pollution. Aesthetics are important to Lita.
“I wanted to create a simple, quiet work space when I moved to The Hill,” she said. “My library/office space has the universal shelving system that Dieter Rams designed with floating shelves for my many books. I painted the living room a rich brown color, which makes it look bigger, and filled it with a few 18th century antiques. The kitchen walls are painted orange, the cabinets are wooden; the only art in the kitchen is a very special pitchfork.”
When asked about what she loves so much about American furniture from the 18th century, Lita notes that she has a particular fondness for what was made in Philadelphia.
“It was a very high moment in art history,” Lita said. “An 18th century Philadelphia wing chair, a Windsor chair, a slat back chair, or even a tea table–they all have classic proportions and reflect the confidence our founding fathers had in the new nation.”
Lita’s ground-floor apartment at The Hill has a terrace overlooking a beautiful garden. When the weather is nice, she eats most of her meals outside and is often joined by friends for drinks or dinner.
“For nearly 50 years, I’ve been writing about ‘stuff,’” said Lita. “Furniture, paintings, silver, ceramics–some made in the past and some of it modern and contemporary.
I don’t want to retire. This beat has been so much fun, and I learn something new every day!”
While the trips to New York City might not happen as frequently as they had in years past, Lita loves to visit the nearby Woodmere Art Museum, where she is a member of the accessions committee.
“Woodmere’s proximity to The Hill is such an advantage,” she said. “I can get in the car and drive just under three miles to explore Woodmere’s excellent exhibitions and stop to take a walk in the Morris Arboretum on the way back. It’s great fun!”