What sets Marlene Miller apart from the rest is her eye – an eye for spying a history-laden find to add to her already eclectic array of wonderful antiques in Sorrento. This southern tip of the Peninsula person has been collecting for around 30 years and her store on Ocean Beach Road takes you to a world where craftsmanship and detail take centre stage and age is a thing of beauty.
I’ve had a few chats with the marvellous Marlene in the past and have found out two things for sure. One, she likes to laugh a lot and two - she is not so common after all.
(And by the way - isn’t it amazing how waiting for a ferry can change your life’s course?)
Did you find things as a child and bring them home?
The only time I did find something was when I picked up a toy from the Doherty's lawn (they were a big family who lived down the street). I took it home and got into a lot of trouble for it. I had to go and confess! I have not ‘picked’ up another thing since.
What makes you want to collect?
It is just so lovely to be surrounded by beautiful things and preserve history at the same time. I think it is really important for our future generations as well.
Is there a history of collecting in the family?
Not really, but my grandmother had very beautiful things. I am lucky enough to have some of those things now.
What’s the oldest piece of furniture you’ve had in store?
I have a lovely old Georgian Oak drop-side table at the moment which is close to 200 years old.
What is the most interesting piece of jewellery you’ve found?
I love the Gold Rush jewellery and do have quite a lot of it, but one of the most interesting pieces I have is a beautiful 15ct brooch/necklace (with love tassels). It has the photograph of a lovely lady in the back and she is wearing the necklace. You the lift up piece at the front and there is a photo of her husband. It’s probably dated around l860. Another great piece is a black cameo necklace made from the lava from Pompeii c.1830.
What’s the oldest book you’ve got and what is it about?
So many old books have come down from the book room upstairs over the years. Some of them go back to the 1700s. I’ve just gone up to find one called 'The Horse, in the Stable and Field' printed in 1875. There are lots more but the book room is a little messy and it takes a while to find things!
How long have you been in Sorrento and what do you love most about the area?
I grew up having holidays houses in the area, but in 1985 I noticed a derelict building (106) in the street for sale. Whilst waiting for the ferry to Queenscliff one day, I signed up to buy it. I was pretty much into art back then and thought Sorrento needed more galleries and I also loved doing up buildings. I sold my partially renovated house in Brunswick and holiday house in Sorrento - left my really good job which I loved and have been here ever since. The art passion turned into a passion for antiques.
Why live near the sea?
Probably because of the relaxed atmosphere, fresh air and the lovely people who live here and visit the area.
How does Sorrento compare to other places here and overseas that you’ve been to?
Extremely well. It is a beautiful place to live and has everything I need here.
Do you have any favourite spots to eat on the Peninsula?
We take turns to eat at our fabulous restaurants. We are very spoilt with such good food, coffee and ambience.
How would you describe your style (if you have one)? Do you think there is a Peninsula style?
Maybe a bit edgy so I am told. I think Peninsula people are rather casual in their style.
Do you have a favourite period of design you keep being drawn back to? What’s your favourite period in history?
Design wise I do not think you can beat the 1920s. I do not think there has been anything like it before or after.
How has Ocean Beach Road changed since you opened? (When was that?)
Ocean Beach Road was very country when I opened in 1985. You could see the tumbleweed rolling down the street at weekends. I do like the way it has evolved and think the buildings blend really well.
Do you think there is a future in collectables? How has the collectables business changed?
Antiques have been out of fashion for a while, but teenagers are now starting to love them. Girls are buying the old cups/saucers for their friends for birthdays and loving the old books because they are interested in the history. The beautiful old furniture will again be appreciated, but it’s getting harder to find as there are not many antique shops left. It is much harder to find good antiques these days for some reason. You would think it would be easier as they are out of fashion - but it’s not.
MARLENE MILLER ANTIQUES
Open seven days a week 10am(ish) till 5pm (closed Christmas and Good Friday)
A: 128 Ocean Beach Rd, Sorrento
T: 5984 1762
M: 0438 537 757