Whilst for many, a move to the country heralds a slower pace of life, this has most definitely not been the case for Collette Vernon of The Vintage Trader. Since moving from South London to the Victorian manor in Sussex which she shares with her husband and their three young boys (eldest Sonny and twins Bastien and Beau), Collette has grown her business into one of the most desirable locations in the business for decadent and often glamorous French antiques.
The high ceilings, huge windows and original floors of her historic home are the perfect backdrop for the vintage drinks trollies, huge gilded French antique mirrors and decadent decorative pieces which Collette has become known for. We certainly aren’t the only ones who think so either – Collette’s stunning home was recently featured on the cover of magazine Homes & Antiques.
Since we first met Collette at the beginning of this year, we’ve followed the development of her collection and swooned after many a stunning piece. We were recently able to spend some time at her beautiful home and chat about her glamorous design choices.
How did you get into the trade?
I’ve always had a passion for seeking out beautiful pieces of furniture and decorative antiques with a penchant for the faded grandeur style of old French Chateau pieces. I followed dealers whose eye was similar to mine but I was getting frustrated that they never picked up exactly what I had in my head. A move to the country and redundancy gave me the cash flow and more importantly time to start up the company so I could seek out these elusive finds myself.
What did you do before this?
I worked in the City, first at Goldman Sachs on the trading floor then some European Institutions before ending up at a startup.
What designers or periods are you particularly interested and inspired by?
I think Piero Fonasetti’s pieces are fabulous – from the plates to his furniture, take a look at the “Architettura” trumeau-
From which countries do you source your antique pieces?
Mostly from the UK with regular trips to France and Belgium. I do a lot of legwork scouring the auction houses, salvage yards, fairs and brocantes and this means I can bring my customers a stylish, edited list of wonderful statement pieces for their homes.
Have you ever come across a really spectacular find that blew you away?
A whole hoarde of Fornasetti plates at an auction house amongst other pieces of crockery, completely missed by the auctioneer and bought for a steal.
What is your favourite piece right now?
I’m loving the Maison Jansen lights, they are just beautiful.
What do you do when you are not working?
We are currently renovating our country house, which is a bit like that movie ‘money pit’. I’m also nearing the end of my interior design course which is very exciting!
What was the first piece you ever sold?
A huge ‘Strand’ theatre light, it was on my first official day of trading and I thought that was a good sign, I’m still in touch with that first customer too!
Who is your typical customer?
Someone like me! I love getting to meet my customers as we share an appreciation of the pieces that I’ve sourced, and I love getting to see them take their place in their new home. I also sell quite a lot to independent boutique hotels who use my pieces to give their rooms a unique, decadent look.
What are the most difficult things about running your own business?
The difficult part is doing absolutely everything! It is such a long process from the super fun part buying (not so fun getting up at 3am in the dark) to the admin and cleaning, restoring, and more cleaning! Brasso is now my middle name. Thankfully I have a few people who help me so I can share the workload as sometimes it can get a little overwhelming, especially with a young family also needing attention.
And the most rewarding?
The best bit is everything (maybe not so much the cleaning), I’m doing a job I love, meeting lots of like minded people and now have a reason to subscribe to every home magazine!
What’s coming up for The Vintage Trader?
I will soon be able to add interior design to The Vintage Trader’s services and I’m also keen to embark on a gilding course.
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