Lights, lights and more lights!
It was a beautiful and breathtaking sight to behold as I entered the stunning shop belonging to Gianfranco from Out of the Attic.
His collection is chosen with a trained and honed eye and he is a person who is able to find those beautiful stand out design pieces that can transform a space in to something truly amazing.
We spent some time talking about individual pieces and where Gianfranco had sourced them from. He is passionate about his work and wherever possible he takes the time to understand the history and provenance of a piece in order to pass on to the next custodian.
What did you do before founding Out of the Attic ?
I worked in retail – I had a background working for seven years at Harrods which provided me with formative customer service skills and a better knowledge of the language.
What inspired you to set the business up?
The business was set up as a sort of a hiccup in the selling of my property where at three days from the exchange the buyer withdrew his offer and I was not in the mood to unpack an entire house full of objects, furniture and memories picked up during fourteen years of living at the property.
After talking about this with some friends, someone suggested renting a stall in Camden Lock. What was initially just an excuse to sell some of the articles that I did not want any longer, Out of the Attic was born! Having worked for a further year at Harrods and taken a part-time position, I spent my weekends trading and learning how the business operates, until eventually getting to the point of renting an entire unit at Camden Lock.
What made you choose this name for the business?
Choosing the name for a business is always difficult. My background is History of Art, having done the Academy of Art in Florence and Rome and received a Master of Art in Rome, I followed my dream to be a set designer by doing Architecture as my degree.
I wanted to reference objects that you collect but you don’t feel the need to have them around all the time. I thought of ‘out of the box’, ‘out of the trunk and so many other options until it finally hit me: ‘Out of the Attic – Fuori dalla Soffitta’. It means a place at the top of the house where people store family heirlooms. I felt it was the perfect name for an eclectic collection of individual pieces handpicked because of their quality and aesthetic form. It became an official trading name in 1989.
Which designers or periods are you particularly interested in and inspired by?
It is a tricky question to answer as design and aesthetic have been at the source of every movement in Art and there is so much to choose from. Whereas previously the trend was to have an entire house decorated in a particular period, more recently people have become comfortable with mixing the multiple influences of today’s world. So Georgian side tables can sit comfortably with a 20th Century leather sofa, a classical ceiling light can still look beautiful in a modern bedroom or an 18th Century French farmhouse dining table wouldn’t be out of place in a modern kitchen.
I do find, nevertheless, the Deco’ period from the late 1920s to the early 1930s (different from country to country) with its precise curved but clean lines, the choice of expensive materials, always inspires me.
From which countries do you source the vintage and antique pieces that you sell?
I am an eclectic buyer and like a magpie I collect items that I love – therefore I buy items from other antique shops and fairs as well as auctions in this country and abroad. I import lighting and chandeliers from Italy. I also buy from the United States, where there are still a lot of original items from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s that are very appealing to my clientele.
What was the first piece that you ever sold?
Casting my memory back around 37 years, I recall a cold and wet day in Camden Lock Stable market when I was selling a pair of statues by Moureau to a fellow antiques dealer. After a long debate on prices and discounts, having finally reached an agreement, the dealer walked away from me and tripped, unfortunately braking the arm of one of the two statues. I always say that items have a soul of their own.
Who is your typical customer?
I now have a shop in a residential area, whereas previously I was based in markets or an antiques gallery. My clientele now is between 20-45 years old and I’m filled with joy to know that my customers choose quality over a quick fix. I mainly cater to a clientele who fall in love with the quirkiness of the collection and want to take pieces to furnish their homes
Is your own home an extension of your business style?
You might think that after spending my days in a shop filled to the brim with beautiful items, I would go home to a sparsely decorated space for a break. Instead, my home is without a doubt a reflection of my business! It would be nonsense for me to suggest to my customers how to embellish their homes with beautiful items whilst doing completely the opposite myself.
What are the most difficult and the rewarding things about running your own business?
In one statement: the balance sheet.
It can be very difficult for a small business and a solo trader, to keep up with the constantly changing world of clients requests and the shifting market of bigger companies and the internet. I am the director, the telephonist, the one who responds to mails and the one who looks after purchases and sales. It can be hard but when I know that a customer is really satisfied with an item that he or she purchased from me, it makes it all worth it. I would never go back to a 9 to 5 job.
What do you do when you are not working?
Whoever is in this business of interior, antiques and collectibles and tries to sell a vision of what would be nice to have in a home knows that there is not much of a free time as such. I work in the shop Thursday through to Sunday to accomodate a potential larger clientele vision, Monday Tuesday and Wednesday is for sure when I usually use some of the time to rest, cook, gardening and maybe confuse myself with a movie but I won’t let the opportunity to visit an Auction House, visit some of my colleagues to view some of the items that may be of my interest and giving time also to some customers project.
Do you have any plans coming up?
Something that has been a project /idea of mine for a while is the possibility of opening a boutique Hotel with all the items displayed and used that can be purchased. It would be another interesting challenge to take upon at some stage in the future.