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ANF Blog

In Conversion with... The Fontaine Boys

Continuing our series, In conversation with ..., we spoke to Kiel Shaw and Stuart Atkinson known as The Fontaine Boys, of Fontaine Decorative.

Fontaine Decorative is a partnership of undisputed taste makers in the decorative trade with showrooms in Kent. They pride themselves in taking an informal and relaxed approach to antique furnishing, and in 2016, their antiques shop was voted one of the Top Fifty in the country in Homes and Antiques Magazine. 

They are regular exhibitors at the Decorative Fair in Battersea, London and will be exhibiting for the first time at the Salvo Fair in June 2017.

We talked to the Fontaine Boys about their history, their international moves, and their plans for the near future...

 

 Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

Stuart Atkinson & Kiel Shaw - The Fontaine Boys

 

ANFThere are some big changes on your landscape at the moment which we will come to later but take us back to the beginning – when and how did the Fontaine brand take flight?

TFB:  We have been dealing in various guises since around 1995 after we moved out of London and bought a small and half derelict cottage near to Lewes in East Sussex. The house came with a few contents as it was a probate sale. Nothing valuable, but we thought ‘why not rent a stall in a local flea market’? It was just an interest we had back then. We were both in full time employment at the time so we spent all our takings on buying more stock at some of the local auctions and car boots. It was a steep learning curve, we bought antique items right across the board and most of it was English. We happened upon France after a year or so where a friend had been living and she took us to a street brocante – that was when the spark really ignited our passion for French decorative antiques. By 2000, Stuart was managing the Lewes Antique Centre and I (Kiel) was joint owner of a pine stripping business until the big floods came and we lost it all. Fortunately, we had that summer bought our own East Sussex antique shop (Hurst Green Antiques), so opened it shortly afterwards. After another 2 years and making regular visits to France, we relocated to France. The Fontaine name came a little later during our time there.

 

ANF: Tell us about your time in France and why you decided to come home?

TFB:  We fell into the ‘more is more’ trap when we bought our first house in France. Five acres and as many bedrooms, it was a red brick built Maison de Maitre with painted wooden shutters at the bottom of a beautiful sweeping valley in Normandy. Now without a shop, we sporadically sold at fairs like Ardingly, taking advantage of the French stock on our doorstep. We did the house up and sold it to buy a sprawling 16th century stone built manor house that we fell in love with. The house took up most of our energy (and money)! We didn’t have at that time a regular income from selling antiques, so we decided to open a B&B – seven rooms plus a Gite and a restaurant – which soon became really busy and took us away from buying for a couple of years. It was hard work. We wanted to get back into buying and selling antiques so we decided to sell the manoir and found a smaller house nearby in a place called Fontaine Les Bassets. It was when we lived there that we decided to approach the organisers of The Decorative Fair. After a couple of visits, we were offered a small stand and made our debut in September 2006. We took the name of our nearby French village for the Decorative Fair and since then have been known as the Fontaine Boys! We stayed in France until 2010 when we decided that it was easier for us to have a UK base.

 

ANF: You have become one of the best known exhibitors at The Decorative Fair in London with your high profile stand near the entrance. How much do you plan your stand before the event – do you map it all out or do you fill the van and do it on the hoof?

TFB:  It’s all very much planned! We’re fortunate to have always had enough space to ‘mock up’ the stand. Normally, we might find a couple of key pieces and work the entire stand around those, gradually working outwards until we have filled every square centimetre of space as many of our regulars will know! We quite like the mad Parisienne apartment / bohemian hoarder look!


 Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

Showroom vignettes from Fontaine Decorative


ANF: You are exhibiting at the Salvo Fair in June this year with a number of other Battersea exhibitors – what attracted you to the event?

TFB:  We are always up for new events and fairs. We’re going to try some other small fairs too in the future. It’s good to try different venues and I think it’s important to keep changing. And of course, we have a few allies at Salvo!

 

ANF: It must have been fun sharing the space with your friends Martin and Paul at Martin D Johnson Antiques at their new showroom near Lewes?

TFB:  Yes, it’s a great venue and we loved the challenge. Having a good trade space is important to us and we missed that since leasing out and moving from our former showroom in Margate. Martin and Paul have become very good friends over the past 20 or so years that we have known them both. It was extremely generous of them to let us share their new showroom and introduce us to the large number of visiting trade contacts that they have taken many years to nurture.

Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with Fontaine Decorative

Kiel and Stuart with friends Martin Johnson and Paul Wong owners of Martin D Johnson Antiques


ANF: From France to Margate – you made a lot of impact in Thanet with your support for the local area and in particular the restoration of Dreamland. Why did you make the decision to move to Herefordshire?

TFB:  Margate has changed more than we could ever have imagined 7 years ago! It’s great to be thought of as having been a small part of that regeneration. We still own our big old school building which was Fontaine’s first showroom when we moved back to the UK. It’s now leased to a stop-frame animation company. And Dreamland is now fast becoming the new jewel in the uber-cool Margate crown with the Turner Contemporary gallery even hosting the Turner Prize in 2019. But we missed France and the space that we had there, the house with outbuildings and the easiness of running everything from under one roof. We also realised that having had a showroom which is architecturally interesting helped to create a great setting for our antiques business. We had a chance offer on our house in Ramsgate and started looking at Herefordshire which in many ways reminds us of Normandy.  

 

ANF: Your new base for home and business is a marvellous Elizabethan manor house in Ledbury. Tell us something about the house and your plans to relocate your business there?

TFB:  Our new abode was built around 1570. It’s a later infilled H shaped Elizabeth I manor house near Ledbury, just west of the Malvern Hills. Between the 1920’s and the late 1960’s it was the Lusty’s family home of the Lusty Lloyd Loom fame! Within easy reach of the M50 and the M5, the Cotswolds, Tetbury and other renowned antique selling destinations and trails. The house has some great outbuildings, perfect for our business. Work starts in August to restore the new showroom which will be within a timber framed and red brick long barn next to the house.


Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

The Fontaine Boys' new home and business base, an Elizabethan manor house near Ledbury

Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys 

The Elizabethan barn which will become the new Fontaine showroom


ANF: Will you keep the Margate warehouse and Ramsgate shop open when the Ledbury showroom is open for business?

TFB:  We will only keep our Ramsgate shop which employs Samuel – he also manages all the website updates and enquiries while we run around doing the buying. We know that many of our old contacts and clients still like to deal with us direct so we hope to see them at our new showroom in Herefordshire. We plan to have fully relocated our warehouse and trade showroom to Herefordshire by the end of the year.


ANF: How has your stock evolved over the years and what plans do you have for the focus of the business in the future?

TFB:  Exhibiting at the Decorative Fair has allowed us to push the boundaries a little and buy more flamboyant items. The fair has given us the confidence to experiment with other styles although we’ve always preferred to be trade dealers and that’s sometimes a bit hard when you’re buying for the Decorative Fair. Obviously, we would all love to buy, own and display the best antiques but there’s always huge competition for the best items. Brexit will undoubtedly impact us at some point in the future with regard to our French buying trips. I can see more integration of French country and decorative and more formal English pieces in our future showroom!


ANF: You played a key role in the last Antiques Young Gun of the Year awards as a mentor for Robyn Alston of On the Wall Antiques. What do you think Robyn gained from this experience and would you like to take part in a future AYG event?

TFB:  Having exhibited at The Decorative Fair, we soon learnt that there is indeed a hierarchy. You can’t blame other long established dealers feeling a little bemused by the rise of the decorative antique scene but we like to now think that there is generally a warm glow of acceptance in this market.  Buying and selling antiques has changed over the past 20 years. You no longer need to have had an apprenticeship with a top London auction house or be in possession of an art history degree to be involved in the profession or to be taken seriously. We have always tried to be true to ourselves, stick to what we know and impart any knowledge to others if that helps them to do what we do. When you enter this business, it’s easy to feel a little intimidated by it all and we think it’s really important that talented young dealers are given as much exposure as possible.  AYG was an excellent scheme to address this, especially as it involved some great experienced dealers who were happy to impart their knowledge and experience. We took Robyn Alston on a south of France buying trip and she has since made many trips to France by herself. We are always happy to be involved and actively encourage our young stars of the trade! We even have our own Antiques Young Gun, Samuel who is learning the trade fast!


ANF: Fontaine Decorative has been fun and you have made a big name for yourselves in the business but what would might you both have done if you had not worked in the antiques trade?

TFB:  Well we would have most likely restored more houses and developed more property. In a previous life, I (Kiel) was an accountant and Stuart was a chef and social worker! It’s hard to imagine not ever having been antiques dealers though.

To learn more about The Fontaine Boys visit Fontaine Decorative


 Antiques News & Fairs - In conversation with Fontaine Decorative

 

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Antiques News Blog

In Conversion with... The Fontaine Boys

Continuing our series, In conversation with ..., we spoke to Kiel Shaw and Stuart Atkinson known as The Fontaine Boys, of Fontaine Decorative.

Fontaine Decorative is a partnership of undisputed taste makers in the decorative trade with showrooms in Kent. They pride themselves in taking an informal and relaxed approach to antique furnishing, and in 2016, their antiques shop was voted one of the Top Fifty in the country in Homes and Antiques Magazine. 

They are regular exhibitors at the Decorative Fair in Battersea, London and will be exhibiting for the first time at the Salvo Fair in June 2017.

We talked to the Fontaine Boys about their history, their international moves, and their plans for the near future...

 

 Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

Stuart Atkinson & Kiel Shaw - The Fontaine Boys

 

ANFThere are some big changes on your landscape at the moment which we will come to later but take us back to the beginning – when and how did the Fontaine brand take flight?

TFB:  We have been dealing in various guises since around 1995 after we moved out of London and bought a small and half derelict cottage near to Lewes in East Sussex. The house came with a few contents as it was a probate sale. Nothing valuable, but we thought ‘why not rent a stall in a local flea market’? It was just an interest we had back then. We were both in full time employment at the time so we spent all our takings on buying more stock at some of the local auctions and car boots. It was a steep learning curve, we bought antique items right across the board and most of it was English. We happened upon France after a year or so where a friend had been living and she took us to a street brocante – that was when the spark really ignited our passion for French decorative antiques. By 2000, Stuart was managing the Lewes Antique Centre and I (Kiel) was joint owner of a pine stripping business until the big floods came and we lost it all. Fortunately, we had that summer bought our own East Sussex antique shop (Hurst Green Antiques), so opened it shortly afterwards. After another 2 years and making regular visits to France, we relocated to France. The Fontaine name came a little later during our time there.

 

ANF: Tell us about your time in France and why you decided to come home?

TFB:  We fell into the ‘more is more’ trap when we bought our first house in France. Five acres and as many bedrooms, it was a red brick built Maison de Maitre with painted wooden shutters at the bottom of a beautiful sweeping valley in Normandy. Now without a shop, we sporadically sold at fairs like Ardingly, taking advantage of the French stock on our doorstep. We did the house up and sold it to buy a sprawling 16th century stone built manor house that we fell in love with. The house took up most of our energy (and money)! We didn’t have at that time a regular income from selling antiques, so we decided to open a B&B – seven rooms plus a Gite and a restaurant – which soon became really busy and took us away from buying for a couple of years. It was hard work. We wanted to get back into buying and selling antiques so we decided to sell the manoir and found a smaller house nearby in a place called Fontaine Les Bassets. It was when we lived there that we decided to approach the organisers of The Decorative Fair. After a couple of visits, we were offered a small stand and made our debut in September 2006. We took the name of our nearby French village for the Decorative Fair and since then have been known as the Fontaine Boys! We stayed in France until 2010 when we decided that it was easier for us to have a UK base.

 

ANF: You have become one of the best known exhibitors at The Decorative Fair in London with your high profile stand near the entrance. How much do you plan your stand before the event – do you map it all out or do you fill the van and do it on the hoof?

TFB:  It’s all very much planned! We’re fortunate to have always had enough space to ‘mock up’ the stand. Normally, we might find a couple of key pieces and work the entire stand around those, gradually working outwards until we have filled every square centimetre of space as many of our regulars will know! We quite like the mad Parisienne apartment / bohemian hoarder look!


 Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

Showroom vignettes from Fontaine Decorative


ANF: You are exhibiting at the Salvo Fair in June this year with a number of other Battersea exhibitors – what attracted you to the event?

TFB:  We are always up for new events and fairs. We’re going to try some other small fairs too in the future. It’s good to try different venues and I think it’s important to keep changing. And of course, we have a few allies at Salvo!

 

ANF: It must have been fun sharing the space with your friends Martin and Paul at Martin D Johnson Antiques at their new showroom near Lewes?

TFB:  Yes, it’s a great venue and we loved the challenge. Having a good trade space is important to us and we missed that since leasing out and moving from our former showroom in Margate. Martin and Paul have become very good friends over the past 20 or so years that we have known them both. It was extremely generous of them to let us share their new showroom and introduce us to the large number of visiting trade contacts that they have taken many years to nurture.

Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with Fontaine Decorative

Kiel and Stuart with friends Martin Johnson and Paul Wong owners of Martin D Johnson Antiques


ANF: From France to Margate – you made a lot of impact in Thanet with your support for the local area and in particular the restoration of Dreamland. Why did you make the decision to move to Herefordshire?

TFB:  Margate has changed more than we could ever have imagined 7 years ago! It’s great to be thought of as having been a small part of that regeneration. We still own our big old school building which was Fontaine’s first showroom when we moved back to the UK. It’s now leased to a stop-frame animation company. And Dreamland is now fast becoming the new jewel in the uber-cool Margate crown with the Turner Contemporary gallery even hosting the Turner Prize in 2019. But we missed France and the space that we had there, the house with outbuildings and the easiness of running everything from under one roof. We also realised that having had a showroom which is architecturally interesting helped to create a great setting for our antiques business. We had a chance offer on our house in Ramsgate and started looking at Herefordshire which in many ways reminds us of Normandy.  

 

ANF: Your new base for home and business is a marvellous Elizabethan manor house in Ledbury. Tell us something about the house and your plans to relocate your business there?

TFB:  Our new abode was built around 1570. It’s a later infilled H shaped Elizabeth I manor house near Ledbury, just west of the Malvern Hills. Between the 1920’s and the late 1960’s it was the Lusty’s family home of the Lusty Lloyd Loom fame! Within easy reach of the M50 and the M5, the Cotswolds, Tetbury and other renowned antique selling destinations and trails. The house has some great outbuildings, perfect for our business. Work starts in August to restore the new showroom which will be within a timber framed and red brick long barn next to the house.


Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys

The Fontaine Boys' new home and business base, an Elizabethan manor house near Ledbury

Antiques News & Fairs - In Conversation with... The Fontaine Boys 

The Elizabethan barn which will become the new Fontaine showroom


ANF: Will you keep the Margate warehouse and Ramsgate shop open when the Ledbury showroom is open for business?

TFB:  We will only keep our Ramsgate shop which employs Samuel – he also manages all the website updates and enquiries while we run around doing the buying. We know that many of our old contacts and clients still like to deal with us direct so we hope to see them at our new showroom in Herefordshire. We plan to have fully relocated our warehouse and trade showroom to Herefordshire by the end of the year.


ANF: How has your stock evolved over the years and what plans do you have for the focus of the business in the future?

TFB:  Exhibiting at the Decorative Fair has allowed us to push the boundaries a little and buy more flamboyant items. The fair has given us the confidence to experiment with other styles although we’ve always preferred to be trade dealers and that’s sometimes a bit hard when you’re buying for the Decorative Fair. Obviously, we would all love to buy, own and display the best antiques but there’s always huge competition for the best items. Brexit will undoubtedly impact us at some point in the future with regard to our French buying trips. I can see more integration of French country and decorative and more formal English pieces in our future showroom!


ANF: You played a key role in the last Antiques Young Gun of the Year awards as a mentor for Robyn Alston of On the Wall Antiques. What do you think Robyn gained from this experience and would you like to take part in a future AYG event?

TFB:  Having exhibited at The Decorative Fair, we soon learnt that there is indeed a hierarchy. You can’t blame other long established dealers feeling a little bemused by the rise of the decorative antique scene but we like to now think that there is generally a warm glow of acceptance in this market.  Buying and selling antiques has changed over the past 20 years. You no longer need to have had an apprenticeship with a top London auction house or be in possession of an art history degree to be involved in the profession or to be taken seriously. We have always tried to be true to ourselves, stick to what we know and impart any knowledge to others if that helps them to do what we do. When you enter this business, it’s easy to feel a little intimidated by it all and we think it’s really important that talented young dealers are given as much exposure as possible.  AYG was an excellent scheme to address this, especially as it involved some great experienced dealers who were happy to impart their knowledge and experience. We took Robyn Alston on a south of France buying trip and she has since made many trips to France by herself. We are always happy to be involved and actively encourage our young stars of the trade! We even have our own Antiques Young Gun, Samuel who is learning the trade fast!


ANF: Fontaine Decorative has been fun and you have made a big name for yourselves in the business but what would might you both have done if you had not worked in the antiques trade?

TFB:  Well we would have most likely restored more houses and developed more property. In a previous life, I (Kiel) was an accountant and Stuart was a chef and social worker! It’s hard to imagine not ever having been antiques dealers though.

To learn more about The Fontaine Boys visit Fontaine Decorative


 Antiques News & Fairs - In conversation with Fontaine Decorative

 

Save

Save

Save