French-born antique dealer Dorian Caffot de Fawes came to London 10 years ago and has never looked back. After working for a few years for a reknowned dealer in Chelsea, Dorian opened his own shop on the Lillie Road where he mostly sells 20th century lighting, furniture, objects and pictures. We caught up with Dorian to talk about how he first got into antiques, what he loves the most about running his business and how he juggles his hectic work and travel schedule.
What inspired you to become an antique dealer?
It's a passion I’ve always had. From an early age I started collecting things such as shells, and later whatever decorative objects my pocket money could acquire. However I wasn’t destined to this career at all - I read law for five years! While I was studying in Bordeaux, I would go every Sunday morning to the flea market and fill my flat with my weekly finds.
What was your first ever job?
10 years ago I worked at Sotheby's in London, assisting experts in the Furniture department. It was the most amazing experience and it only took a few days for me to ascertain that I didn't want to work in any other field. I met wonderful, talented people at the top of their game professionally. It was so inspiring. I also fell in love with London and never looked back.
When did you start dealing in antiques?
It's been over 10 years now. After some time in the auction world I worked for several years for a renowned dealer in Chelsea, where I learnt a huge amount about antiques as well as running a business. I then opened my own shop in 2015. In early 2018 I opened a second shop next door to my existing one - a modest but exciting expansion.
What part of your job gets you up in the morning?
The creative side excites me. Buying is the best part - the pleasure one gets from acquiring something, the reflection on each piece before buying it, first thinking about how it would look presented in a certain way, how it would marry with other pieces, how it would look restored. I also love visits to client's houses, who often ask me to help with their interiors. When the project gets too large or needs a proper architect’s eye, I collaborate with Thomas Daviet, who’s a brilliant architect and interior designer. I happen to be married to him, and it’s great fun when our work overlaps!
What is your favourite thing about the industry?
The people - this job allows me to meet so many interesting professionals and collectors from all over the world. Whether it is a prestigious New York dealer or an eccentric private individual, you come across wonderful characters and personalities who all have a passion for beautiful things. It expands your horizons in a wonderful way.
What are the greatest challenges for you in running your business?
Being in multiple places at once! I like to be in the shop as much as possible, but I go abroad at least twice a month and I also exhibit three times a year at the Decorative Fair in Battersea Park. Juggling the travel, shop, fairs and client visits is tricky, but it's a life and a rhythm I love.
What has been your greatest professional achievement?
Opening my own shop with no financial backing or outside help. It took me several years of saving, dreaming and planning. The day the sign writer finished my name on my shop's fascia, I felt immensely proud and happy.
How did you come about setting up shop in Fulham?
I have always loved the Lillie Road, which has been an antiques destination for over 20 years. The parade comprises 20 or so shops, all dealing in different styles and periods, with a very relaxed atmosphere. It's great to be part of a community in which we all get along with no sense of competition as we all deal in different things. Clients love this diversity and we attract both interiors designers and private individuals who know they can basically furnish an entire house after spending the day amongst us.
Where do you source your pieces from?
All over Europe! I religiously travel to France twice a month and to Spain once a month. But I also source from Sweden, Portugal or Germany, though I don't always physically go. Over the years I have developed a network of dealers and 'chineurs' who are on the look out for me in places I can't go to.
"When I hesitate about acquiring something, I always ask myself 'would I buy this for home?' and then the answer is evident"
When sourcing, how do you know what to look for?
I don't necessarily seek a period. Shapes and textures catch my eye and they generally happen to be from the first half of the 20th century. I look for great, impactful design, quality craftsmanship and of course, good value. When I hesitate about acquiring something, I always ask myself 'would I buy this for home?' and then the answer is evident.
What is your favourite period to collect?
My very favourite is the 1940s. I love how it transitions from the elegance and quality of the 1930s to the modernity and humour of the 1950s. My stock typically ranges from 1920 to 1960, sometimes sprinkled with 1970s accents.
Who is your favourite designer?
There are so many! Marc du Plantier, Jean Royère, Jacques Adnet, Paul Dupré Lafon to name just a few. A very patriotic list, I confess! Jean Michel Frank has to be my very favourite - I adore how he combined pure simple lines with very noble and luxurious materials.
Who are your favourite interior designers?
My very favourite are Suduca & Merillou. They create erudite and elegant interiors, mixing 18th Century and mid 20th Century furniture effortlessly. I also have a great admiration for Chester Jones, Pierre Yovanovitch and The Archers.
What is your stance on restoration?
I have furniture restored as little as possible. I like my stock to be smart, but over-restoring a piece of furniture can denature it completely. It's a fine line that one has to be very wary of. Whilst I always have any structural anomaly repaired, I avoid refinishing as much as I can.
If you weren’t an antiques dealer, what would you be doing?
I love gastronomy and used to think of opening a very small intimate restaurant with great décor of course. In another life maybe!