This week, a look into a range of local French entrepreneurs about how they came to set up their businesses half a world away.

When and why did you set up Baran de Bordeaux?


Nick and I first met in London, but we moved to France soon after. Right from the beginning we loved going around brocantes [secondhand markets] and antiquaires [antique dealers]. We'd always shared a passion for art and design, so working in interiors and furniture was just something that happened naturally.

Our main design inspiration came from France, so starting off in French antiques and decoratives was an obvious choice for us. Regular buying trips also seemed a great way for me to get back home to Bordeaux to see my family. We opened Baran de Bordeaux in 2000.


How did the business develop from that point?
Nick: We ran the business from our home in Remuera until we moved into our showroom in Parnell about seven years ago. In the beginning we did every aspect of the business ourselves, including doing all the packing, and loading the containers. But that became counterproductive because the logistics were taking up so much time when we could have been out sourcing more stock.

We now have great international shippers who help us, but it's still basically the two of us, and some occasional staff who come in while we're away. It's a very hands on business. Each piece we sell has a story, and because we're the ones who sourced it, we're the ones to tell that story.

How much time do you spend in France?
Chrystelle: France is huge part of our lives. We have a home there, my family are there, we have another whole life there. We're always talking about living there again one day, but for now, the mix of both hemispheres suits us.

We go back two or three times a year to source new stock and catch up on new directions in decorating. Fashions change in antiques just like in modern design, so it's important for us to see what's happening. Most of our time there is spent on the road searching for stock.

How far do your buying trips range?
Nick: We can go anywhere from the northeast to the southwest - we cover so much of the country. Everyone in the antiques trade knows us there - they know what we like and what we're looking for - and we can be buying anywhere from estate sales to auctions to markets. There's that excitement that comes each time we get on the plane, never knowing exactly what we're going to find.

What have been some of the challenges you've faced in building your business, particularly related to bringing a 'piece of France' into New Zealand?


People here often get the 'antique' thing completely wrong, imagining it's a precious, fussy look; something like they remember from their grandmother's house. But these pieces were designed to be used and abused. The more wear and tear they get all becomes part of their patina, their history.

Nick: Part of educating the market is showing antiques in a contemporary light. In Europe there are a lot of antique dealers much younger than us who are showing the way in how an old piece of furniture can be reinvented and used in a contemporary interior. We're trying to break down those preconceptions that antiques are delicate and fussy. We do that in how we present our showroom and also via social media. We have a great Facebook following where we post pictures of jobs we've done, or rooms we like - things that represent the aesthetic we're promoting.

What are some future opportunities you're hoping to explore with the business?
Chrystelle: We've recently been appointed New Zealand's representative for de Gournay hand-painted wallpapers. They're a world renowned English company, and felt that our aesthetic sense worked in well with their product, and we'd like to add similar extensions to our business as time goes on.

We're also getting more clients coming to us to manage design projects. This is a great way of achieving a total look - rather than just adding one or two pieces to an already complete interior - and it means the client is putting their faith in us to carry out the whole process, bringing together the right art, contemporary pieces, colours, fabrics and antiques.