Americans have a funny perspective on history. We tear down “outmoded” shopping centers from the ’80s and consider mid-century modern furniture to be antiques. Of course, the outlook is understandable, given that our nation is just a couple centuries old, but our counterparts across the Atlantic think we’re a bit daft. In Europe, it’s not unusual to live in a house built in the 1600s or to own artwork handed down for five generations. In countries like France, England and Italy, antique furnishings are common in many homes, often mixed in among contemporary pieces to add warmth and texture in an otherwise modern setting. For Dallas-area residents who appreciate both the monetary and aesthetic value of such cherished antiques, Country French Interiors is a haven of history and style in the heart of the metroplex.
“There’s something special about owning an antique and that feeling you can’t re-create through purchasing modern furniture,” says Versailles, France, native Bruno de la Croix-Vaubois, who founded the Design District showroom on the advice of a friend who worked in the industry. Specializing in 18thand 19th-century fine European antique furnishings, art and home décor, Country French Interiors first opened its doors 33 years ago, making the antiques showroom itself a part of Dallas history.
Since 1985 the Design District has been booming with openings of new showrooms, restaurants and a hotel (including the Virgin Hotel). “We were in the right place at the very beginning,” he says.
Taking a break before going to meet with a client, de la Croix-Vaubois is seated at a stately walnut dining table in the middle of the showroom, surrounded by the fruits of his labors. The space is filled with intricately carved armoires and buffets, ancient tapestries, case clocks, iron chandeliers and innumerable decorative items, each with its own rich history. “We try to have unique pieces, one of a kind that you won’t find in other area showrooms,” he says, noting that some of the furnishings on display in the Slocum Street showroom are older than America itself.
The warm wood tones and aged patinas are a striking contrast to the austere white décor commonly found at modern furniture retailers; yet, more than three decades after its founding, Country French Interiors continues to attract a loyal clientele with designs that never go out of style. By selling pieces through its website and online marketplaces, like 1stdibs, the antiques retailer also has attracted a younger demographic of buyers who appreciate the details and craftsmanship of centuries-old art and furnishings.
“The two of us go together to France two or three times a year, and we handpick everything, piece by piece,” says Chris de la Croix-Vaubois, who joined his father in the business after graduating from Clemson University. He embraces both the history and the adventure of the antiques trade and continues to hone his eye for authentic wares under his father’s tutelage. With an established network of antiques vendors across France, the two are able to negotiate favorable pricing for the items they import to the States, and also search out pieces specifically requested by their clients.
Although, for many people, the notion of owning a painting, writing desk or settee from the 1700s can seem out of reach, Country French Interiors offers furnishings for every budget. “All you need is an education to understand antiques and an appreciation for their history,” says Bruno de la Croix-Vaubois, noting that antiques also maintain their resale value far better than modern pieces. “It might be a little more expensive in the first place, but look at it as an investment and part of your heritage.”
Leslie J. Thompson is a Dallas-based freelance writer with a passion for interior design and international travel.