“Italians have the sun in their DNA,” says Fabienne Cosulich, the managing director of Cosulich Interiors & Antiques. “I am convinced this gives us an inner-colored melody which guides us to transform everyday materials into incredible fashion and inventions.”
If there’s anyone who knows the transformative power of Italian design it’s Fabienne, who vowed to find any career other than antiques after growing up in the 1970s with a mother who was an antiques dealer assistant in Paris. When Fabienne met Franco Cosulich in London in 1992, however, all of that changed. Franco had already established a reputation as a notable antiques purveyor and was looking to grow his business. “When I met Franco, he was always looking for new sources,” says Fabienne. “We went back together to places in Paris that I remembered my mother used to visit and we re-established relationships.”
Relationships are crucial to the unique edit that Cosulich Interiors and Antiques offers. With a focus on high-quality Italian designs that are either rare or one-of-a-kind, Cosulich relies on exclusive partnerships to source their exquisite pieces. Family-run (Fabienne’s daughter Sara is the director of sales), the company is also poised to be among New York’s next design dynasties. To see how they make it all run smoothly (and celebrate their DECASO debut!), we recently sat down with Fabienne to discuss everything from Cosulich offers, from customizations to the world-class service that sets them a notch above the rest.
Can you tell us a bit more about how Cosulich got its start?
In 1982 Franco Cosulich opened a store in Arezzo near Florence, specializing in 1600s to 1700s Italian antiques. Arezzo was renowned for a very important antique fair that happened the first weekend of every month. It attracted dealers and collectors from all over the world. In the 1990s, the Italian market was craving English antiques and Franco became a purveyor for other dealers traveling to London, which is where we met in 1992.
Both of us were brought up in international environments dedicated to history, art and design. So, we joined together to work in England, France and Italy, displaying antique collections at all the major fairs. Sensing a change in the market, in 2003 we left Europe and opened an Italian Design gallery in Chicago. We moved the store from Chicago to New York at the end of 2006.
What do you love about Italian design?
The innovation and deep passion for always challenging boundaries. My Italian father, Luciano Mattioli, was a successful product designer, inventor and painter. He worked in Paris and Milan in the 1950s, and even exhibited with Aldo Tura Studio. In the 1970s, I was lucky enough to work alongside him in Milan. I was able to experience the ferment of ideas at that time. There was magic in the air and the speed of innovation was incredible, nothing seemed impossible!
Cosulich sources exclusive pieces from some of the world’s most prestigious Italian villas and European estates. Can you tell us a little more about how these relationships came about?
With our love for extensive travels and long-lasting relations, we have been able to acquire a rich net of contacts throughout the years. Franco comes from a historical family from Trieste, shipowners of the Italian Transatlantic Cruisers Company Cosulich Line. His background has enabled him to nurture relationships with art collectors, owners of Tuscan Villas looking to sell or purchase special antiques or important paintings, and long-standing pickers who have many contacts with Villas along the Brenta river, in the Venice area. Additionally, we more recently bought a small Chateau in La Loire region near Sancerre. There, we discovered we had access to the collections of many castles in the area.
Cosulich currently has two NYC store locations. Do those two locations differ in any way?
Our boutique on the Upper East Side is a window into hand-selected 20th Century Italian statement pieces and exclusive Venetian Murano glass creations. In 2017, we opened a second, larger showroom in the NYDC to introduce a contemporary customizable collection consisting of made-to-measure pieces that are entirely hand-crafted in Italy. There, we present a mix from various periods and styles to satisfy the growing pool of eclectic collectors. Our aim is to provide objects in a variety of color, textures and finishes to lend customers the highest sense of personalization.
Can you walk us through the process of customizing a product?
It all starts with your vision. Bring it to us and together we will see what can be realized! Typically with a customization, a client brings us an idea, a design to realize or variations on one of our creations. We then speak with our studios in Italy to assess feasibility to requirements. Next, we discuss any necessary alterations with the client and provide a lead time estimate, which typically vary from 6 to 10 weeks. Upon acceptance, we set the item up for production. During the process we carefully monitor every step. We travel to the production site if necessary, so that if changes are needed or if better alternatives come up, we can immediately discuss those with our client.
We always supply photographs of the piece before we ship it. Once in New York, we receive it, inspect, assemble, and confirm that the creation corresponds to expectations. We also provide guidance and assistance for the installation, if requested.
What’s been one of your most memorable customizations to date?
We collaborated with a New York designer on a lighting project for a 5-star Hotel in Palma de Mallorca. The request was to have a different lighting design in every suite. We produced every custom piece in Italy and went to install them!
What’s been one of your most treasured finds over the years?
In a remote historical place in La Loire valley, we once discovered a monumental majolica bowl by Gien. The bowl had incredible, glowing colors. It looked like it had been hit by the sun and had captured its rays—light was just rippling out of it. Later, we were struck to find it on a photograph of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris!
However, I must say that it’s more often the owners and the stories that they share about their pieces that we find most treasurable. For example, the story linked to our French Louis XV Ormolu Chest displayed at the NYDC. The Lady of the castle narrated the tale for us (which was passed down in the family for generations), about the time during the French Revolution when her ancestors had to hide the possessions they wanted to save (including the commode) in the walls of the castle. The revolutionaries ransacked the space, throwing paintings, furniture, and other treasures out of the windows. I will never forget, but it was like I could hear the screams and noise of war echoing around her….
On the Cosulich website you offer themed curations, usually paired with a fitting quote. Who spearheads this?
Haha! My daughter Sara will love this question! We have brainstorming sessions regarding these themes depending on current inspirations, our latest finds, or connections between our inventory and news relevant to the market. Sara creates the campaign with relevant quote coming from a collaborative research.
What are you loving about DECASO so far?
We love the young and fresh look with a kind of intimate touch.
What has been the secret to Cosulich’s longevity, do you think?
1. Placing the customers in the center of our business 2. Listening carefully to the market needs and continuously evolving with the times 3. Taking changes with enthusiasm and accepting them as stimulation for renewal.
All photos courtesy of Cosulich