centerlogobigAAD logo


We may be living in the age of the internet but, for all the websites in the world, the tried and trusted ways of sourcing art and antiques are still the best. For interior designers, including myself, relationships and attitude remains key to success – I still make time to get out there to see what people have to offer and make time to interact with suppliers.

In some quarters, however, I have come across an elitist stance that has no place in a business where the product is becoming more affordable and available to growing numbers of the population. As art and antiques become more and more accessible through a variety of channels, it has become increasingly important for dealers to develop a client-facing attitude if they expect a successful future.

Reading through a number of articles on AAD, it would appear that supply is outstripping demand, therefore, in a more competitive market place, the accompanying service offered by dealers, and the attention to detail in that service, will be the deciding factor in winning over clients in the future. Recognising the needs of designers, together with forging strong trusting relationships, is the new formula for tomorrow’s successful dealers: but it takes time. I tend to work with the same dealers I’ve known for the past 15-20 years. They are on my wavelength, and I trust them to deliver.

Luxury design embraces art as well as antiques. Our clients want a particular look, that’s what we are here to deliver, but all clients aren’t necessarily concerned about the origin of the piece that gives them the result they’re looking for. Pieces are not being bought as an investment but to be primarily decorative. We are not in the business of historical authenticity, but that’s not to say quality doesn’t count.

As an example, I always use antique lighting in my work. However, it may be that I find two fantastic chandeliers but the project requires four. If that’s the case, I’ll commission the making of the other two, using the originals to ensure the proportions are correct and getting craftsmen to replicate them. In the current climate, however, the price still has to be right: that’s just as important as anything else.

Wherever I can, whether in London, Miami or Milan, I try to visit the dealer in person. In the old days I used to trawl around in the evenings peering into shop and gallery windows. It’s an enjoyable part of the job but the internet has changed things.The internet is great but you can’t see the quality of the item you are interested in first-hand and you don’t get that personal touch. It’s also less of an inspiration than seeing something in reality. The internet assists in sourcing stuff, but the real skill is still about searching and contacts and finding the personal touch, not sitting in front of a computer screen in splendid isolation.

Being old fashioned in my approach, I’m still very much hands-on: I want to see what I’m getting. As always, it’s those little details that count, things you can’t necessarily see or feel on the internet. By visiting dealers personally you may also see things that may be relevant for another project. As a designer in this business, you need to keep your eyes open at all times.

As a dealer, you need to somehow get onto my radar.

About the Author

Nicola Fontanella

Nicola Fontanella

  Starting in her front room in 1997, Nicola’s interior design and architecture practice Argent Design has developed an enviable reputation for producing exceptional interiors.  &nbs...