In the middle of Soho there is a jewel box called, Form Atelier. Run by husband and wife duo, Quy Nguyen and Avril Nolan, stepping into Form Atelier is like stepping into the inside of a collector’s mind. It’s no surprise as Quy is the Director of Style for Ralph Lauren Home and a seasoned antiques collector while Avril spent a decade in fashion prior and has traveled and collected vintage clothing and antique pieces for as long as she can remember. Together they’ve amassed an inspiring collection that is constantly changing. We were so excited to give you a little peek inside…
Can you tell us a bit about you and your and husband’s respective backgrounds and how Form Atelier came to be?
Form Atelier was born from our shared love of art, objects and travel. When we first fell in love we blew our money traveling, going to antique markets everywhere from Paris to Japan to Copenhagen. Our friends would often ask to buy the pieces we brought back and gradually we realized that we could continue to have this forever honeymoon by turning what we love to do naturally into a business.
Our backgrounds are very different (Quy comes from an editorial background and is now the Director of Style for Ralph Lauren Home, whereas I come from a background in fashion) but we share a distinct eye. We don’t specialize in particular style or era, instead we look for the modernity in antiques, be it an Edo period Japanese folding screen that bears the same attitude and individuality as a graffiti artist, or a Turkish kilim that resembles a Barnett Newman painting. It could be in the honesty and simplicity of a Frits Henningson chest of drawers that borrows from English Georgian and Chinese Ming furniture, or a 1960’s white resin coffee table resembling a floating draped piece of fabric by Studio Tetrarch that captures the surrealist spirit.
Why do you find outfitting interiors just so to be so creatively important?
With many works of art, you go somewhere for the experience. In an interior, you’re living inside a moving composition, one that changes throughout the hours, days, and years. Great homes use concepts of sculpture, painting, cinema, movement, light and shadow all in one existing space. Throw in the practical objects and comforts one needs for everyday use and you can see how difficult the task of creating a space can be. We help to pull all of these elements together for our clients, and take their space beyond what they can imagine.
We host a lot at our home and guests are often surprised by how minimally we live, given our work. For us it’s not about what you have or the amount of things you have, it’s how the space feels when you’re in it. For us, objects are vehicles for the conversations and dialogues you can create around them.
What do you love most about the unique and jewelry-box-esque space Form Atelier is located in Soho? How have you used the unconventional space to your advantage?
Our store is tiny but we’ve made the most of every inch. We bring in new pieces weekly so it’s important that our space allows for flexibility. The small size allows us to change the store quite drastically on a regular basis. For example, we did a show of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes earlier this year and draped everything in the store in canvas – the walls, the floor, the furniture. It was a way for us to temporarily ‘erase’ the store and allow the monochrome prints to be the sole focus. Early next year we’re planning a show of minimalist rugs, covering the entire space.
At first we were nervous about the fact that the shop is slightly tucked away off Mercer Street but most of our customers love the hidden nature of our space. It’s not a typical store experience. Sure, in an ideal world we’d love a sprawling, light filled space to create the worlds we envision but in many ways, that’s easy. Our current space is a constant challenge, not only to fit everything in, but to express our ideas and give each piece the space to speak.
What are your top tips/tricks for someone who is just starting their antique collection? Where do they even begin?
It’s obvious but buy what you love. People are so fearful of making mistakes but if you buy what you love it’s hard to go too wrong.
Spend a little more than you can afford, you’ll never regret it- it will force you to ask more questions, be more involved, and ultimately take the risks that will raise your bar.
Buy from honest dealers – no one should ever push you into buying something you don’t believe in.
Pick an area that interests you and delve into that rather than trying to figure it all out at once. The antiques world is one of constant learning – I don’t pretend to know everything, I’m learning new things every day.