Bronte Taton has brought a real spirit of the Continent (that’s Europe, by the way) to Subi’s Hay Street. Gail Williams meets this purveyor of all the gorgeous things.
Bronte Taton has added a gilt-edged bucket load of class to the bottom end of Subiaco, and it’s dressed as an elegant high-end showroom with a beautiful name, Cleo Collects.
In a few weeks since taking delivery of a container crammed with treasures, Cleo Collects has become a mecca, Australia-wide, for collectors of European antiquities and vintage homewares.
It’s a chic, exquisitely-curated store sitting comfortably next to Lums Wine Bar on the heritage shopfront strip. It’s easy to spot. Just look for the collectors and designers clamouring to view rare pieces, such as the $1,280 Saint Louis French Art Deco Crystal Vase, displayed as they would be, in situ.
Interior designers of some of the grandest Perth homes are already making appointments and intrigued passers-by pop in when the store is open to walk-in customers on Fridays and Saturdays.
Subi has had its share of antique stores over the years. Ask any old timer who furnished a Federation house in the 70s. Cleo Collects, named after Taton’s daughter, is nothing like those dusty old Dickens-style curiosity shops of yesteryear.
It’s time to rethink the antiques customers too – no longer the domain of elbow patches, bow ties and Hush Puppies. Think millennials with an eye for quality and style who might have flown in from Sydney to check out a Viktor Rassmussen painting which has been displayed in Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art.
And although Taton is an avid watcher of Antiques Road Show, she is the antithesis of that stereotype, but is always happy to share her font of knowledge on pieces like a Parisian 1850s Renaissance-style mirror, a brass fish, or a pair of 17th-century Abusson tapestry cushions. She loves them all.
“Sometimes I get so attached to the pieces I just can’t bear to sell them,” she says. “Like the bamboo side table in Hollywood Regency style. It’s found a permanent spot in my home.”
That home also has a story to tell. And so does she – a delightful one that begins far from Subiaco in the Perth Hills where she spent the early part of her childhood with her French parents.
“At 13 we moved to Paris where I did my secondary schooling and soaked up all the art galleries and history, and I just loved being surrounded by museums and rich tapestries,” she says.
“We lived in on Rue le Seur, just off the famous, exclusive Avenue Foch where Gaugin and Monet used to paint.”
The teenager also devoured books on art deco and European designers such as Charles Dudouyt, Audoux Minet, Guillerme and Chambron, Pierre D’Avesn and Barovier and Toso – who all feature in her showroom.
Moving to San Francisco with her family at 17 fuelled her creative thinking even further and, on returning to Perth for tertiary studies, architecture was the obvious choice.
“I realised, though, that architecture wasn’t for me and I swapped over to business studies, but by then I had met my future husband, Joshua, who was studying heritage architecture and preservation.”
The pair married and, by the time their daughter, Cleo, was born, they had bought a landmark home in Darlington, known as the Zimpel house, which was the home of artist William Zimpel, the grandson of the furniture maker who founded Zimpel furniture company.
“The 1950s house, based on a cathedral, was designed by William and his father and has arches and Grecian-style columns,” she says. “It is in the same precinct where Robert Juniper lived.”
It’s famous for another reason too – as the former home of David Helfgott, the pianist who inspired the award-winning 1996 movie Shine.
With its high ceilings and oak floor boards, it became the perfect backdrop for the antiques which Taton had begun collecting and selling online.
Now, as she embarks on her retail outlet, that grandeur and magic exudes through the light-filled old Subi shop where a winding staircase leads customers into the upstairs gallery.
The pieces are sourced by Taton on biannual trips to France where – with her Paris-based aunt – she frequents antique stores, art galleries and markets for Murano glass, old tapestries and Italian bamboo lamps.
You’ll find them in the store ranging in prices of $280 upwards.
Check them out and mull over your discoveries later with a Below and Above Chardonnay at Lums.