Sometimes it’s impossible to pinpoint what the perfect finishing touch to your living space is until it’s staring you in the face. If it turns out to be a majestically imposing taxidermy zebra, this is the kind of place you’ll find it. Whatever your wildest antique, art or furniture desire, Gertrude Street’s latest homewares mecca, Tarlo & Graham has just the wonderful oddity to fill it.
Like business partners William Tarlo and Philip Graham’s Chapel Street store by the same name, its new northside sibling houses an impressive array of vintage furniture, one-off artworks and collectors items, sourced predominantly from Victoria and handpicked by the duo. While stock is widely varied in nature – a set of vases masquerading as oversized laboratory beakers, a giant distressed American flag seemingly straight out of a Springsteen film clip and an array of original prints by legendary artist Keith Haring compete for customers’ attention – a consistent and distinct sense of style is evident.
“We never have an ideal customer in mind,” says Graham. “We buy for ourselves. If we love it, we buy it. It’s simple and foolproof.”
The expansive, light filled space differs from its Windsor outpost via its focus on showing and selling visual art, showcasing the vibrant work of the aforementioned Haring alongside the haunting brushstrokes of painter Rhys Lee and the colourful, distorted creations of Richard Denny in a thoughtful manner akin to a genuine gallery, albeit an exceptionally cluttered one.
Like the covetable items it holds, the duo took their time in selecting the right building for their store – previously home to the aptly named vintage, industrial shop Industria – which had to meet a set of criteria that included “high ceilings, good details, a big window, large floor space, good businesses and nice trees on the street”. No wonder the space took three years to find.
While a healthy local community of collectors and enthusiasts means antique and vintage art and furnishings are not difficult to come by in Melbourne, the Tarlo & Graham experience is set apart by its appeal to seasoned antique collectors and those more familiar with an Ikea catalogue.
This treasure trove of goods is a testament to the love (or, perhaps, obsession) both Tarlo and Graham share for their collection. They trawl auctions, markets and shops looking for items with that specific, intrinsic quality that keeps them that bit ahead of the game.
202 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy