“Art is anything,” says Sarah Hook, founder of Franque salon and concept store, which has a spacious new home at the top of Hawksburn Village.
Franque is not an antique shop selling art. And it’s not a gallery selling antiques. It’s a space where, “we just put beautiful things together” Hook says. “People may seek us out to buy Italian perfume, but end up staying for hours.”
In the store you’ll find beautiful objects from Europe and Australia. A Bruce Armstrong sculpture stands beside a cabinet of Saint Louis crystal wine glasses from Paris. South Australian sculptor Peter Cole’s bronze-and-gold-leaf walnuts sit on an antique Italian wooden desk. The salon also has the largest collection of Lucy Folk jewellery outside her own stores; perfumes by Santa Maria Novella; candles by Cire Trudon; and art by Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) graduates.
“We bring design and brands that aren’t found anywhere else in Australia and pair them with great contemporary Australian art,” Hook says. “It’s about storytelling, depth, relationships and family. It’s cross-pollination between like-minded, forward-thinking people. We throw it all together and if it feels good, we leave it.
“All the brands we represent are family brands,” she adds. “We’ve met all the families and we have deep, nourishing relationships with them.”
Hook grew up surrounded by art. Her father was chairman of the Heide Museum of Modern Art, and she spent much of her youth among Australian artists and their work. Several of the artists currently featured at Franque – including Melbourne-based Bruce Armstrong, known for his large-scale animal sculptures – are Hook’s friends.
After graduating from the VCA, Hook won a scholarship to paint in Florence. She stayed in the Italian city for 10 years, and it was there she discovered Santa Maria Novella, a fragrance company dating to 1612. She became friends with the family owners and pitched the idea of distributing the perfume here. Three years later she became the perfumier’s sole Australian agent and opened Franque in 2009, in St Kilda, to sell the brand. (Hook remains the sole importer of Santa Maria Novella here, and decides where it is sold in in Australia and New Zealand).
The store has evolved to showcase Hook’s interest in classical European design and Australian contemporary art.
She believes art should never be intimidating, so the space is designed to be as comfortable and warm as possible. “It’s almost like we’re hostesses inviting people into our home.”
Franque has hosted functions in the past, and Hook plans to do so here, making use of the small kitchen in the back room and the garden space behind the salon. She envisions a citrus and sculpture garden with a handful of tables to host intimate dinners, offering guests simple, market-fresh food prepared by guest chefs, with wine served in French crystal.
597 Malvern Road, Toorak
(03) 9827 9940
Mon to Sat 10am–5pm