If you thought antiques were outdated and suitable only for classic homes, The Vault will make you think again. Started by partners Phoebe Nicol and Jeremy Bowker as an online store for architects, interior designers and other design aficionados, the duo has expanded their offering with a bricks-and-mortar shop that’s all about bringing antiques into the 21st century.
In the design district of Rosebery, the large store has two main rooms stocking everything from French and Italian furniture to contemporary Australian-made lighting, 1680s Spanish consoles and modern works of art.
“In the front, it’s quite traditional, with beautiful friezes and wooden floorboards. On the other hand, the back is polished concrete [floors]. It’s got these big, steel-framed glass windows, so it’s almost two different styles of architecture,” says Nicol. “The antiques look really amazing on the polished concrete, with fresh white walls. We like to move things around and put unexpected pieces together to challenge perceptions.”
Nicol is an interior architect and meets a lot of people looking for antiques to suit a broader range of interior styles, but no place to buy them. It’s not a new issue, she encountered the same thing in the six years working under Geoff Clarke, founder of antique and design store The Country Trader.
The Vault initially focused on furniture, which the couple says was easier to buy and sell online. But now the Rosebery showroom is open, there’s a variety of design items mixed with artwork, all of which Bowker says represent “a fresh, modern take on antiques”.
“Now we’ve got a showroom, it gives people an opportunity to see things in-situ and how you can mix items together,” says Bowker.
“Obviously, we want things to be of a certain quality – to be handmade and well-crafted and usually one-off – but we also want to give people a fresh take [on antiques]. We deal with quite a few dealers who buy in Europe and bring things in regularly, we deal with items on consignment, and we also purchase through the secondhand market and auction houses.
“We really only stock things we’d want in our own house. If we don’t think we could have it in our house, it’s hard to sell it to customers and convince them to have it in theirs,” he says.
When asked what kinds of items they would choose to have in their home, Nicol describes their style as “eclectic, with a twist of humour”.
“We like that juxtaposition of very clean and contemporary with a very quirky antique or something that’s a bit different,” she says. “It’s about finding a balance between old and new for us. We don’t want to be one of those old, brown antique shops. We want to give a new edge to antique dealers, be the new generation.”
377 Gardeners Road, Rosebery
Thu to Sat 10am–3pm, and by appointment.