If you’re a fan of French Country, then you’re familiar with the beautiful antiques and one-of-a-kinds found in our Eloquence collection. And if you’re unfamiliar, you’re DEFINITELY missing out! These stunning pieces are sourced from Europe and French Colonial areas, and the assortment ranges from crystal chandeliers to old antiqued mirrors to Louis XV chairs with original patinas. At Kathy Kuo Home, we stand behind every manufacturer and company we source from, but the Eloquence story is truly exceptional. We had the opportunity to speak with the founders and designers behind the brand, Amelia and Kim Redmond, and chat about how they started their business and how you can incorporate antiques into your home. Read the full interview below!
The Kuotes: Let’s start at the very beginning. You and Kim were both born in New Zealand. How did you each find your way into the business of old-world European Interiors?
Amelia and Kim Redmond: Yes, we are both from New Zealand. It is very common for New Zealanders to do an “overseas experience” after completing university, so while I was finishing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Zealand, Kim was in London working in banking. He then won a green card and was given six months to immigrate before his green card would become invalid, so he moved to New York in 2000, and about a year later I joined him on a student visa. Once we were both in the city, we lived the good life exploring all of the amazing restaurants and picnicking in Central Park.
Truth be told, neither of us had any interior design experience, but we had a family friend in the business of sourcing and re-selling vintage and antique finds in London. He asked us if we would sell some of his vintage furniture pieces here in the United States. So with $20,000 in our saving account, we decided to move to California to start a business. It was February 2002 when we arrived in Los Angeles, and we leased a storefront on a busy street in Culver City with a run down house in back for us to live in.
“Money was extremely tight as we had to pay the shop rent every month. Buying a magazine was a treat. Buying a croissant was a treat.”
Looking back now, those days were wonderful and exciting. We didn’t have any money and the house behind the shop had not been lived in for years. There was nothing: no stove, no hot water, no fridge. The plumbing in the bathroom sink simply went into a bucket! I will always remember Kim saying to me, “You know a hot water cylinder is going to be $200, so I think we can just take cold showers.” We were cooking our food on a kerosine camp cooker, so I gave Kim an ultimatum: Get the hot water cylinder or I’m going back to New Zealand!” (…needless to say, he got the hot water installed).
Our first container came from a family friend and was accidentally re-directed to China, so we actually had to wait an extra month before our store could be filled with antique finds. The store was just beginning, so I actually worked part-time at the New Zealand Consulate in Los Angeles, and Kim worked part-time for Universal Studios. Money was extremely tight as we had to pay the shop rent every month. Buying a magazine was a treat. Buying a croissant was a treat. It was the opposite of our New York City days where we taxied to dinner and splurged on champagne at chic bars! But this time in LA is what started it all.
K: How did you two meet? How did the idea of Eloquence come about?
A&K: We met twenty years ago; it was 1997 at a Christmas Eve party in a small farming town in New Zealand.
K: That sounds like it’s out of a storybook.
A: I was seventeen and had just finished school. My mum had fallen in love with a farmer and left our home in the big city to move to a small rural farming town. This is where I met Kim. Kim was 24 and had itchy feet up to go overseas as he had just finished his degree in marketing. I was just about to begin my Fine Arts degree in New Zealand. We were young and full of big dreams. At the time i wanted to be a fabric designer, and Kim was obsessed with landscape gardening and he wanted to do something entrepreneurial. We bonded over our elaborate ideas on how to do these amazing things—blissfully ignorant to the realities of life!After a few years of a long distance relationship, I finally joined Kim in New York City in November 2001 once i had completed my degree in painting. Unfortunately New York was in mourning after the tragic events of September 11, and finding my dream job in an art gallery was tough. I ended up selling beautiful handmade leather boots in Soho for $7.25 an hour! Kim and I had talked about starting a business together when we first met. Four months after I had moved to NYC, we decided to do it. At that point we had nothing to lose.
Shop the Look:
K: What is it about antiques and the old European style that speaks to you the most?
A&K: I grew up walking the beaches in New Zealand, picking up shells and gluing them along with beads to my hairbrush. My mum and I would go to secondhand stores and hunt for “treasure.” As a teenager, I hand painted magnolias and blossoms over a commode chest I bought at a secondhand store for my bedroom. Maybe it is the “finding” that is so romantic to me? I never get tired of looking. Kim and I will drive for hours to find things we love. Coming from New Zealand, which is a relatively young country, to Europe where you’re surrounded by hundreds and thousands of years of history is something that has never ceased to amaze us both. I don’t think you can ever tire of history. The timeless craftsmanship that has been put into buildings and furnishings is just amazing, and too see how our pieces have aged to perfection over their lifetimes is an endless source of inspiration for us.
K: You are the experts in vintage, “one of a kind” pieces. Tell us about your antiquing process. Where do you travel to? What kinds of places do you find these antiques?
A&K: Who doesn’t love shopping? The buying process is a very inspiring aspect of our business. I enjoy seeing the line up of trucks and containers at the end of a French flea market filled with all of our buys from the day. To see how each buyer curates their individual look is amazing. Some trucks are filled with woody dark finishes, others have more organic collections, some are full of greens and garden urns. Our look is always muted chalky colors: whites, golds, silvers, woods (both dark and bleached), blues, and muted greens. But we don’t solely shop at flea markets. We also visit many dealers in their warehouses in tucked away parts of France, Belgium, Holland and Sweden. Our architectural shutters and doorway pieces often come from the Mediterranean where old villas are being torn down to make way for modern apartment buildings. The excitement of never quite knowing what you will find on each buying trip is always fun, even at the end of a long day you will want to go and see that last warehouse just in case there is something special there.
K: What’s your process for authenticating your Eloquence antiques?
A&K: We buy what we love instead of buying a specific period or style, so the antique and vintage items we find range from 50 to 300 years old! However, after fifteen years of looking at thousands of pieces of furniture, we have gotten very quick at picking the best pieces. We always state where we purchased our finds and their approximate age. Each dealer we purchase from has usually spent many hours traveling to find these pieces themselves, and they enjoy telling us the history of these pieces. Often pieces are not dated and not signed, so we might look for other clues like what types of wood is used or how the wood is carved. Has the piece been refinished, or is it original? What is under the upholstery? Is the hardware original or replaced? All of these signs form the story of age and heritage.
K: The word ‘antique’ is very discrepant within the interior design industry. How would you define the word antique?
A&K: An antique is a piece that is over 100 years old. A vintage piece is over 50 years old but not more than 100 years old.
K: Eloquence has the most gorgeous reproductions. What goes into the creation of your reproductions that make them so special?
A&K: Thank you! We endeavor to make artisan pieces that will themselves age to become an antique in 100 years time. We use natural materials that will age gracefully and are carved and finished by hand. Each piece that we design has been influenced by a piece we have bought or seen in our travels. The amount of time to bring a new piece to life is enormous—many hours of design edits and revisions that are then followed by a factory sample. Once we are happy with the sample, we put it into production. When we do get it right, it is a wonderful collective achievement. Eloquence only releases a limited number of new designs each year as each piece must be a classic that will endure time and age gracefully.
K: As world travelers, where are some of your favorite places?
A: When Kim and I met, we made a deal that we would visit all of the natural and man-made wonders of the world. We started off well, but unfortunately work and having kids has slowed us down as of late!
It took us a long time to visit Mexico, but when we finally did, we just fell in love with the history and culture mixed with brilliant colors and white sandy beaches. On our first trip we visited Mexico City and climbed the Sun and Moon Pyramids at Teotihuacan. We had already visited the pyramids at Giza in Egypt a few years prior, and what was incredible to me was when I read that the base of the pyramid of the Sun Pyramid matched within inches to the base of the Pyramid of Khafre in Giza, Egypt. How incredible is that? We manufacture some of our design pieces in Vietnam, and on one magical trip we took a junk boat out to Halong Bay. We also have visited Hanoi, which from 1902-1954 French colonialists chose as the capital of French Indochina. The buildings are a wonderful mix of crumbling French architecture mixed with Vietnamese style and color. And we shouldn’t have to say we love France. It is a land with thousands of years of history. We just never get tired of Paris and Provence.
K: Is there a place that you have yet to visit but would love to see?
A: Bali is on our wish list… My mum has been and told me stories of trees wrapped in colored silk. I am itching to get there!
Shop the Look:
K: What does an antique bring to an interior? Why should people live with antiques? What keeps them relevant?
A&K: The main reason people should live with antiques is because your home should be your haven—a place that is in tune with you and reminds you of how blessed you are. Your home can bring you back into balance. I find coming home reminds me to slow down: make a cup of tea, fill an empty vase, use that scented candle, play with my kids. Making your home your version of beautiful can only bring amazing things to your peace of mind. Antiques make your home an incredibly special, authentic and grounded place to be. They are the treasures and joy that give a room more depth and soul.
“Your home should be your haven—a place that is in tune with you and reminds you of how blessed you are.”
One thing I believe strongly is NOT to live with an antique if you don’t love it. If it was given to you by your family, but it does not make you happy, then my thoughts are to make it yours by re-finishing or re-upholstering it. If that still is not doing it for you, I suggest saying a big thank you for the piece, but then give it to someone if your family who would love it.
K: Are you a fan of mixing antiques with more modern design styles?
A&K: Yes! Mostly because I think it makes the antiques you have then chosen to be even more of a statement. The contrast can draw your eye to certain pieces that might have been lost in a room full of antiques. But no matter how much I love modern pieces for their clean lines, easy wipeable surfaces, and modern useable dimensions… it’s still antiques that make my heart flutter. The patina is like art to me. The uniqueness of the artisans’ carving styles always stirs inspiration, happiness and ideas in my head.
K: What kind of design/pieces do you live with in your own home? Do you have a favorite antique piece of all time?
A&K: My love is the color palette of whites and golds mixed with bleached oaks… In our living room we have a big squishy natural linen sofa with our reproduction column coffee table. I just love this architectural piece. And our TV is attached to the wall above our Parnassus Sideboard. I hide all of our kids toys inside the sideboard!
But yes, I do have a favorite antique piece of all time. It is a huge arch in our living room. It was originally part of a doorway transom. The story of how it was given to me is as special to me as the piece itself. In 2007, Kim and I had a three-week, multiple country buying trip booked, paid and planned. I had checked my passport and it was still valid. But about two days before our trip, I checked my work visa and discovered that it was due to expire while we were away (which meant I could leave but would not be able to get back into the States), and it would take at least two weeks to renew it! I was completely devastated. I had to stay in Los Angeles while Kim went away buying.
Unbeknownst to me, on that trip Kim came across and bought this beautiful arch. I knew it was a splurge as at that time we had never been able to afford to buy pieces quite like this. Months later, on Christmas morning, Kim announced that he needed to go into the warehouse to get my gift. When we got to work he rolled up the warehouse door and there was this huge triangular crate (which I had NEVER seen unloaded), so he gave me a crow bar and a hammer and we opened the crate and this beautiful arch was inside! The paint is the faintest lilac with old gilt. I love to imagine this was above a ballroom doorway where it was witness to many wonderful evenings! Now we hang all of our boy’s artwork inside the arch.