Looking at the run-down, unpolished facade of the old St Mary’s School on Albert Road in Woodstock, you’ll never guess that the building plays host to one of the most extensive ranges of antique furniture and vintage decor in the country. Delos is where relics are salvaged, rediscovered and repurposed. It’s a brand that trades in history. Their constantly evolving collection of eclectic finds from around the globe includes wrought iron garden furniture, crystal chandeliers, architectural relics, Victoriana and even taxidermy. An antique collector’s dream. We’re fascinated by the antique industry – sourcing products, importing and restorations are just some of the processes involved with making vintage finds marketable. We caught up with Carmen Matthysen, the showroom manager at Delos for a quick interview.
Where are your antiques sourced from?
Our antiques are sourced from all over the world, but mainly Europe. We have an antique dealer we visit once a year in Belgium, who travels with us in Brussels, London and Paris. He has his own selection of antiques that we often select from as well.
We don’t just deal in antiques though. We have many suppliers all over the world, where we buy other vintage, salvaged, retro, newly made and custom pieces. We go to Argentina and Egypt for our authentic salvaged forged steel gates and panels. Our marble and mirror sources are highly guarded secrets, selecting from existing collections or working with skilled artisans to create custom items for our clients.
So a veritable chocolate box of sources.
What qualities do you look for when choosing your antiques and vintage pieces?
We try to buy pieces that can be used in both a modern and a traditional setting. We also look for pieces that have gravitas and are in the best condition…ready to be snapped up the moment it lands on our showroom floor. When it comes to vintage or Art Deco, we try to buy unique pieces that Europe is known for, that you wouldn’t ordinarily find here. Have you seen our light blue dentist’s trolley? It’s something you’d never find in South Africa but is the perfect piece for an art deco home, or even a slick Camps Bay pad.
Tell us a bit about the layout of the Delos store – is it designed to reflect any particular design style?
We don’t have a specific design structure but our layout process is very much a team effort. Our rooms all seem to speak different languages so when a new piece comes in, we instantly know where to put it. Our grandest chandeliers and salvaged doors always work best in the chapel. Whilst our “White Room,” painted in tones of white, pewter and gold, lends itself to more modern lighting and more eclectic and less fussy pieces.
Up our checkerboard staircase, you’ll find our “Red Room,” that I’ve nicknamed Versailles, where Ox-blood red, stone grey and gold toned items just call to be placed there… yellow Murano chandeliers and gilded mirrors adore living here.
We also like to pair items that work well together, so a dining table and chairs are usually paired with appropriate accessories so that it is relatable to our clients.
Which trends are you seeing amongst antique/vintage buyers? What are customers interested in?
Antique enthusiasts visiting us are often quite knowledgeable, so they are as enthusiastic as we are about the pieces that come in. Our Willy Rizzo cocktail table recently caused quite a stir!
You can place Delos fans into several categories such as our Winelands clients, who are drawn to the more traditional French and Flemish pieces, whilst our more trend orientated clients are partial to our more eclectic and unique pieces. We are certainly known as the place to find that special something, a unique gift or that distinctive piece that will take centre stage in a home or boutique hotel.
In comparison to the rest of the world, how is SA’s antique trade doing?
South Africa certainly doesn’t have the large antique following that places like New York have, but we’re certainly following the global trend of eclectic interiors that combine old with new, and tell a rather more interesting story.
What is your favourite thing about working in this industry?
I absolutely love what I do… I live for it! I especially love combining our tastes here at Delos to create a fabulous mix. Craig, our owner, is into Art Deco and beautifully crafted vintage pieces, whilst my taste veers more to the outlandish but with touches of Bauhaus mixed with other influences. Our workshop manager Clint, loves old wooden pieces (thanks to his history in carpentry) whilst my sales colleague Roxanne, embraces the more romantic French pieces… so a good balance.
We derive so much pleasure from seeing our clients delight in a piece once it’s placed in their home. We are a genuine family here and our clients become like family too.
Roxanne and I thrive on meeting all the different clients that come into the shop. You never know if you will be helping to decorate a stately mansion in Bishopscourt or a crazy night club in Austria.
What are some of the principles your workshop abides by when restoring antiques?
To stay true to the original idea of the piece. We have a few traditionally trained tradesmen in our workshop, and to see them practicing their hundred-year-old skills is quite beautiful.
To find out more about Delos, visit delos.co.za.