Over two decades, husband-and-wife team Fabienne and Franco Cosulich have built a business that encompasses French antiques, mid-century Italian design, and a contemporary bespoke collection that celebrates their passion for design.
Fabienne Cosulich grew up immersed in the rarefied world of antiques and design, but it took falling in love with an antiques dealer for her to step back into that world on her own terms. Fabienne’s father was internationally known Italian inventor and designer, Luciano Mattioli, who took his family to Paris. Here, he worked for Philips and her mother became a procurer for American antique dealers. “My mother used to drag me to flea markets and I vowed never to have anything to do with antiques,” she recalls. “But I was extremely drawn to the more technical work of my father – and he did appreciate the antiques for their quality and materiality.”
After school, Fabienne studied languages and began her career as a business translator, transcribing the patents of her father into several languages. During this period, she became peripherally involved in the world of design, appreciating not only its aesthetic value but its capacity to meaningfully solve problems.
It was when she met her husband, antiques dealer Franco Cosulich, however, that she began to embrace the world of her childhood on her own terms. Although Franco specialised in Italian Renaissance furniture and paintings, he was fascinated by the English passion for antiques. The couple bought a house outside of Leeds and started a family. “Initially, I said you do your business and I’ll do mine,” says Fabienne. “Then Franco began to do fairs and I would help decorate the stands and suggested we introduce French ceramics, like my mother had sourced. He asked me to work for him and I reluctantly said yes.”
I love the mid-century Italian designs the most – there was an electricity in the air at that time.Fabienne Cosulich
This reluctance was short lived – and when Franco began to dream of moving to the United States, Fabienne realised they would need to shift their focus from antiques to the mid-century Italian designs that she was so familiar with, thanks to her father.
The couple moved to Chicago and founded Cosulich Interiors & Antiques in 2003, then relocated to New York in 2006. “We needed more clients and sensed that mid-century Italian design would be much more appreciated in New York,” says Fabienne.
They set up a showroom in the now-closed Center44, a sprawling, block-long showroom of art and antiques from over seventy international dealers, where they could study the market. In 2010, they opened a boutique gallery on East 60th Street in an area that was known for its Italian design, and it was here they began to really make a name for themselves. “That location helped us to become who we are today, but we needed a bigger space,” says Fabienne. So, in 2017, they moved to the New York Design Center, where they remain. “It proved to be a good move as people are looking for a more complete destination experience, rather than a single shop or gallery these days.”
This kind of intuition about consumer habits has served the Cosulichs well over the years, and has seen the business remain ahead of the game in responding to the way people want to shop. Predicting the rise of e-commerce, for example, the couple set up a website in 2007 and they continue to sell their extensive collection online as well as from the showroom. A decade later, they introduced a contemporary collection that draws inspiration from the vintage pieces but is completely customisable. “We’ve always been known for our ability to adapt to changes in the market,” muses Fabienne.
The “custom design” collection, which features designs by Fabienne as well as pieces from Italian artisans, has been key in tapping into a younger audience. Each piece is handcrafted and is available in bespoke sizes, colours, and materials – think a chandelier composed of hand-cut rock glass elements that can be crafted in a variety of jewel-like colours; postmodern-inspired sideboards that can be personalised in different colours, finishes and sizes; and sculptural armchairs the evoke the aerodynamic brilliance of the Italian mid-century greats available in custom upholstery.
“We are always looking for new talent,” says Fabienne, who travels to Italy with Franco several times a year. “We deal directly with the artisans and so we are very removed from mass production – even if a piece is made according to the listing on the website it is unique as it is handcrafted.” Eventually, they hope to have an independent team working in New York to allow them to spend more time on the production in Italy.
Alongside these contemporary pieces, the Cosulichs continue to sell antiques, 20th-century Italian statement pieces, and Venetian Murano glass creations sourced from across Italy and France. The collection features the likes of an 18th-century Louis XV Kingwood commode stamped by Maitre Nicolas-Jean Marchand, which was found hidden in castle walls alongside the elegantly angular mid-century furniture and colourful blown-glass chandeliers of Gio Ponti, and playful Murano glass objets d’art.
“I love the mid-century Italian designs the most – there was an electricity in the air at that time,” says Fabienne. “I remember my father’s studio was filled with innovation and people trying to go beyond the known. It was like an endless fire constantly fed by a desire to see furniture and glass in completely new ways. What was created is timeless and full of joy, life, and happiness.”
Today, Fabienne and Franco have established themselves as leaders in the highly competitive world of antiques and vintage – and they even brought their daughter, Sara, into the family business for six years before she found her own path as a life coach. Throughout it all, the business has flourished thanks to the love on which it was founded. “Our relationship as husband and wife has been so important to our business,” says Fabienne. “We are still in love after 30 years, but we are also very different. Franco is the true antique dealer and I am more of a modern girl – but, even though we have completely different tastes, we won’t buy what the other doesn’t like. That has always helped us to be very innovative. Without that, we would not be who we are today.”
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