Father and son, Bruno and Chris de la Croix-Vaubois of Country French Interiors, are a study in contrasts. Bruno de la Croix-Vaubois was raised in Versailles, France, and even after almost 40 years in the United States, he retains the melodious accent of his homeland, as well as a French sensibility and artistic bent. Chris de la Croix-Vaubois, whose mother is American, was born and raised in Dallas, and he has the forthright and practical personality one might expect from a Texan, as well as a passion for precision and details. Together, these two make a formidable team.
While Chris de la Croix-Vaubois enjoys holding down the fort at the showroom and overseeing Country French Interiors’ robust online presence, through its website, social media pages and online antiques market, his father relishes the interactions with people—the vendors, employees and especially the customers who visit the showroom. Together, they share an enthusiasm for traveling to France, where they explore regional antiques markets and fairs, immerse themselves in the culture and visit family in Versailles. It is this combination of their divergent yet complementary talents and their shared passion for antiques that affords their customers a shopping experience that is every bit as enjoyable online as it is in person.
It was in 1986, after a short stint selling real estate in the Dallas area, that Bruno de la Croix-Vaubois had a notion to bring French antiques to the region. During his endeavors in real estate, he noticed that many of the spacious houses in the area needed interior furnishings that would add some style and intrigue, and they needed to be on a proper scale for the large rooms in these homes. And, of course, who wouldn’t also want furniture and art objects that worked well as conversation pieces?
“Our customers, then and now, are very curious about the furniture we sell,” says Bruno de la Croix-Vaubois. “They want to know where the items are from, their history and how we came to purchase them. And, of course, people are especially interested in the age of the pieces, as many of them even pre-date the United States as a country.”
Every item in Country French Interiors is a work of art. Most of the collection originates from countryside villas and châteaux in France, which belonged to the wealthy and nobility. Within the walls of these fortified and semi-fortified residences were rooms of ornate, highly stylized, one-of-a-kind furnishings; most items within a household were commissioned by a specific patron.
In seeking out the most beautiful antiques and gathering a variety of styles, de la Croix-Vaubois and his son frequent auctions and markets that specialize in this type of furniture. The regions and cities they tend to visit most, and which represent the Country French Interiors inventory, are Provence, Normandy, the Loire Valley, Lyon, the French Riviera, Paris and, of course, Versailles.
For those who are French history buffs, the shop’s collection ranges from the 1600s through the 1800s, encompassing much of the Bourbon Dynasty (Louis XIII, XIV, XV, XVI), First Empire, Bourbons (restored), through the Third Empire. In terms of artistic styles represented, there is everything from baroque, rococo and neoclassical to Gothic and country. Also included are some intriguing Spanish and Italian antiquities and a few exceptional 20th-century French pieces that Bruno and Chris de la Croix-Vaubois found hard to pass up on their buying trips.
Customers are often interested in the materials used to craft the furniture. The majority of these high-quality pieces were produced from oak and walnut, but some are made of mahogany, chestnut, pine and other fruitwoods. Decorative detailing and inlay were done with a wide range of elements, from colorful woods, such as ebony and boxwood, to pewter and brass to mother-of-pearl and gold leafing.
While some customers may be looking to decorate an entire room with French antiques, others are looking for a decorative piece or two that will stand out in a particular setting. Country French Interiors is able to accommodate either scenario. On the furniture end of the spectrum are social seating, tables and chairs, armoires, buffets, commodes and clocks. Decorative items range from mirrors and trumeaux to vases, busts and statues to carved wall hangings, tapestries and paintings. It is a vast and ever-changing collection that entices customers to make regular forays to the store to seek out treasures.
Of special note is the showroom’s huge collection of original artwork, all of it properly cleaned, restored and appropriately framed. Bruno de la Croix-Vaubois truly enjoys scouting for paintings, and over the years he has paid close attention to themes and styles that resonate with his customers and tailored his purchases accordingly. “Country-themed paintings and those with imagery from Paris are especially popular, as are those in an impressionist style,” he says. “Buying paintings, for me, is very personal. There are so many artists to choose from, but my rule of thumb is that the painting has to ‘talk’ to me. That’s when I know it is worth buying.”
Country French Interiors’ vast showroom is nearly 9,000 square feet, and at any given time there are up to 2,000 pieces on display. To create a more pleasant shopping experience, Chris de la Croix-Vaubois has crafted detailed signage for each item, describing the provenance of the piece, materials used, stylistic features, dimensions and pricing. This allows customers to browse the showroom in a relaxed manner, without having to rely on a salesperson to shadow them and answer questions.
A growing number of customers are emanating from regions outside of Dallas, as interest in antiques among millennials is trending and because the company has made it easy to shop for its goods online. Chris de la Croix-Vaubois attributes the growing popularity of their antiques to the exceptional detailing and artistry intrinsic to French furniture. “Many of our customers buy antiques because they are tired of new furniture that is not designed to last. They are looking for pieces that are more substantial in craftsmanship and made of quality materials,” he says.
Also worth noting is that all antiques on display at Country French Interiors are in ready-for-use condition versus being sold “as is,” whereby customers can enjoy their purchases immediately upon accepting delivery at their home. The company’s process is that after it receives shipment containers from France, all items are carefully inspected and then repaired in whatever way necessary to ensure they are structurally sound and aesthetically up to snuff. Among the team are craftspeople who do woodworking, upholstery, marble and mirror repairs, refinishing and the like. And as is inevitable with older furniture, there is often missing or damaged hardware, which staff replace or restore. All antique light fixtures are rewired for safety and to meet U.S. standards, and clocks sold are in full working order, having been restored by an expert as needed.
“One of the benefits of having a small family business is our close relationship with our customers. We aim to carry the types of furniture and decorative items they want, and we see that our customers are being taken care of properly from start to finish. Having their trust, confidence and loyalty are our most important goals,” says Chris de la Croix-Vaubois.
Christina Andrews is a freelance writer from the Napa Valley who specializes in personal and business bios, food and wine, visual arts, music, hospitality, the event industry, community interest stories, obituaries and political satire.