FOR THOSE WHO DREAM of waving goodbye to a corporate career in a big city and welcoming with open arms the charms of a coastal lifestyle, all you need is the will and savvy means to make it happen. Sometimes those plans are made on the fly. Sometimes they are thrust upon you. And sometimes they come by way of a circuitous route as events and opportunities lead you this way or that.
Shaun Newton and his wife Carole established French Home in Maroochydore on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in May 2012 after leaving their corporate careers in Sydney in 2009 to move to the French countryside to be near Carole’s family. Newton continued to work in the corporate world in France for a year or so until he decided that he wanted to enjoy family life in the village.
“I had developed a level of French but living there obviously changed that a lot and I got my level up to fluent French,” he says. With his focus on village life, Newton had time to develop a relationship with a local supplier of French homewares who wholesales across Europe. He has since gone on to work with them at international trade fairs in Paris, Milan and Birmingham in the UK.
“I’ve always loved the French product and the products that our suppliers make and we saw a niche in the marketplace,” he says of the couple’s idea to establish their wholesale business. “The French style is timeless and there is a demand for a 100 per cent made-in-France product.”
French Home’s first collection was a mix of decorative pieces such as wall clocks, wall hangings, textiles and soaps. Strong demand for the lighting collection has seen the range grow to include industrial handcrafted metal and glass pendants and table lamps with vintage appeal.
“My wife’s family have rustic country homes. Some of them are farmers and they tend to make products out of waste metal and they’ll recycle a lot of metal and timbers and decorate their houses with them. So that is part of what we are looking to do and looking to create,” Newton says. “The French industrial collection is quite contemporary but it’s also got vintage pieces.”
The influence of the traditional French village country life, recycling and reinventing metal remnants into handy homeware is a key part of the French Home ethos. This industrial aesthetic is enhanced by French Home’s new collection of metal tables, shelf units, cupboards and chairs reminiscent of the famous Tolix chairs designed in the 1930’s by pioneering French designer Xavier Pauchard.
“Our homeware suppliers in France have about 20 years experience,” Newton says. He is able to tap into the thousands of products in their range but carefully selects pieces that he knows will work well in the Australian interiors landscape. Their support ensures that his business accurately represents the French design and style. “And that is important to us. Our collections tend to change about every six months which is our primary supplier’s cycle as well.”
French Home’s collections include unique household linens, the historic Savon de Marseille range of soaps and the authentic Le Père Pelletier collection which includes room sprays, bath salts and a men’s care range.
“Our clientele are often destination boutiques so they are always looking for something that will stand them apart from the shop next door,” he says. “I really do enjoy the industry and when you go to a trade fair that is when you feel a part of a big industry.”
It seems as if Newton’s mid-career seachange was always meant to be.
Visit French Home at Decor + Design at stand G43.