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Inside Enduring Antiques Emporium, Nicholas + Alistair

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One-of-a-kind design pieces, show-stopping decor, and other rare European wares – all found right here in Melbourne’s inner north at Nicholas & Alistair.

Having been in the business of sourcing and selling truly extraordinary antique furniture and design pieces for 20 years, Nicholas Mesiano and Alistair Knight have a wealth of wisdom to share.

We recently caught up with the pair at their incredible Abbotsford gallery, where they shared their insights on remaining relevant and successful in today’s shifting retail climate.

9th July, 2018

Inside Nicholas & Alistair. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Owners Nicholas Mesiano and Alistair Knight. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

At 387 Johnston Street, Abbotsford, the gallery is a treasure trove of rare antiques and decor. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Nicholas & Alistair has been going strong for two decades. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The gallery specialises in the rarer examples of European design. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Owners Nicholas Mesiano and Alistair Knight make frequent trips abroad to personally source their unique pieces. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Nicholas & Alistair is open Wednesday to Saturday and by appointment. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Photography – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Antiques aficionados, you are in for a treat!

We gave you a little glimpse of amazing Abbotsford antique store and gallery Nicholas & Alistair in our Father’s Day Giveaway last year, but this morning we’re back for a more lengthy browse!

With backgrounds in interior design and fine art, Nicholas Mesiano and Alistair Knight take us through their treasure trove of 20th century antique and vintage furniture, decorative objects, and art, including rare examples of European design.

What have you been focusing on over the past year, since we last featured your stunning showroom on TDF?

We have been extremely busy since we saw you last. We work closely with designers and private clients – both in Australia and overseas; and 2017 saw the completion of many beautiful projects, which we sourced and supplied pieces for.

We have also been travelling extensively, and have recently returned from a hectic buying trip in Europe. The pieces we found on this trip have literally just arrived in our showroom.

We also went camping in Oman over summer… Amazing, and highly recommended!

Why do people come to Nicholas & Alistair? And what would you say is your distinctive offering?

Nicholas & Alistair specialises in unique high-quality furniture and decorative objects with a focus on rare examples of design from the 20th century. Our collection is carefully curated and distinctively international.

Our clients come to us to find beautiful and extraordinary pieces. We have been in business for over 20 years, and the knowledge we have acquired is also a point of difference that clients appreciate (if not expect!). We are passionate about what we do, and very particular about the way we present our showroom and ourselves.

You started the business in the late 1990s. How has it evolved over the years?

The business has evolved quite dramatically over two decades. Like a lot of businesses, we had modest beginnings. It really does take time to gain knowledge and experience. Our aesthetic is constantly changing and we are continually trying to expand our direction and update our collection, as well as bring something fresh to the retail landscape in general.

Travelling overseas for buying trips and inspirational adventures in the early days was a major factor in helping us evolve Nicholas & Alistair to the point we’re now at.

There has long been a rich community of vintage design/art retailers in Melbourne. Yet in recent times there seems to have been shifts in peoples’ buying habits and interiors design preferences. How have you been able to stay relevant in the face of such changes?

Tastes in interior design have obviously changed and will continue to change over time. From the beginning we made a conscious decision to exist on the periphery of trends – our focus instead has been to offer vintage pieces that are both cutting-edge and timeless, and that work in a range of contemporary interiors.

Our specialty is really the ‘decorative art’ side of furniture and objects, and clients come to us to find these unexpected pieces. There will always be people searching for rare and unusual things… and that is why we are here!

What do you see as the key to running a successful business when your offering is rather niche?

We are both really passionate about what we do. It’s the most significant ingredient! Having fantastic clients is also a must.

You’re partners in life and business – how have you made this work?

We are really lucky that we share the same vision – it’s an important ingredient. We also have a similar design aesthetic and complementary skills.

Having separate interests beyond the showroom is paramount. We are both quite busy people!

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of running Nicholas & Alistair? (we would guess it might be all the travel and sleuthing out treasures in Europe..)

Whilst it is true that the international travel for sourcing is exciting and rewarding, it is also one of the most challenging aspects of the business. Finding unique pieces is extremely difficult and there is a huge amount of pressure to maintain the level of quality of our stock.

On the other hand, what do you most enjoy about running your business?

Our wonderful clients that share our passion and honestly make it all worthwhile. We get a real buzz seeing our pieces in the interiors of so many talented designers.

It also must be said that being in the driver’s seat of our own lives and defining the outcomes is incredibly gratifying.

Can you tell us about your wonderful in-house restorers, and what services you offer as a result?

We have a wonderful team of restorers – all of whom are pivotal to the success of Nicholas & Alistair. Our main restorer is in his mid 70’s and was apprenticed at 15! He is amazing. The restoration is all done by hand, and in most cases is museum quality. We are very considered in our approach to preserving the integrity of each piece we present for sale.

What’s on the horizon for Nicholas & Alistair?

In the near future we have two more buying trips scheduled for the second half of this year. We are also in the process of restoring a house in country Victoria. Hopefully, a holiday squeezed in somewhere too…..

Nicholas & Alistair
387 Johnston Street
Abbotsford Victoria

Open Wednesday to Saturday, 11:00am to 5:00pm (or by appointment)

‘There will always be people searching for rare and unusual things… and that is why we are here!’ – Nicholas & Alistair.

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