10 questions with Folie à Trois
Hidden behind College Drive and Concord Avenue lies a local hidden gem. Folie à Trois’ one-of-a-kind collection of treasures and curiosities is carefully handpicked with clients in mind. The company’s namesake, meaning “craziness among three,” speaks to the founders’–Margo Bouanchaud Hayes, Lance Hayes, Margaret Lawhon Schott and Martin Schott–extreme love for all things French and antiques. The team has made a business retrieving interior and garden pieces from France, trading luxurious European vacations for intensive shopping missions. And while the Folie group is crazy for antiques, they also gather an eclectic mix of paintings, jewelry, lighting, gifts and affordable artwork appealing to people of all generations and lovers of all styles.
We reached out to founder Margaret Lawhon Schott and her team to discover more about the unique nature of Folie à Trois:
1. What is a typical day like for you and your team?
There is no typical day for us! Especially now with the restrictions around COVID, we are working with designers and clients by appointment until it’s safe to gather and we’re able to have more open sales events. Also, we are in the process of preparing to go live with our online Folie shop early in 2021, which is a unique and challenging process in and of itself. For most of this year, our work with Folie has been organized on something of a triage basis: what do we need to handle first, which shop owners in France are we able to do business with right now, what are our customers asking us to find for them. Given that scenario, flexibility has been key!
2. What are your and your team’s professional backgrounds?
Partners Margo Bouanchaud Hayes and her husband Lance Hayes bring the creative genius to Folie à Trois. Margo brings more than 30 years of experience as a highly successful caterer, and Lance has a deep professional history with floral design. They create spectacular spaces for our sales events! I head the communications effort after 30 years in broadcasting, acting and writing. My husband, Martin Schott, adds the legal expertise we often need as we engage in international business dealings. Last year, we added our social media editor, Catherine Evans, and web designer and administrator, Kim Bush. This group, plus a tremendously talented and patient bookkeeper, and we’re in business!
3. What is the history of Folie à Trois? When did it open, and how has it grown or changed since then?
Folie à Trois was the brainchild of our partner Margo, who came up with the idea during a vacation we shared in the south of France and in Paris in May 2017. Loving the outdoor market experiences and numerous brocante and antique shops, Margo said, “You know, we could do this!” And with that, the journey began.
We first identified a courier/shipping company in France to work with us, then picked the markets we wanted to attend on our initial trip in the summer of 2018. We returned to France in 2019, and this year we’re shopping with specific vendors and shop owners via FaceTime. It can take several months for a container to arrive from France but once it does, we begin planning where and how to display our merchandise. For the first two years, we held month-long “pop-up” sales events after receiving our containers. This year, we settled into our permanent space in a building off Concord and College, where we hope to greet more customers as things open up in 2021!
4. Where does your inventory come from?
Our inventory comes from the markets and brick-and-mortar boutiques we frequent in the south of France and in Paris, especially the Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and the traditional Marchés aux Puces in Saint-Ouen on the outskirts of Paris. This year, we also added art from European artists living outside of France thanks to our connections with working artists in Provence.
5. What have been some of your favorite finds?
Our favorites include a vintage Goyard travel trunk found in an outdoor summer market in Provence, antique Swedish chests and settees, and old silver serving pieces. We love antique table and bed linens that are monogrammed to perfection! And Lance is the best at picking outstanding and unusual jardinieres and statuary for the garden. Part of the fun for us is the adventure of exploring the markets and being open to finding treasures we didn’t expect to see.
6. What are the first things customers see when they walk through the doors?
When we’re able to have opening receptions to celebrate the start of our sales seasons, the wow factor for our customers includes the tasteful, beautiful decorative touches that Margo and Lance introduce. They help our customers envision our Folie merchandise in their own homes and personal spaces. We display our inventory as if a person were walking into a specific room—a living room, a kitchen/keeping room, a bedroom, a sunroom/garden space. That’s “Chez Folie!”
7. What sets your store apart?
We believe it’s our passion for what we’re doing and the combined years of professional expertise in each of our fields that now enhance our work together at Folie. Passion, definitely, because when you dearly love what you’re doing, you’ll do what it takes to nurture and grow that enterprise and to get to know your clients and how you can enhance their lives with your treasures. The other thing we strongly believe in is showing our customers new and inventive ways to use items that may invite them to move outside tradition—using an antique silver ice bucket as a container for plant, turning a wood-topped console into a bathroom vanity by adding a vintage marble basin at the top, displaying a 100-year-old wooden grain thresher as wall art—there are countless possibilities!
8. What is one thing you think customers should know about your store that they may not be aware of?
With our sources in Europe, we’re prepared to customize our shopping for individual clients, including designers, homeowners and businesspeople to help furnish or update your interior and exterior spaces. Thankfully, now in year three of operation, we’ve established relationships and ongoing lines of communication that allow us to keep our momentum and adapt to the inevitable changes in the retail climate worldwide.
9. How do you keep your store’s inventory fresh and up to date?
We actually just received a container from the south of France in November with items we selected this summer via FaceTime and Zoom communication! One of our favorite shop owners in France is already tagging items for us–per specific requests from one of our customers in Texas–to go in our next shipment. These days, it’s easier than ever to build relationships and maintain contact with shop owners, vendors and artists all over the world thanks to technology. We have monthly, if not weekly, contact with our colleagues and friends in the south of France and in Paris, whose network reaches to the UK and across the continent of Europe. We’re constantly searching for great antiques, collectibles and for emerging artists.
10. What are some best-selling items?
Antique garden accessories, vintage French olive jars, antique silver and definitely art! Our customers’ tastes range from Louis-Philippe period furniture to French country/Provençal items to mid-century modern pieces. We welcome an eclectic look, and find beauty and balance in combining items from different eras and regions with their own fascinating histories.
Keep up with Folie à Trois on Instagram and email [email protected] for appointments and shopping requests.