Tucked away off 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 its founders’ extreme love for all things French and antiques.
It’s an unexpected second act for the two couples who launched this business, as each individual was already well known for a different professional specialty. Margo Bouanchaud Hayes’ catering has been a part of Baton Rouge’s special events scene for more than 30 years, while her husband Lance Hayes’ longheld passion is floral design. Margaret Lawhon Schott has spent three decades in broadcasting, acting and writing, and her husband Martin is an attorney.
Together, this band of close friends has made a new business of 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 collectors of all generations and lovers of all styles.
We reached out to founder Margaret Lawhon Schott to discover more about the unique business, which launched as a pop-up shop but recently planted more permanent roots in the Capital City, opening its online storefront in January.
What is the history of Folie à Trois?
Folie à Trois was the brainchild of 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 antiques shops, Margo said, “You know, we could do this!” And with that, the journey began. We first identified a 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 in 2020 we began shopping with specific vendors and shop owners via FaceTime. For the first two years, we held monthlong pop-up sales events after receiving our containers. Along the way, we added our social media editor, Catherine Evans, and web designer and administrator, Kim Bush. Last year, we settled into our permanent space, where we hope to greet more customers as things open up in 2021.
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.
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.
What is a typical day like for you and your team?
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 launched our online Folie shop at shopfolieatrois.com in January, and putting that together has been a unique and challenging process. For most of the past 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!
What sets Folie à Trois 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. 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 a plant, turning a wood-topped console into a bathroom vanity by adding a vintage marble basin at the top, or displaying a 100-year-old wooden grain thresher as wall art. There are countless possibilities!
How do you keep your inventory fresh and up to date?
In November, we received a container from the south of France with items we selected this summer via FaceTime and Zoom. 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 U.K. and across the continent of Europe. We’re constantly searching for great antiques and collectibles and for emerging artists.
What are some of your 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 midcentury 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.