LJ. When did you first become interested in decorative arts and furniture?
Liz Capocchi. On our first holiday together in 1973, we took a road trip along the Victorian coast to the Barossa Valley, South Australia. During the trip we had many conversations about starting our own business, with all sorts of ideas being thrown around. Once in the Barossa Valley we visited our first antique shop in Tanunda and we were immediately inspired. We saw an opportunity to learn, and as we did so, we acquired more stock, enough to eventually open our own shop. We became ‘apprentice’ antique dealers and began to increase our knowledge and understanding of the fascinating world that lay before us.
We opened our first shop, called Second Life Décor at 736 Main Road Eltham, in 1974 after a stint at the Croydon Trash & Treasure market. We settled on Eltham because the area allowed seven days a week trade, as a designated tourist destination. In those days, all shops closed at midday on Saturday and all day on Sunday.
That’s how we began, and we never looked back!
LJ. Do your tastes differ, or are they very similar?
Liz Capocchi. Yes, our tastes do differ. Phillip’s taste is much more eclectic, where as I like order and balance. Obviously, we meet somewhere in the middle! As Phil has always been the buyer and I’ve mostly looked after the shop display, ‘Phil’s follies’, as his purchases were affectionately known, were sometimes a challenge but always managed to find a buyer.
Phil has always been drawn to the 19th century, particularly the French Napoleon III period, with a particular lean towards the better known Ébénistes (cabinet-makers) of Paris. The Ébénistes were renowned for their beautifully crafted, signed pieces that were often displayed at the Expositions held in France in the second half of the 19th century. This furniture is becoming scarce and is now much more appreciated by the Paris trade than it may have been as recently as twenty years ago.
I love the statuary of the same period, whether marble or bronze, often inspired by ancient classics or of a newer design movement such as the Art Nouveau period.
LJ. How did you acquire the stock for your stores?
Liz Capocchi. When we first started, we were selling Australiana and bought pieces from country clearance sales, which were then held regularly across country Victoria. As our business grew and local product became more difficult to source, Phil headed to England, shopping for Victorian furniture and collectables: from exquisite perfume bottles to pub mirrors. He always had an eye for diversity.
He later developed a taste for French furniture, which he first saw in England, and decided to make his way to the continent. The first French buying trip was in 1980 and a whole new world opened up for him. We didn’t just retail from our shop: during the 1980s we supplied the trade with antiques, we operated an antique jewellery wholesale business, and for twenty years promoted antique fairs.
We eventually outgrew our little Eltham shop and had second retail spaces in Collins Street, Toorak, Malvern and Armadale at various times, finally settling in High Street Armadale twelve years ago.
LJ. What does a piece have to have, to gain the Capocchi stamp of approval?
Liz Capocchi. Quality. We always look for quality, craftsmanship and unique-ness – whether it’s a light fitting, a piece of furniture or an antique clock.
LJ. Do you have any favourite or defining moments from your career?
Liz Capocchi. In our first six months of trading, Phillip purchased two small paintings at a country clearance sale for $6 each. They turned out to be by the 19th century Tasmanian artist Captain James Haughton Forest and were sold at a Leonard Joel auction not long after for $1,500 each! This made us realise that we had to inspect every item carefully, just in case it was a potential treasure!
The most satisfying projects have been assisting clients with building and curating a collection over time, and being commissioned to completely furnish and decorate properties throughout Australia.
LJ. And finally, do you have any favourite pieces in this auction?
Liz Capocchi. Phil loves the three door book case signed by the prominent Parisian Ébéniste, Krieger from the third quarter of the 19th century.
I love the red Murano glass chandelier from Venice. It’s so decadent and glamorous! It could grace a very traditional home or a contemporary open space. It is so beautifully balanced, with exquisite craftsmanship, from the hand blown glass arms, floral elements and decorative trumpets. It’s a work of art.
Sunday 18 March at 11am
Viewing & Auction Location
941-951 High Street, Armadale VIC 3143
Wednesday 14 March, 9am-8pm
Thursday 15 March, 10am-4.30pm
Friday 16 March, 10am-4.30pm
Saturday 17 March, 10am-4.30pm
Head of Fine Decorative Arts, Melbourne
(03) 8825 5635 | 0412 653 315