Bronte Taton is the creative force behind Cleo Collects, which if you (really) love all things interiors like us, you might have discovered on Instagram. Bronte sources beautiful, unique, one-of-a-kind pieces from all over the world...
“For me, collecting antiques, vintage and art is never a wasted investment, rather a way to create an interior with romantic pieces that have meaning to you personally, and that have a story to tell,” she says. Here we visit Bronte at home in Perth to talk about the decision to start her own business (named after her daughter Cleo), the story behind her beautiful home, and of course, motherhood.
Go to cleocollects.com
You grew up between Paris and California – tell me about your childhood and what it was like growing up between these two places?
My parents were expatriates, and my childhood was spent between Perth, San Francisco and Paris. The art and culture of Paris and the eclecticism and individuality of San Francisco have both imparted significantly on my style and career path.
My mother was born in Montmartre, and we’ve travelled back there frequently to visit family. My connection to Paris and France was already established before I moved; in what I ate, what music I listened to and my appreciation for art began to mirror that of my mothers.
My move to San Francisco was naturally met with angst. I was 16 years old at the time, and the thought of leaving Paris and my then boyfriend was out of the question. I did however fantasise that the new life I would lead would be similar to the O.C. Instead of the endless gossip that tormented the life of the youths in the O.C, I was exposed to new ways of thinking and a variety of self-expression.
How did it influence your approach to interiors? And also foster a love of interiors?
I came to appreciate different ways of thinking and the culture entrenched within the French and American psyche – both substantially different in many ways. I took the ‘preference for moderation’ from the French, and the importance of individuality and self-expression from my time in the states. Both of these influence my approach to interiors.
When I consider furniture and homewares, I yearn to know the context of the piece, and in-turn the meaning it has for me. This ties in with my preference for moderation, in that I stay away from fast fashion in design and view each item in my home as an investment. It also speaks to my need for individuality.
Tell me about the history of your beautiful home?
Our home was built on the tennis courts of the existing homestead, that now sits behind us. The gardens date back to the original homestead and were once part of the ABC garden Scheme.
The home itself was designed by the Zimpel family in the 1940s, a Hungarian-born family who cemented their place in Perth in the late 1800s and early 1900s as prominent furniture manufacturers. The home was based on a cathedral design with high ceilings and symmetry seen throughout.
Since then it has belonged to several families who have each imparted their own signature on the home. Australian Concert Pianist, David Helfgott lived in the home for a period of time, and loved the acoustics of the hall for his piano concerts. The portico and hedge in the front garden were established in the late 1900s.
The former owner was a gardener and head of the local Rose Society – have you yourself become a gardener and how do you maintain the grounds?
Prior to being a teacher, my husband worked in heritage architecture & landscape architecture, so it is certainly more his domain than mine! We have the occasional help of a gardener, but my husband does 90% of the upkeep. Thankfully the Mediterranean varieties are hardy, and the garden has retic so it’s not as daunting as it looks.
You source art and antiques – tell me about the creation of Cleo Collects and how you came to found your own company?
I started Cleo Collects just over a year ago in the midst of being a first time mother to my one year old daughter Cleo. I’d previously studied design and had a natural interest in art and antiques but it wasn’t until my daughter was born that I wanted to feel more connected to my French roots and finally felt brave enough to pursue it.
How would you describe your style?
I’m right in the middle of a minimalist and maximalist. I love a paired down, casual look with 1-2 statement pieces, whether it be a vintage bag, bright cardi or a fun pair of shoes.
To someone new to sourcing, what’s your advice on where to begin?
I would say don’t abide by the design rules of others, follow your instincts. For me, collecting antiques, vintage and art is never a wasted investment, rather a way to create an interior with romantic pieces that have meaning to you personally, and that have a story to tell.
Starting a business takes confidence – have you ever felt self-doubt and if so how do you overcome these feelings?
Absolutely! Every week, maybe daily. I think it’s all part of the process and it makes me work harder. The best way for me to deal with self-doubt is to debrief with my husband, have some allocated me-time and spend time in the garden with my daughter.
How did motherhood change the way you approached your career?
I suppose at the beginning, it was about finding a role that allowed me the flexibility of working from home while filling my creative cup. I think it’s also great for Cleo to see that being a mum doesn’t mean you have to take time from your career or sacrifice it. I have found it challenging finding a balance between working and mothering. I think our system and culture doesn’t foster an environment for mothers to pursue their own business. On a positive note, I’ve found the community of working mothers (be it fellow dealers, clients or friends) to be so supportive and encouraging of my efforts.
What has been the most challenging part of motherhood for you – and how have you overcome any challenges?
The unavoidable mum guilt associated with working and mothering. Realising that my daughter is happy spending time with relatives, and that the guilt is only something I place on myself has helped. I also allocate time most mornings to Cleo where we do a small activity and I am 100% present for her. I do have to remind myself that working in front of her isn’t a bad thing but it’s so difficult!
What do you love most about motherhood?
The little toes! Motherhood is such a privilege and the overwhelming love I feel is something I couldn’t have imagined. The thing I love most is re-experiencing the world for the first time with Cleo. Watching her watch the ducks at the park, splash in puddles and experience a Disney film for the first time.
What are your time management hacks – how do you get everything you need to do in a day done?
I write lists and follow my diary! Every evening I’ll write a to-do list for the following day. It helps me visualise my day, and work things together in the most efficient way. I also find it useful sharing the load with my husband and organising his to-do lists!
In terms of interiors, when you’re designing a room, where do you start?
I look at the pre-existing features for example if the room has ceiling roses, high ceilings, the shape of the windows, the floor colour. I then think about how I can accentuate these features. I also like to gather looks from my favourite designers, pictures from travels or special moments in time and create a mood board.