When Caroline Faison opened her eponymous antiques shop in Greensboro, North Carolina, nearly 50 years ago, she was already an expert on the past. She might not have guessed that one day, decades later, she’d be joined at the shop—and on her far-flung buying adventures—by her grandson, Ben Cochrane. Today, Ben works alongside his grandmother and carries on the family tradition of selecting and selling fine European antiques in this exquisite Southern boutique and its HighBoy storefront.
You’re a third-generation antiques dealer. Tell us about your early exposure to antiques.
My mom, Kim, has a shop in Richmond, Virginia, and family legend has it that my mom and grandma were hauling me around the country to [antiques] shows when I was five weeks old. When I was a kid, I walked from school to my mom’s shop to do homework there. Those are some of my most substantial childhood memories, all those hours in her shop. When I was 14 years old, I went to a show in Indian Hills—near Cincinnati, and my mom introduced me to dealers there. Maybe I was hooked since then.
So were you destined to work in this industry?
I think so. It’s got a lot to offer. I saw my mom and grandma both run successful businesses and get to travel the world. After college, I moved back to Richmond and started working full-time for my mom. It’s just a lifestyle that I love.
What draws you to the antiques themselves?
We have lots of antiques in our house that we’ve collected in the last 10 years, and they all have personalities to me. I’m especially fond of wood, of its warmth. I love wood patinas and inlays.
So did your collection begin with a wood casegood?
No, my first purchase was a six-tile Delft plaque that depicts a bird. I grew up with lots and lots and lots of blue and white Delft. It was probably inevitable.
Caroline Faison Antiques specializes in 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century Continental antiques, but what do you feel like you bring to the marketplace that’s distinctive? When I think about my grandma’s shop, I think of the over-the-top painted furniture, very high style. I feel lucky to have worked for two different shops: My mom’s is stuffed to the gills with English pieces, and my grandma’s shop is more about pretty vignettes.
What’s it like working with your grandma?
She’s one of the funniest people I know. We have these competitions: She buys things I think are unsellable, and I buy things she thinks are unsellable. We have fun teasing each other—like, behind closed doors, I call her Granny. She hates it, but now some of our closest friends in the antique world call her Granny. I love it.
Any great stories to share with us about adventures in buying and selling antiques?
It’s always a learning process. People who think antiques are intimidating should remember that nobody knows everything; even experts are still learning. Here’s an example: We got some jade on consignment last year, and nobody—not even authorities on jade—wanted anything to do with it. I took it to an auction in Hillsborough, and one piece in the collection sold for more than $200,000. It just goes to show that nobody knows everything.
What’s your best advice for young collectors?
Take it slow. Buy one thing a year if you can. My wife and I, at our house, have empty spots waiting for the right thing. It used to drive her crazy, but now she knows it’s worth the wait.
And finally, what do you wish more people in your generation understood about antiques?
I wish my peers would see the value in them. If you go to Restoration Hardware, you pay a lot for something that looks like an antique. Why not spend that money on an actual antique—something no one else has and that comes with craftsmanship you can’t get from a factory? That’s so much more interesting to me, and I think people in my generation are starting to learn, thanks to the lessons we get from our parents and grandparents. Grannies know a lot.
Want more from this charming duo? Shop Caroline Faison Antiques on The HighBoy now!
Photography by: Brittany Callahan.