Mother-and-daughter team Susan and Laura Roland spearhead Baton Rouge’s beloved Fireside Antiques (and its HighBoy storefront), full of irresistible 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century French, English, and Italian antiques. Susan, an interior designer with a passion for pieces from eras gone by, opened Fireside more than 30 years ago; after growing up surrounded by her mother’s treasures, Laura joined the business in 2010. Today, the duo unearths new finds on frequent trips to Europe and loves educating the next generation on how to live with antiques in a modern way.
Susan: I started about 35 years ago. I’m an interior designer, and I love working with antiques. At the time, there really wasn’t much available. So I thought I was just going to start this little shop and do my interior design work and have a few antiques. That ended up evolving into an 18,000-square-foot showroom.
Laura: I’m a third-generation designer, so you could say that antiques are in my blood. My mom raised my five siblings and me in a home full of antiques, and she would always tell us stories about the different pieces and where they come from. I became enchanted with the beauty and history of antiques at an early age. Mom always loves to tell this story about me: Once when she took us all trick-or-treating, rather than asking for candy like my brothers and sisters, I asked people if I could have a tour of their homes.
What is it like working as a mother-daughter team?
Susan: We’re mother-daughter, but we’re best friends as well. I work with our workshop end, getting things carefully waxed and restored. Laura focuses on technology with our blog and website. We both love working with clients and traveling together. We have a hard time when we’re around family and friends not talking about business. We could talk about it all the time.
Laura: We love it! My taste has a slightly contemporary edge that complements Mom’s lovely, traditional style. It’s really neat to see our two styles blend and come together to form a youthful, modern perspective of the antique world.
What makes Fireside unique?
Susan: We represent so many different styles and price ranges of furniture. For instance, we have more than 110 antique mirrors in stock. We have designers from all over who can furnish a whole house with us easily. I know that’s very unusual—most antiques shops do specialize in something in particular.
Laura: It’s true: We have this huge stone wall with a fireplace, and I didn’t even know the fireplace was there when I was a little girl because there were just so many stacks of mirrors [in front of it]. We try to find unique, romantic pieces of furniture that people fall in love with. We definitely sell large-scale antiques that really set the bones for a room. We’re constantly trying to show clients how to use antiques in their interiors. Our goal is to help a customer fall for a piece of furniture.
And what piece have you really fallen for?
Susan: I have a pair of 18th-century Italian chandeliers that came from a church. They are gold gilt with crystals and colored glass. They’re just phenomenal! I acquired them about 20 years ago, and they continue to be my favorites.
How does being based in Baton Rouge influence your business?
Susan: There’s such great design, inspiration, and history here. We’re an hour’s drive from New Orleans, which is one of the most culturally significant and historically rich cities in America. We have people who visit New Orleans and spend the afternoon with us. People really do love our shop because it’s like welcoming them into our home.
Laura: I spent so much of my childhood here, I feel like it is my home! We’ve been in the same location for 30 years, which has established us as an institution in Baton Rouge. But it also feels good that clients trust us and buy from our website too. The web presence is extremely important to us because we ship 50 percent of our inventory out of state.
You travel to Europe several times a year. How do you source new finds on each trip?
Susan: We buy in the back roads, in the countryside of France and Italy and England. A lot of what we find is through word of mouth, from having been in the business for so long. We’re not in the places that most tourists want to go.
Laura: We were in the middle of nowhere, this past week—
Susan: In the snow. It would be glamorous to get all dressed up and shop in Paris, but we wouldn’t be able to offer our clients the amazing selection, quality, and price range we’re known for.
How do you live with antiques in your own home?
Laura: Mom has this small [Louis XVI mahogany] lady’s desk where she keeps her special stationery and pens. It’s introducing those little life-changing ways to make antiques part of your lifestyle. It just enriches and inspires you.
Susan: A house should be a home, not a museum. And some people say, ‘Well I have children, I can’t have antiques.’ I had six children and it never was a problem. They knew to respect furniture. It’s important to have an appreciation for the roots of the things that you grew up with.
What’s your biggest tip for buying antiques?
Susan: You should buy what you love and buy the best you can because you’re living with a piece of furniture forever. Buy the best you can buy: We probably have 70 buffets in stock right now, and they’re priced from $1,250 to $15,000. If you invest in high-quality pieces, you’re never going to be sorry.
Get a little of your European charm by shopping Fireside’s collection of antiques today.
1. English Antique Fish Decoupage Pine Chest | 2. French Painted Iron Six-Light Chandelier
3. English 1851 Brass Bound Wood Box
4. French Antique Louis XVI Style Table | 5. French Green Glazed Duck Confit Jar
6. English Antique Glazed Mixing Bowl
Photography by Tim Black.