There’s no denying Geoffrey Walsky’s devotion to design, evidenced not only in the broadest strokes but in the smallest details of what he does.
As the owner of the Fairfield Co. Antique & Design Center greets a visitor to the cavernous former warehouse in Norwalk, you can’t help but notice the warm welcome.
It’s created not only by Walsky’s strong handshake but also by the unexpectedly sophisticated entryway complete with working fireplace and elegant seating area.
This is no “get ’em in, get ’em out” venture, to be sure, but rather a setting where browsing among the eclectic collection of antiques, art and collectibles showcased by dozens of dealers — including Walsky himself — is more than encouraged.
As he walks us through the space on a recent morning, he points out everything from “true antiques,” including English brass and nautical pieces, to more playful finds such as vintage Chanel couture fashions.
He’s now — after hosting an in-house art gallery named after his grandfather, a French artist in the early 1900s — subletting space to Westport Auction, with its previews bringing in even more foot traffic.
“It’s a big world, but it’s also very small,” he says of the connections in the antiques world.
“We have 70 dealers, kind of across the board in genres and styles,” he says, noting the “most active” dealers are from Westchester and Fairfield counties.
The roster, he says, expands when he finds dealers who fit the mix.
“I’m always looking for something unique that’s going to enhance the center,” he says.
It often connects dealers, designers and those in the trade with the customer who walks into the door, Walsky says, adding:
“The word ‘antiques’ sometimes scares people, but everyone I’ve ever brought here has found something.”
THE GEM WITHIN
Walsky has led us to a space within the center, the space devoted to Iconic Modern Home, the business in which he showcases his own finds.
Devoted to mid-century and modern furnishings, Iconic Modern Home has grown to encompass luxury staging, art-consulting services and design work such as upholstery.
Walsky says he has already cultivated a clientele in the trade that extends from Boston to Washington, D.C., while also selling on 1stdibs and on Dering Hall, a curated site for high-end customers and designers.
It’s all hinted at in this showroom, some 2,000 square feet carved out of the center’s overall 20,000.
Though the space is billed as a work in progress, it’s well on the way with vignettes that incorporate eclectic furnishings and the latest in Walsky’s “furniture as art” exhibitions, this one devoted to a current love — seating.
With an array of historic — and important — designs from the likes of Bertoia and Eames hanging from the wall, it artfully illustrates Walsky’s point of view.
“My design aesthetic is very mid-century,” he says, adding, “This space is kind of fun. It’s evolving.”
The goal, he says, is to make it “more of a retail space, make it more of a finished showroom, not a warehouse.”
EDUCATING THE PUBLIC
Walsky says his clientele is mostly “north of 40” but younger people are starting to appreciate older goods — and the fact antiques are eco-friendly options, ideal for repurposing.
Walsky says his work is the culmination of a journey he didn’t really plan.
“I’m a retail consultant by trade,” he says, noting he got his start in the financial industry. After losing work in Manhattan retail due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, he decided it was finally time to launch into the antiques and design business officially, something he had been around his whole life.
He credits his initial interest to his French-born mother, who herself transitioned from fashion to home décor and took her son to many an antiques show and flea market over the years.
“I hated it. Then I started to tolerate it. Then I started to love it.”
And he hasn’t looked back, ever on the lookout for new opportunities.
Luxury staging, for example, grew out of a chance conversation with a dinner-party guest about a year and a half ago — and Walsky has since worked on properties featured on the real-estate reality show “Million Dollar Listing.”
“Working and doing these projects in New York has been a great educational process for me.”
It has, he says, opened him up to a whole new world, one where he stands firm when telling a client, “I’m going to use all real pieces.”
Walsky says he was floored when he saw million-dollar properties staged with less-than-stellar furniture.
“I didn’t think that was what luxury staging was about,” he says.
And he has found that the staging — where clients include property owners, developers and real-estate agents — has expanded into design work, such as creating window treatments and audio wiring.
Walsky says he is buying “every day,” either for projects such as these or his own inventory. “A lot of my business is sourcing products.”
AT HOME, AT PLAY
While Walsky is clearly focused on his business interests, he is equally devoted to both family — he and his wife have 3-year-old twins — and sport.
The 6-foot-6 athlete has found great reward in sports, competing in triathlons and running the New York City Marathon.
“It’s been kind of the only way to relieve stress,” he says. “I think it improves everything else.”
It was a savior when just over three years ago he found himself in the midst of not one but three major life changes.
“I opened the new business. I had kids, and I moved into a new house,” the Weston resident says with a laugh.
While not scouring flea markets for work, he’s still fond of poking around a show here and there, with Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford a longtime favorite.
“I still go to them because I like them,” he says. “My wife enjoys them. We take the kids.”
But you won’t find him there at the crack of dawn with the intense treasure hunters. He says he’s more an afternoon guy who takes it all in stride, strolling about and on more than one occasion scoring major pieces for just a few bucks.
As with everything, it’s all about Walsky creating his own path, “not trying to compete with the masses.”
A GREENWICH SHOWCASE
And that’s what distinguishes Iconic Modern Home, which has expanded into Greenwich with a satellite space on West Putnam Avenue, where we again meet Walsky a couple of days after our Norwalk visit.
Here, fine art is integrated with fine furnishings to create a unique environment.
“In this space only, I partner with Isabella Garrucho Fine Art,” Walsky says of the permanent spot that held a grand opening in October after time as a pop-up across the street.
He works with the art exhibitions to create something unique.
“When they let me know what’s coming in, then we work together. I try to make it look like living spaces so it resonates with people.”
And that it does. On this morning, it’s easy to imagine the oversize wildlife art by photographer David Yarrow in your own home thanks to sophisticated room vignettes created by Walsky, with touches of animal print here and unexpected glimmer there.
Again, there’s that devotion to detail, from an unexpected touch of pleated velvet to play off a traditionally upholstered couch to the way a Lucite base modernizes a wooden tabletop.
“When we started doing live-edge tables, we wanted to keep them seamless and clean,” he says.
It’s a rewarding collaboration, says Alex E. Trimper, the managing director of Isabella Garrucho Fine Art. Next up, Trimper shares, is an exhibition, “Branded Series” by Chris Valle, which offers a fresh take on “street art.”
But, Trimper adds, there’s an underlying strength to the collaborative effort in which Walsky helps create an atmosphere that’s “visually pleasing and stimulating,” but also offers something deeper.
“The defining moment in the partnership is that Geoff represents vintage pieces,” he says. “It matches what we do. It’s investment furniture and investment art.”
As Walsky looks around at the gallery, a sophisticated study in style, he says, simply, “It has been great. It certainly has been a labor of love.”
That, we smile, doesn’t surprise us.
For more, visit iconicmodern.com.