Striking art, including a painting by Ferdinand Botero and sculpture by Henry Moore, along with vintage and custom pieces are woven together to create a rich, nuanced interior in this Sutton Place art collector’s penthouse designed by Jennifer Cohler Mason. Photo by Marco Ricca

Welcome to the second installment of our new series from The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by IncollectDealers & Designers: In the Know. Throughout the series we’ll be bringing experts from both the sides of the trade together to give you the inside scoop. We’ll hear from the dealers who source exceptional vintage and antique furnishings, and the designers who utilize those pieces in their designs; each will provide their insights and share their expertise. 

This week’s dealer is Francis Lord of Milord Antiques, and our featured designer is Jennifer Cohler Mason. Both are passionate design lovers, tremendously talented professionals, and long-standing friends of the 200 LEX family. We talked about some of their tricks of the trade, why they love what they do, what inspires them, and how their individual perspectives work hand-in-hand during the interior design process.

Francis Lord, owner of Milord Antiques, at The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by Incollect. Milord Antiques specializes in outstanding furniture and works of art from the 18th through to 20th centuries, from classical to modernist design.

How did you become a dealer?   

I became an antique dealer sort of by accident. At the age of 26, my uncle hired me and my girlfriend to look for an inn or bed & breakfast for us to operate for him. We scoured the countryside of Quebec and New England for the perfect B&B and we found a very nice one that was for sale. Part of my business plan was to have antique furniture to decorate the B&B, all of which would be for sale to our visiting customers. We made an offer on the inn which was not accepted, but this is when I realized that I did not want to become an innkeeper after all. What I really wanted to do was to sell antiques. I went down to the antiques district on Notre Dame Street in my hometown of Montreal and without owning one single piece of antique furniture, I signed a three-year lease and established Milord Antiques. I then set out to buy inventory, opened my shop one month later, and I have never looked back! My love for antiques developed at an early age, from when I was a child. I was born in Paris and lived there and in Bordeaux as well as in Oxford, England. My mother heavily influenced me into becoming an antiques dealer. She would take me to flea markets, brocanteurs, antiques shops and church basement sales here and abroad.

Do you tend to choose things for your inventory that need restoration, or things that are ready to roll?   

The main criteria for which I choose my inventory are strength of design and quality. If it is a great piece, all original but needs restoration, I am excited to have it in my inventory and to carefully have it restored by the best artisans in order to bring it back to its former glory. I feel it is part of my responsibility as a dealer to make sure good vintage pieces remain in a good state of conservation. If a piece is in perfect condition but of average design and or quality, I am less inclined to be interested. 

Your inventory includes a variety of different places of origin and time periods — what makes it all “Milord Antiques”?   

I would say that originality, quality and design are the thread that ties all of the different pieces together that I have in my inventory. The power that each piece gives to one another is thrilling if done right, no matter what period or culture it stems from!

Can you tell us about a time when you had a piece restored that took it from something no one would look at twice, to a masterpiece?   

A colleague of mine and I once found an 18th century Italian Rococo painted commode in a flea market, the form was very nice, but it was covered with a dark and dirty finish, it had no life to it anymore. We took it to our restorer and had it cleaned back to its original painted surface. We discovered that apart from a few missing decorations most of the original paint was on there. We found beautifully painted exotic birds and Chinoiserie decorations that were highlighted with silver gilt and gilt accents. It was a pure beauty of mid-eighteenth century Venetian painted furniture. It literally came back from the dead!

What are some of your favorite events or places to purchase pieces for Milord Antiques?   

For a true antiques dealer there is nothing like finding a piece (or an entire collection) in the home where it has been for a long time. There is that sense of discovery, the opportunity to learn about the people who owned it, and the history and provenance of the piece. I’ve purchased entire estates in one shot, decades of collecting by one individual, all in one single purchase, and that is the best. I also love to go to France and Italy to buy in the big antique fairs there. My competitive side also loves to buy at auction in Paris, you have to be there all day for four or five days in a row to try to get your hands on a few good pieces. When you succeed, it’s a thrill and you really deserve your duck confit and glass of red wine after a hard day’s work!

One of the most comfortable chairs ever made, the midcentury classic teak "Papa Bear" chair and ottoman by Hans J. Wegner for A.P. Stolen, circa 1950. Available at The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by Incollect. 

What can we look forward to seeing more of in the upcoming months?   

I am overseeing the restoration of a suite of Andre Arbus furniture that belonged to Arbus’s personal physician, which came straight out of the estate, first time on the market. I also have two sculpted bronze cabinets by Paul Evans, an elegant Paul Dupre Lafon gentleman’s valet, a great Maison Krieger chinoiserie demilune commode, an iconic Dunbar “shell” form console table, a comfortable Papa Bear chair and ottoman by Han Wegner, and much more. 

What was your most memorable project or partnership with a designer?   

I recently worked with a designer from San Francisco who was doing a project in New York and I sold her three beautiful Line Vautrin mirrors, a Carlo Scarpa chandelier, an Andre Arbus cabinet and a beautiful 1940s giltwood mirror. Another project was for the home of a world-famous restaurateur who hired a great architecture firm to redesign his home. I was commissioned to find most of the furniture for the home, working closely with the interior designer in sourcing, buying, shipping and restoring the pieces. The designer took advantage of my expertise and precious contacts acquired over the years and trusted me to find the needed items for him. That collaboration was so beneficial to both of us, and it was wonderful to buy pieces knowing that they were already sold! 

A perfect pair for a Milord Antiques/J. Cohler Mason collaborative “dream room”:  Rare circa 1965 "Creation of Man" side tables in patinated bronze by Philip and Kelvin Laverne. Available at Milord Antiques in The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by Incollect.

What would your dream room to partner with Jennifer Cohler Mason be?   

I'd love to collaborate on a living room, incorporating a beautiful pair of Philip and Kelvin LaVerne side tables flanking a comfortable custom sofa, a Paul Evans glass top sculpted bronze coffee table decorated with an abstract polished bronze sculpture by Antonio Kieff and a colorful Murano glass vase. In front of the fireplace a great pair of Art Deco chairs and a classic black lacquered 1940s bar cabinet. 

Francis and Jennifer are both admirers of the artistry of Paul Evans. Here, a Brutalist style sculpted bronze base coffee table, offered by Milord Antiques. Available at The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by Incollect. 

Both you and Jennifer Cohler Mason are drawn to the work of Paul Evans — why is that?   

I have been purchasing Paul Evans pieces for the past 10 years. His style is so unusual, it doesn’t draw inspiration from any designs of the past. The quality of the craftsmanship of his pieces is phenomenal; as yet I haven’t needed to restore any of them. His designs are not for everyone, you need to have a good dose of confidence to own such a strong, dramatic piece. The cabinet that Jennifer chose below feels like a vault when you open it, it feels so strong and heavy that you could imagine storing precious things in it.

Jennifer Cohler Mason is principal of her firm, J. Cohler Mason Design, where she and her team create interiors distinguished by their comfortable elegance.

What made you decide to become an interior designer?

I have always loved design and fashion. My mother was an interior designer, and as a little girl I was always surrounded with beautiful furnishings, art and decor. I guess it’s in my DNA! My career actually started as a designer in the fashion industry, but I realized my true love was for interior design, and the rest is history! 

Hello! Jennifer Cohler Mason is greeted by a stunning Philip and Kelvin LaVerne Chan coffee table from Milord Antiques. Available at The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by Incollect.

What draws you to an antique or a piece of vintage design?  

There is not one thing that draws me to an antique or vintage piece. Sometimes I am on the hunt for a specific item and other times while shopping I will come across an item that just says hello! 

Do you try to follow the tastes of your clients, or do they largely hire you for your taste?   

My clients hire me for my taste and expertise. Prior to starting a project, I do get a feel for their lifestyle and color preferences, so we can inspire them.

Known as a confident and expert colorist, here Jennifer deployed a highly saturated color palette, creating a dramatic effect that is equal to the spectacular city views.

Speaking of your expertise, one component of your work is color. You are known to be a designer who is not afraid to use color. How to incorporate color into your projects especially if you have a hesitant client?   

My clients are becoming less afraid to use color than they have been in the past — I believe they are growing tired of the “go to” blue and gray palette. For those clients that are more hesitant to use color, I will encourage them to add color even if it is in a small way, such as throw pillows. A shot of color infused into a neutral palette goes a long way and can be very impactful. 

How do you find the balance between incorporating vintage and antiques into your designs?   

I design spaces that tend to be more curated than decorated, and those special pieces are the ones that make a space more interesting. 

A cozy under-the-eaves bedroom in Sagaponack gets an infusion of American folk art charm with an antique rustic style table. Photo by Jon Wallen

What is one of the biggest misconception’s clients have regarding working with antiques?   

One of the biggest misconceptions a client may have regarding antiques is that often they are not in perfect condition. Antiques may not be for everyone, it is important to explain to a client that each item has a past and will have some marks or spots, which we refer to as a patina. The patina is what gives each piece its character and history. It’s part of the beauty. 

Jennifer’s dream pick from Milord Antiques, a magnificent statement piece by legendary American craftsman Paul Evans. Available at Milord Antiques in The Gallery at 200 Lex powered by Incollect.

Which Milord Antiques piece would be your dream pick for your home and why?   

My dream piece from Milord Antiques would be the fabulous Paul Evans sculpted and patinated bronze cabinet. This cabinet is a spectacular piece and I love Brutalism. Paul Evans was a furniture maker whose work in the 1970s best exemplified Brutalist-inspired metal furnishings. His pieces are all very textural, which help add another layer and dimension to a space. 

What would your dream room to furnish with Milord Antiques be?   

The room I would choose to furnish with pieces from Milord Antiques would be a dining room — there are so many wonderful options to choose from.

Vintage 1960 Philip and Kelvin LaVerne side table in a West Village apartment by J. Cohler Mason.