French antiques take center stage at a 40-year-old family business

by ELLEN URIBE / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

Owned and operated by a single family, Le Chateau has been showcasing beautifully curated French antiques for the past 40 years. With an inventory sourced from auctions, historic hotels, chateaus, liquidation sales and antiques stores and markets, Le Chateau, which translates to The Palace, is the undisputed go-to for exquisite French pieces, authentic heirlooms and true treasures that can’t be found anywhere else in Atlanta.

The family business, which runs like a finely tuned watch, was founded by Iten Ibriham. Her husband, Magdi Abdullah, resides in Paris and is largely responsible for traveling the full breath of France searching for one-of-a-kind ‘must-haves.’

In Atlanta, their oldest son, Mohammed Abdullah, is an expert in French antiques and is also very interested in design. He and his mother serve as the faces of the business and can often be found front and center in the newly appointed, 20,000-square-foot showroom, which celebrated its first anniversary in March.

This family triumvirate is so entrenched in French antiques, it would be difficult to find anyone in the United States who could rival their knowledge or inventory. “This is truly a family business,” says Mohammed Abdullah. “I love that I get to work with my mom and dad every day.”

With a passion that is palpable, the trio makes it a joy to discover what’s new in the superstore, and many clients and designers make several visits a month.

“We work with designers and the general public in equal measures,” notes Ibriham. “Designers love to come to the showroom and hand select treasures for their clients. We also love when the public comes in to enjoy a glass of champagne and browse for their own home décor. Recently, social media and our website have played a large role in us expanding to the public. But we’ve always had a history with designers, resellers and the public.”

It’s the ever-changing selection of timeless antiques and the inviting ambience of the showroom that keep the public and the trade coming back for more. The customer experience, as one might expect in a fine, French establishment such as Le Chateau, is sublime.

“Stepping into our new Atlanta showroom is like stepping through time and into another world,” notes Abdullah. “Immediately, you’re enveloped in a multisensory experience, from French music and wine to spectacular furnishings—armoires, sofas, tables, chairs, lamps, chandeliers and rare odds, ends and accents that date from the 16th century to the 1950s.”

Centrally located in the heart of the city, Le Chateau is very close to Georgia Tech, SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and the Georgia State Capitol. Le Chateau opened in Atlanta in 2006 following seven years in Tampa, Florida. The company has been growing its clientele just as Atlanta has been attracting more and more residents. “We have really seen Atlanta grow,” says Abdullah, who notes that the city’s growth has been good for business.

For Abdullah, Le Chateau has always been a big focus of his life—he muses that he has been working since the day he was born—and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love this business because I get to be challenged every day,” he says. “It is so gratifying to be working in this field, seeing something different every day—one-of-a-kind pieces that no one has seen before. It’s exciting to discover something that can transport you to another time and place. Every piece has its own unique history. It’s a fascinating and totally absorbing business.”

Magdi Abdullah’s partnerships with French antiques dealers go way back—about four decades to be precise. “My parents have had a crazy passion for the arts, mostly French arts,” Mohammed Abdullah says. With their Eurpean connections in place, Ibriham, who was only 17 at the time, was able to build partnerships in the United States, conceiving of and eventually opening Le Chateau.Abdullah also says that his mother personally designs and selects the merchandise and has since the origins of Le Chateau.

“We have a 10,000-square-foot warehouse just a few buildings down from our showroom,” notes Ibriham, who is also responsible for the showroom’s layout, where she strategically assesses and adjusts the inventory and displays, ensuring that the customer experience continuously offers new historical pieces to discover. “Once the items are shipped from France, they are restored and then added to the showroom. The close proximity makes it easy for us to transfer newly finished pieces from our restoration warehouse to our showroom floor.” She adds that although the business certainly ebbs and flows, the bedroom furniture and, more specifically, the nightstands are always in high demand with clients. The showroom’s lighting fixtures are also widely popular.

Le Chateau’s team is comprised of 15 employees who do everything from restoration to customer service. “We have a great team, and everyone pitches in to help each other,” Abdullah says. “Whether you’re looking for that one perfect signature piece or wanting to furnish an entire room or house, we offer a complimentary design consultation for every customer.”

Open to the public and the design trade, Le Chateau has its own line of proprietary colors from Benjamin Moore. “We’ve done orange, blue, green and purple, as well as faux finishes,” says Abdullah.

He also notes that there have been a lot of younger clients that used to come in with their parents when they were children who are now patrons. “Younger couples with beautiful taste are now getting into antiques, and they are bringing their friends, so we are seeing a lot of new faces,” he says.

Engaging with customers is the highlight of Ibriham’s day. She loves to hear about their design aspirations and help them find or customize the perfect piece. Whether it’s refining a nightstand’s stain, topping a sideboard with marble, reupholstering a bed frame or completely transforming a piece into something new, she is committed to exceeding her customer’s expectations.

In addition to the showroom, Ibriham says there are two additional warehouses, totaling another 50,000 square feet. “So, if a customer doesn’t find exactly what they’re looking for in our showroom or on our website, I always encourage them to just ask us,” she says. “Chances are we have what they need at one of our warehouses.” She also encourages customers who have questions to use the “live chat” feature on the company’s website. “Just click on the chat icon at the bottom corner of the screen to connect with our dedicated team in real-time,” she says.

Combining luxury and functionality is the ultimate goal for Le Chateau, and building off of a customer’s inspiration is how the process begins. “Anything can be anything,” Ibriham frequently says, meaning she can transform any piece into anything the customer wants, which is undoubtedly another reason that Le Chateau has stood the test of time for 40 years and counting. *

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