Laurent Gouon drives through the French countryside with his truck packed high with treasures after a successful day of hunting for one-of-a-kind French antiques to accompany him on the 4,500-mile journey back to Birmingham, Alabama.

Laurent, affectionately known as Lolo, originally hails from Nantes on the Loire River in western France, a charming city that his mother and sister still call home. As a teenager, he attended culinary school in France, but wanderlust carried Lolo across the Atlantic at the adventurous age of 17. “While working as a carpenter on a sailboat, he realized his passion for working with his hands,” says Mimi Montgomery, Lolo’s life partner and business partner, who handles social media and PR for Lolo French Antiques et More. “He chartered his own boat through the Caribbean, entertaining vacationers with his storytelling and cooking abilities. Eventually he landed in Miami, working as a chef. It was his late father, Maurice, who proposed the idea of importing European antiques to the United States, and, with his father’s help and guidance, Lolo opened his first antiques store in Miami in 1992. He’s been buying and importing antiques from France ever since.”

Lolo et Mimi on a buying trip in Italy! Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Lolo et Mimi on a buying trip in Italy! Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Lolo French Antiques et More in downtown Birmingham's Lakeview Design District | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Lolo French Antiques et More in downtown Birmingham’s Lakeview Design District | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Lolo French Antiques et More has settled right into its home in the Lakeview Design District in downtown Birmingham since relocating from Atlanta in 2014. “We love the proximity to so many other designer and industry friends,” Mimi says. “We’re close to great restaurants and other boutique stores.”

Lolo French Antiques et More has settled right into its home in the Lakeview Design District in downtown Birmingham since relocating from Atlanta in 2014. “We love the proximity to so many other designer and industry friends,” Mimi says. “We’re close to great restaurants and other boutique stores.”

Louis, Mimi and Lolo's French (of course!) bulldog expertly models this Maison Jansen Louis XVI-style marble-top commode, $6,550. The diverse selection, large inventory and lighthearted approach at Lolo French Antiques et More sets the business apart from your average antiques dealer.

Louis, Mimi and Lolo’s French (of course!) bulldog expertly models this Maison Jansen Louis XVI-style marble-top commode, $6,550. The diverse selection, large inventory and lighthearted approach at Lolo French Antiques et More sets the business apart from your average antiques dealer.

“It’s a very fulfilling profession,” Mimi says. “The adrenaline rush you get when you find something rare or that you’ve been searching for for ages, and then the pleasure you get when you find the perfect buyer that understands the passion you have for the piece. We’re lucky to be able to do something that we can do together and that brings so much beauty and joy to others.” Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

“It’s a very fulfilling profession,” Mimi says. “The adrenaline rush you get when you find something rare or that you’ve been searching for for ages, and then the pleasure you get when you find the perfect buyer who understands the passion you have for the piece. We’re lucky to be able to do something that we can do together and that brings so much beauty and joy to others.” Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

“We love history and the opportunity to travel and meet people,” Mimi says. “Most dealers are a bit eccentric, and like the pieces we collect, we’re a colorful lot filled with character and characters from all walks of life.” Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

“We love history and the opportunity to travel and meet people,” Mimi says. “Most dealers are a bit eccentric, and like the pieces we collect, we’re a colorful lot filled with character and characters from all walks of life.” Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

In addition to their brick-and-mortar sales, Lolo French Antiques has a strong online presence. Mimi manages e-commerce for the business, which includes sales on the store’s website as well as 1stdibs, The HighBoy and One King’s Lane. Pictured here, a monumental French Renaissance Revival walnut fireplace with trumeau overmantel, featuring original painting, $34,275 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

In addition to their brick-and-mortar sales, Lolo French Antiques has a strong online presence. Mimi manages e-commerce for the business, which includes sales on the store’s website as well as 1stdibs, The HighBoy and One Kings Lane. Pictured here, a monumental French Renaissance Revival walnut fireplace with trumeau overmantel, featuring original painting, $34,275 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Antique Giltwood Sunburst Mirror, $2,200 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Antique Giltwood Sunburst Mirror, $2,200 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Pair of mid-19th Century French Renaissance Henri II Leather fauteuils, $2,595 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Pair of mid-19th Century French Renaissance Henri II Leather fauteuils, $2,595 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Lolo had been in the industry for nearly 20 years when he and Mimi crossed paths at — naturally — an antiques show. “It was pretty much love at first sight for the two of us,” Mimi says. “He was French, charming and had the most beautiful blue eyes and contagious laugh, not to mention he shared the same love of French antiques that I did.”

RELATED: 10 Unexpected Ways to Incorporate Heirlooms & Antiques into Your Home

The two were a perfect pair as well as a good business match, and Mimi, with her background in publishing and self-professed love of all things French, quickly set about helping Lolo to rebrand the Atlanta-based business. “We wanted to show antiques as hip and cool, and I wanted the new website I was creating for him to be informative, entertaining and user-friendly to both the novice and the experienced collector,” Mimi says. “We changed the company name from European Collection, Inc. to Lolo French Antiques et More, created a new logo and began the task of rebranding.” Soon after the rebrand, Mimi, a Tuscaloosa native, encouraged Laurent to consider fleeing the Atlanta traffic and settle down nearer to friends and family, leading the pair and their business to settle in Birmingham.

Exceptional Period Louis XIII to Louis IV Transitional Chateau Armoire, $25,400 (Reduced From $31,750) | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Exceptional Period Louis XIII to Louis IV transitional chateau armoire, $25,400 (Reduced from $31,750) | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Though it can be difficult to say goodbye to the beautiful, rare items that come into the store, Mimi says that doing so has gotten easier over time. “Especially when we make a connection with the buyer and know that they love and appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the piece as much as we do,” Mimi says. We love the striking gilded lamp and bookstand! | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Though it can be difficult to say goodbye to the beautiful rare items that come into the store, Mimi says that doing so has gotten easier over time. “Especially when we make a connection with the buyer and know that they love and appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the piece as much as we do,” Mimi says. We love the striking gilded lamp and bookstand! | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Relax with a drink and cigar as you sink into this comfortable, streamlined leather chair with a wonderful aged patina that exudes luxury and character. French Art Deco leather club chair, circa 1930s, backed with nailhead trim from Paris, France (sold) | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Relax with a drink and cigar as you sink into this comfortable, streamlined leather chair with a wonderful aged patina that exudes luxury and character. French Art Deco leather club chair, circa 1930s, backed with nailhead trim from Paris, France (sold) | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

"We always stock these lucite and cowhide pieces. we also have lucite and hide benches, vanity seat, counter and bar stools in stock," says Mimi. This is a Coco lucite and cowhide vanity seat, $995. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

“We always stock these lucite and cowhide pieces. We also have lucite and hide benches, vanity seats, counter and bar stools in stock,” says Mimi. This is a Coco lucite and cowhide vanity seat, $995. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

18th Century Louis XVI period bureau à cylindre or cylinder desk, $31,695 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

18th Century Louis XVI period bureau à cylindre, or cylinder desk, $31,695 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Large pair of Venetian mirrors, $4,125 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Large pair of Venetian mirrors, $4,125 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

French butcher or pastry table with marble top, $3,975 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

French butcher or pastry table with marble top, $3,975 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Pair of Exceptional 19th Century French Carved Giltwood Louis XV Style Bergeres, $8,400 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Pair of exceptional 19th Century French carved giltwood Louis XV-style bergeres, $8,400 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Though Laurent has a distinct love of all French antiques, he is especially passionate about clocks. “Laurent loves clocks, so we always have a good inventory of French longcase clocks,” Mimi says. “Every clock we sell is always in working order. He usually delivers them himself so he can set them up properly to ensure they work perfectly once installed.” This stunning early 19th Century Louis XVI Style Demoiselle Marriage Longcase Clock recently sold. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Though Laurent has a distinct love of all French antiques, he is especially passionate about clocks. “Laurent loves clocks, so we always have a good inventory of French longcase clocks,” Mimi says. “Every clock we sell is always in working order. He usually delivers them himself so he can set them up properly to ensure they work perfectly once installed.” This stunning early 19th Century Louis XVI-style demoiselle marriage long-case clock recently sold. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Since the rebrand and relocation to Birmingham in 2014, Lolo and Mimi have worked tirelessly to show the beauty of French antiques in a new light. “Brown wood,” for example, is a derogatory term thrown about in the antique and vintage furniture world to label old wooden furniture as either boring, grandma furniture or pretentious, out-of-touch and obsolete. But others, like Mimi, not only predict its comeback, but also celebrate “brown wood” for its timeless and stunning beauty. She even started a personal campaign for the much-maligned wooden furniture by using the hashtag, #brownwood.

“I wanted a younger generation to realize the importance of investing in a fabulous piece of ‘brown wood,’ that antiques aren’t stuffy and old fashioned,” Mimi says. They utilized the talents of illustrator Nan Richards to aid in this new vision for the company and to help convey the more whimsical, romantic side of French antiques. “Her style was perfect for showing that the seemingly daunting and often pompous world of French antiques can be friendlier and more approachable; it can be the wonderful world of French antiques that I know and love,” Mimi says. Nan’s darling illustrations, including Lolo and Mimi’s French bulldog, Louis, clad in a tiny beret as the shop’s mascot, added the personal touch that Mimi was hoping for.

Now the largest direct importer of French antiques in the Birmingham area, Lolo French Antiques occupies 10,000 square feet of space in the Lakeview Design District, and every inch is brimming with exquisite, hand-selected, affordably priced French antiques. “We offer a very diverse collection, everything from a $34,000 pair of Tiffany andirons (these are extraordinarily rare — only three other pairs are known!) to $3,000 Louis Philippe-style buffets,” Mimi says. “We have a large selection of tables, buffets, commodes, armoires, seating and more. We offer both period and style pieces dating from the 17th century to the mid-20th century.” Spend just a few minutes inside the shop, or get lost for hours. Either way, you are sure to find any number of pieces that are perfectly suited for your home and individual design sensibility.

With so many beautiful pieces constantly on rotation in the store it is difficult to settle on a favorite, but one stands out in Mimi’s mind: “One of my favorite pieces was a rare and exquisite Louis XIII-style open torsade (barley twist) writing table from the Burgundy region of France. Only the highest quality pieces have the barley twist “X” stretcher, and the open torsade of the legs is not only rare and unusual because of the difficulty of execution, but also for the weightless appearance conveyed by the graceful spirals as they appear from the base and then disappear into the top.” Pictured here, Nan Richard's illustrations offer a playful and lighthearted tutorial on this furniture style. Illustrations: Nan Richards | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

With so many beautiful pieces constantly on rotation in the store it is difficult to settle on a favorite, but one stands out in Mimi’s mind: “One of my favorite pieces was a rare and exquisite Louis XIII-style open torsade (barley twist) writing table from the Burgundy region of France. Only the highest quality pieces have the barley twist “X” stretcher, and the open torsade of the legs is not only rare and unusual because of the difficulty of execution, but also for the weightless appearance conveyed by the graceful spirals as they appear from the base and then disappear into the top.” Pictured here, Nan Richard’s illustrations offer a playful and lighthearted tutorial on this furniture style. Illustrations: Nan Richards | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

When they’re not working, Laurent and Mimi love spending time at home with their French bulldog Louis, enjoying beautiful meals prepared by Laurent with friends and family, and watching Netflix. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

When they’re not working, Laurent and Mimi love spending time at home with their French bulldog Louis, enjoying beautiful meals prepared by Laurent with friends and family, and watching Netflix. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

For the holidays, Mimi commissioned Nan Richards to illustrate this fun primer on French Christmastime traditions. Illustrations: Nan Richards

For the holidays, Mimi commissioned Nan Richards to illustrate this fun primer on French Christmas-time traditions. Illustration: Nan Richards

Fine pair of brass and wrought iron andirons, attributed to Tiffany Studios, $34,750 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Fine pair of brass and wrought iron andirons, attributed to Tiffany Studios, $34,750 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

19th century French wine table, $2,475 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

19th century French wine table, $2,475 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Set of six 19th century antique French Louis XV cane back dining chairs, $3,595 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Set of six 19th century antique French Louis XV cane back dining chairs, $3,595 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

French Louis XVI walnut and fruitwood marquetry commode, $4,425 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

French Louis XVI walnut and fruitwood marquetry commode, $4,425 | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

French Art Deco corner closet, $4,220 (Reduced from $5,275) | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

French Art Deco corner closet, $4,220 (Reduced from $5,275) | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Vintage American drafting table, sold | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Vintage American drafting table, sold | Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Lolo’s expertise goes beyond his knack for unearthing gorgeous pieces in France and bringing them stateside for his clients. His unparalleled knowledge of French antiques extends to the repair, restoration and refinishing of the pieces, and his eye for detail ensures that no nook or cranny is overlooked. “He will not sell a piece that is rickety or missing hardware,” Mimi says. “He makes sure all the drawers slide smoothly, that all keys and locks work perfectly. He tightens every chair to make sure it’s not loose. He’s a stickler for details.” This assurance of both authenticity and quality when purchasing a piece from Lolo French Antiques is yet another reason why their customers place their trust in the business, purchase after purchase and year after year.

Mimi and Lolo’s love for antiques is palpable and contagious. “We’re all passionate about the thrill of the hunt,” Mimi says. “We love beautiful things and rare objects and appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that went into making these beautiful pieces.” Deeply knowledgeable and ever-enthusiastic, Mimi, Lolo and their team can help guide you to the perfect piece of “brown wood” to incorporate into the aesthetic of your home, while their own search for everything French and fabulous continues on.

In addition to the robust collection of French antiques, the shop also stocks a selection of Spanish and Italian pieces. In fact, Mimi and Laurent just returned from a buying trip in Italy. Here, Laurent makes a purchase in Parma, Italy. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

In addition to the robust collection of French antiques, the shop also stocks a selection of Spanish and Italian pieces. In fact, Mimi and Laurent just returned from a buying trip in Italy. Here, Laurent makes a purchase in Parma, Italy. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

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Stay tuned for a fabulous event planned for later this spring featuring the Antiques Diva herself, Toma Clark Haines, writer, tastemaker, speaker and trend forecaster, as well as CEO of the Antiques Diva & Co. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

Stop by to see the stunning inventory at Lolo French Antiques et More, where you might also run into the shop’s mascot, Louis (pictured here)! And stay tuned for a fabulous event planned for later this spring featuring the Antiques Diva herself, Toma Clark Haines, writer, tastemaker, speaker and trend forecaster, as well as CEO of The Antiques Diva & Co. Image: Lolo French Antiques et More

After a hearty truck stop meal in France, accompanied by wine and a crusty French baguette, Lolo drives on to pick through dusty warehouses, brocante shops and flea markets, ever-searching for the perfect piece of gorgeous furniture or even an antique copper cooking pot, any trinket or treasure that will transport their Alabama clientele to his beloved France — even if just for a moment.

Lolo French Antiques et More is located in the Lakeview Design District downtown at 3101 Third Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35233. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (205) 323-6033 or visit lolofrenchantiques.com. And sign up for their newsletter to receive periodic info about new items and more.

Thank you to Lolo French Antiques et More for the fabulous photos!

And thank you to Nan Richards for sharing her fabulous artistic talents in all of the Lolo French Antiques et More illustrations!

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