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Furniture dealer Sophie on swapping a career in fashion for antiques.

Meet Sophie, one half of an East London couple passionate about collecting antique furniture. Founders of Stowaway London, we wanted to hear more about what they do, their own treasured pieces and what they’re loving in London.

How did you end up doing what you do?

Sam has been doing this since he left school at eighteen when he joined his Dad buying and selling antiques. Sam and I started Stowaway London about four years ago now, at the time I wanted to leave the fashion world and the antique lifestyle was very appealing.

What inspired the leap from fashion to furniture?stow

I left fashion and started Stowaway London because I really wanted my own business and to be my own boss. Fashion had lost its fun and creativity for me and furniture – which I have always loved – was new and exciting. Fashion, furniture, design and art all encompass each other and when you have an eye, you have an eye for it all I think. It was great timing as I wanted a new career… Sam came along and said, ‘I sell antiques. Want to make a brand/business?’ and I just jumped.

Favourite piece you’ve ever sourced?

I loved finding a pair of Morris & Co Sussex chairs as they were hidden and tucked away. Also the timing was great as we had just been to his museum in Walthamstow the weekend before, so it all felt very meant to be. Sam’s piece is a 1960’s foosball table that came in just before the World Cup so the games at our house were made even more fun!

Describe your own home in three words.

Eclectic, characterful, cosy.

coffeeYou have friends visiting. Where do you take them?

The Wallace Collection… hands down the best museum in London. Then back to our neck of the woods with a pint in the Crooked Billet and then food at My Neighbours The Dumplings.

Do you have a piece which goes with you wherever you move?

Yeah Sam… and then a Victorian elm stool which belonged to his grandmother which he grew up sitting on.   

What do you love about working with antique furniture?

Sam likes working with things that are old and have character. For me it is the same but with the addition that the quality of the furniture is so much better and it is environmentally friendly.  

Any great tales behind the pieces you collect?

Last year we brought a beautiful desk and when cleaning it Sam found a folder that had slipped behind the drawers. It contained a note which said that the desk belonged to and had been designed by G. C Grindley, who was a well known psychologist. It was exciting to find that and then research the guy. The provenance made a great desk even more special.  

If your home was ablaze, what would you run back to save?

Sam would most certainly have my arms full with the stool, plus many swords and knives (he collects antique weapons) and a few other antique trinket boxes he’s had for a long time. I would grab my jewellery box which has my treasured bits in including my great grandmother’s hat pin.

Dream dinner party guests?

Our grandparents.globe

Go to winter beverage?

Early mornings always require coffee.

Velvet sofa or leather sofa?

Leather sofa.

Which famous person’s home would you love to sneak peek into?

Aino and Alvar Aalto, they are a bit of a designer power couple.

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The Return of Folk to Interior Design

 

For a while now, the central focus of interior inspiration has fallen primarily within the realm of Mid Century and Postmodern design. Whilst we continue to appreciate the merits of this aesthetic, we believe it shouldn’t hinder the discovery of other rich and characterful design genres. The annals of design history are coloured not just by formal design movements but also, as Vinterior seller Kitty Walsh puts it, by the popular culture of the past: the things which ordinary people themselves liked to make and do. This is what we call ‘folk’ and an immensely rich area of design which deserves to be placed back under the limelight.

Vinterior is immensely proud of our collaboration with many of the leading vintage and antique furniture specialists in the UK and beyond. After all, our mission is to seek out the remarkable and to shine the spotlight on people, places and pieces with real character, real soul and real stories. Behind the exceptional pieces on Vinterior stand some equally brilliant and highly knowledgeable collectors, who bring life to the stories behind the furniture you buy.

This week, I’m speaking to folk expert Kitty Walsh. As the founder of London gallery and collection Modern Folk, Kitty is bringing fresh attention to folk design, a genre richly woven with vibrant colours, patterns and the echo of many lives lived. We are inspired by the joyful union of colour and print which adorns so many of the pieces in the Modern Folk collection and the instant character which they lend to a space.

But what actually is folk design?

As Kitty explains, ‘Folk culture simply means the popular culture of the past, the things ordinary people liked to sing, eat, drink, make, and do. Folk art is the material part of this culture – from the clothes people wore, to the homes that they lived in, and the tools that they used to work. Just as favourite recipes and songs were passed down from century to century, so were the methods of making particular types of clothing or objects. As each generation added to the knowledge of their forefathers, rich cultural traditions gradually emerged.’

Kitty travels across vast regions of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in pursuit of finding folk treasures. Most recently she travelled to Transylvania, unearthing rare finds at Negreni, an ancient Romani market in the Carpathian mountains. I asked Kitty about the origins of her interest in folk and what makes it stand out from other vintage genres.

How did you become passionate about collecting the folk genre?

I’ve always been drawn to folk art – I began collecting Norwegian knitwear and folk slippers as a teenager and I used to make piñatas for extra pocket money. Then when I was studying History of Art at Cambridge I found a book on Hungarian folk art in a charity shop and was really hooked.

Why folk in particular?

With the folk genre you get to see the crafts person’s process – it’s great to see how people all over the world have responded to a particular design problem. Plus, I’m a bit of a maximalist so I love the patterns and colour!

What makes folk stand out from other vintage genres?

The stories attached to the pieces – you get such a strong sense of their history. These are pieces from a much simpler time – people had far fewer items in their home and most of them would have been made by people in their immediate community. This furniture marked important moments, when they got married or had their first child, it’s really a record of their lives.

Do you have any interesting stories behind the pieces currently in your collection?

A great example is our beautiful painted wedding chest, dated June 1891. It would have been used to carry the bride’s – Kata’s – possessions to her new home. But you get the same sense of history with the more minimal pieces, like a so-called bachelor’s table covered with knife marks.

Which is your favourite piece and why?

It has to be the ‘fancy country’ wardrobe – it’s so full of life! It was made in Transylvania in the mid twentieth century and is covered with flowers, fruits and birds. I’d love to know if the painter was thinking of William Morris’ strawberry thief when he painted the cheeky birds.

Kitty’s Modern Folk collection is bursting with folk curiosities, from intricately patterned chairs to simple carved wooden chests and vibrant glass paintings. I love the unique imperfections found in vintage and antique furniture for their ability to spark conversation and how they speak of crafts loved, lives lived and memories lost. What I find particularly special about folk furniture is that each piece is created with such purpose and to provide a sense of place. We can keep these exceptional pieces of furniture alive by bringing them into our homes so that our own unique family stories become woven around them.

View the Modern Folk collection here.

 

Portrait of Kitty taken from Wharf Magazine.

 

 

Bring Seasonal Glamour with these Wintry Jewel Tones

Summer may seem like a distant memory as Autumn swells around us, but that doesn’t mean that we should be any less creative with bringing bold colours into the interior space.

At this time of year, many make a departure from playing with bright summer prints in favour of calming Scandinavian natural hues. We become more inward, seeking the comfort of our homes over the wintry weather baying at the front door. Shades of russet and cinnamon lend immediate warmth to a room but we shouldn’t set the bar at cosy neutrals.

The Autumn season is a rich time to introduce dramatic and bold colours into our homes. The natural landscape around us is bursting with dewy moss greens, glowing amber, dark rich burgundy and damson reds. These jewel tones allow us to create a space which large_slipper-cocktail-chair-in-olive-green-ice-velvetis both dynamic and intimate in a season made for retreating into cosy spaces. I have curated a collection of eye catching vintage pieces which make for a happy marriage of these autumnal hues and textures.

Embody the richness of the season by referencing a variety of sumptuous materials like velvet, leather and rosewood. Curling up on a wintry night on a velvet sofa (an Old Fashioned in one hand, optional) is the perfect antidote to a busy day. For years velvet was dismissed as being a bit outdated, so we’re thrilled that this supple and gorgeous fabric has made a such a glorious return to interiors, adorning furniture which is both sophisticated and cosy. Not to mention that it is incredibly tough and durable, rendering it a great choice for both the domestic and commercial realm. Whether bright or muted, velvet shows off colour beautifully and is a fantastic way to add a statement dash of colour to a space. A brightly coloured velvet sofa is not for the faint of heart, although a less commanding pair of velvet cocktail chairs will also provide a playful yet sophisticated note to your home.

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Chestnut or chocolate coloured leather is another rich seasonal hue to bring autumnal flavour to a room, serving to complement cooler fabric tones of emerald green, moss and teal. Leather comfortably spans the spectrum from traditional to contemporary, all the while providing a comforting yet stylish dose of warmth. This could be in the form of a statement sofa – think the revered Chesterfield– or a cosy corner chair, preferably situated close to the fireplace! For a more relaxed feel, opt for a warm chestnut or caramel leather. A cooler tone – go 70% cocoa chocolate, or darker if you dare – will large_pair-of-brown-leather-chesterfield-wing-chairsprovide a more formal air. Rosewood is another glorious material readily available in many enticing forms, from mid century sideboards to exquisite antique desks or bureaus. For those who have already gone bold with moody charcoal or dark interiors this winter, rosewood – indeed any warm-blooded wood – will serve sleekly to break up the space. This rich wood offers a satin-like sheen, creating a dynamic contrast with other fabrics and leathers in a room.

If you’re set on the furniture side, consider adding playful touches of jewel-like colour through accessories. This can be a brilliant opportunity to get experimental with introducing other diverse materials without committing to making too much of a statement. Glass is famous for its ability to ensnare brilliant flares of colour, whether this finds itself in the form of a large bowl on the coffee table or a set of vibrant coloured amberglasses on the dresser. Styling a corner with smaller items is a discreet yet highly effective way to slowly introduce bolder colours into your home and you will quickly notice how a colour palette begins to take shape. If you’re feeling more confident, there are many exceptional pendant lights and sconces to be found, like these stunning vintage amber Murano wall sconces above. These not only catch the light with their deep amber tones but suspended from the wall, the tubular design naturally adds texture to what can sometimes be a fairly bland or neglected space.

So, this season is not to be wasted! Summer naturally appeals to our desire for colour and pattern, but the colder seasons offer equal inspiration in the form of glowing jewel tones and succulent materials. Whether playful, sophisticated, glamorous or cosy, jewel tones lend themselves generously to all interiors. Many of them are to be found on Vinterior… assembled in this collection are but a few of our favourites so keep an eye out for more jewels as they appear!

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How to Get the Art Deco Style

Have you heard the latest design news? Art Deco is back! We are happy to report to you that one of the most creative and sophisticated design styles of all time, Art Deco, is facing a renaissance. Design lovers with a tender spot in their hearts for the Great Gatsby look are given a strong promise of yet another flamboyant era of interior design. Timeless Art Deco aesthetic meets modern day lifestyle and their lovechild is simply breathtaking!

Furniture With A Story: Japanese Innovation

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This series puts a spotlight on pieces that are truly special and have a fascinating story behind them.

This week, we’re looking at the inspired designs of Di-Classe…. We were fortunate enough to visit Domei and Anri at Design Junction and see the products up close and personal.

The ‘Foresti’ collection stems from the idea of bringing nature indoors. The intricate leaves bring a natural feel to the forest into the home. Notice how the shadows are given as much focus as the lighting piece itself.

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Mini Foresti Pendant Lamp – £325

Orland Pendant Lamp – £157

The final piece of the ‘Foresti’ collection is a masterpiece in our opinion! Created from handcut leaves, this piece has then been coated in a white paint which has been mixed with a Japanese formula. When activated by weak ultraviolet rays from fluorescent light bulbs, a photocatalyst reaction occurs and purifies the air and absorbs bad odours. This technique is used widely in Japan when painting the walls. We think the UK could benefit from this type of thinking.

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Paper Foresti Pendant Lamp – £365

Look closely at this lamp. What does it remind you of? We spoke to Domei about his inspirations – the lamp is named Arles as when Domei was travelling, whilst in Arles he saw a woman holding her hat in the French breeze. Can you see it?

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Arles Table Lamp – £120

This final piece is a fun one, yet still has some lovely intentions behind it. The flame can be blown out just like a real candle. Also, the light of this is gives a warm flickering glow and has been proven to help insomnia. If you’re looking for a Christmas stocking filler, we recommend this! london-led-candle.jpg

Cuore Graphico LED Candle – £10

Click here to view Di-Classe’ full collection

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An Expert’s Guide To Upcycling: Featuring Upcycled Hour

Grand Designs 2018

Pictured: Nicky, Natalie and Rob (a trio of upcyclers) with Chris, founder of Upcycled Hour (third from left)

We had the pleasure of meeting Chris, founder of Upcycled Hour – the UK’s only independent agency supporting and promoting the work of professional upcyclers – to discuss the art of upcycling and dispel myths surrounding the movement . Read on to learn more, as well as Chris’ top tips to integrate upcycled pieces into your home. 

What is your personal experience with upcycling?

I began upcycling items when I bought my first flat way back in the 1970s. I wanted to fill my home with unusual things and the only way I could afford to do so at the time was by buying preloved and changing the look to suit my taste by reinventing and refinishing. Fast forward over forty years and there is a creative reuse coup happening and it now has a name – upcycling. Of course I still love to upcycle items for my home because its a great way to reflect your own personal taste but these days, as eco chic interior style ambassador and Upcycled Hour founder, I am also very fortunate to have access to all kinds of wonderful professionally produced pieces and always very spoilt for choice.

Can you give a brief history of upcycling

In the late 1980s an inventive designer and writer by the name of Jocasta Innes made using a variety of paint techniques on walls, floors and furniture into a huge interiors trend. With her parsimonious approach to interior design, she became a household name and wrote a highly successful series of books including ‘Paint Magic’ and ‘The Thrifty Decorator’. These books included a lot of furniture refurbishment and reinvention but we had to wait a few years until the word ‘upcycling’ made its first appearance. During an interview with Thornton Kay, creator of the Salvo empire, German salvage dealer Reiner Pilz used the term when talking about the European waste systems and although a different kind of upcycling to what we associate the word with today, nevertheless it gave a name to a new type of creativity. Environmental issues brought to light in the late 1990s led more artists to look at ways to incorporate upcycling into their work but it was not until the early 2000s when artist Annie Sloan created a new type of paint which did not require surface preparation (chalk paint), that the modern-day upcycling movement as we know it really took flight. By 2014 many artisans were working professionally as upcyclers and so the Upcycled Hour agency was created, the very first independent association to support and promote the work of professional upcyclers creating for interiors.

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Blue Tone Console Table Hand Painted With Annie Sloane Paint – £280

Buying Upcycled Pieces

How do I choose the right upcycled piece for me and my home?

When purchasing an upcycled piece check the quality of finish, functionality and consider whether you want this to be a stand-out, statement piece or whether its something that has to have more flexibility of style. The fusion between interior design heritage and contemporary craftsmanship results in some pretty incredible upcycled products these days so take time to source an item that reflects your interior design personality, that fulfills its purpose beautifully and is something that will always make you smile.

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Sideboard with Old Masters Prints of Fruits & Flowers – £595

Can you explain the different ways in which something can be upcycled?

Upcycling is taking an unwanted or damaged item and renovating, reinventing or repurposing it to produce something of higher quality and value so its not make-do and mend, its not DIY and its not hacking – the clue is in the first syllable! The only limitations with upcycling, apart from the materials involved, are the imagination and skills of the designer-remaker. There are a huge variety of ways to upcycle an item from simply repainting or reupholstering a vintage piece of furniture to taking discarded ring pulls and creating a chandelier, using the pages from old magazines to make a piece of art or even reinventing old bowling balls into table lights.

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Industrial Upcycled Steel pipe coffee table – £445

Why choose an upcycled piece?

There are so many benefits in choosing an upcycled piece: individuality of style, low environmental impact, knowing you’re the only person in the world to own such a piece, UK craftsmanship as well as being at the forefront of supporting a new craft movement that is truly rocking the interior design world.

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Upcycled Wooden Side Tables In Woods And Pears Decoupage – £195

What are your favourite upcycled pieces on Vinterior at the moment and why?

This Poul Henningsen pendant light is so incredibly iconic and really does pass the test of great design time. Many mid-century styles look as fresh today as when they were created, they retain that brave new (design) world vibe and as yellow is one of my favourite colours to wake-up an interior, I’m sold!

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Poul Henningsen pendant light – £3,487

 The lacquered upcycled credenza is from a completely different style genre, it has an old world look of luxury that appeals to my love of heritage chic styling as well as ubiquitous but always adorable black furniture. With clever reinvention its difficult to know whether this piece of furniture was created in 1780, 1950 or yesterday, the mark of a superior upcycling design that will not only hold its worth but also its owner’s attention.

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What do you think is the best way to combat the stigma surrounding upcycling? – (if you feel this question is appropriate)

Historically misunderstood, upcycling is a generic term that has encompassed the bad and ugly as well as the good.  Thankfully since Upcycled Hour was created in 2014, things have gradually changed and we are now seeing professional upcycling not only becoming a respected craft but a sought-after choice. More and more interior designers and celebrities are buying upcycled, appreciating the wonderful way in which these items inject individuality and eco chic into the home.

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Bespoke Upcycled Mondrian-inspired Sideboard – £975

Chris Billinghurst is an ambassador for eco chic interior style and the founder of Upcycled Hour, the UK’s only independent agency supporting and promoting the work of professional upcyclers creating items for interiors.

Click here to browse more upcycled pieces

 

VINTERIOR NEWSLETTER5

An Expert’s Guide To Vintage Lighting: Featuring Agapanthus

At Vinterior, we understand that a lighting piece can really create a statement in your interior and complete a look. We have interviewed Tom and Zoe from Agapanthus, a seller on Vinterior, to give you a behind the scenes peek at the process of vintage lighting restoration and their top tips on how to decide on that perfect statement lighting piece.

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Where are you based and who works with you?

We are based in Stockport, owners are Tom and Zoe and we have 3 people working full time with us, Bob, Annabel and Peter.

How long have you been working with antique lighting and restoration?

Tom has been restoring lights for 23 years since he was 16. Zoe joined the business 7 years ago and we have grown it together from there.

How did you get into it?

Whilst running an antique shop specialising in pine furniture we were asked by a customer to restore a chandelier which got Tom hooked.

What are the processes involved in a renovation of a chandelier?

A typical chandelier restoration would involve photographing the piece in its original state. The chandelier is then taken completely apart and cleaned using various techniques dependant on the material. The chandelier is then re-wired, earthed, insulated and assembled back together. We have extensive supplies of antique and new parts that will cover us for restraint most antique lighting pieces. The chandelier crystals are washed by hand, dried and polished. Where possible we retain the metal pins that attach the crystals together and then hook these back to the chandelier. Sometimes crystals are damaged or missing so we also replace these. The final stage is attaching the ceiling fittings that are required.

What gives you most pleasure with what you do?

It has to be finding amazing pieces at markets and fairs whilst abroad and then when the piece reaches its home and the customer is delighted!

What is your favourite ever piece of antique lighting?

Tom’s favourite lights were 1903 arts and crafts chandeliers that we restored for the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. For Zoe it is a French brass and crystal chandelier with gorgeous cut-crystal swags – it is stunning yet simple and elegant. It’s currently in our lounge! You have to keep the odd piece – makes the job even better.

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1800s Italian Florentine Candelabra – £2,225

Buying Antique Lighting

If someone was buying their first antique light what are the top 5 pieces of advice you give them?

  1. Go with what you love
  2. Choose something that is the right scale for the room
  3. Consider what you want the light for…mood, functional, style
  4. Be bold – a light can make a big impression and be the first thing you notice in a room.
  5. Buying an antique light is an investment, they are becoming more rare and they will hold their value.

What was the most interesting project or person you have sold a piece to?

Our favourite project was supplying the lighting for a famous fashion model. The property was a beautiful Georgian property that was once the residence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and J. B. Priestly. The lighting we supplied and sourced was spectacular and seeing the final stages of the whole interior design project was incredible and inspiring.

What trends are you seeing for antique lighting?

French toleware pieces are increasingly popular, particularly the gilt and brass ones. Mid-Century glass pieces are on-trend, particularly the ones from the Bauhaus movement. We love to seek and find the genuine pieces. The classic brass and crystal chandeliers are however timeless!

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Mid Century Chromed Pendant With Grey Glass Shades – £680

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Click here to view Agapanthus’ full collection

 

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