If like me you love styling and getting decorative in the rooms of your home on a frequent basis, then you probably also enjoying sourcing and shopping for the items just as much as you like putting them together. Interiors faffing and obsessive re-arranging should be an Olympic sport as far as I am concerned (in which case I am definitely a medal-hopeful). I really enjoy the hunt for a specific piece when you’ve got an idea from a store window or a cool hotel. I know exactly where its going to go once back at Styleophile HQ. And then move it. I am not averse to a rummage in a decent charity shop either and recently scored a fab 60s inspired ceramic plant hanger for under £2 in Oxfam. My point being, good homewares crop up everywhere if you know where to look.
Earlier this year I was invited to a Decorative Antiques Fair which sounded all kinds of dusty to me but the preview was run by a seriously cool lady who I just knew would have something up her sleeve. Expecting a fairly tame morning, I was looking forward to the event with a touch of nostalgia. Growing up with folks into ‘that sort of thing’ I spent countless Saturday mornings trailing round the Georgian streets of Bath, in and out of fusty-smelling, dimly lit shops, forbidden to touch anything. Mother, head to foot in Laura Ashley, a veritable symphony in beige, rummaged and delved then feigned mild interest in order to garner the best price on some ghastly pot /tiny spoon /mahoosive vintage dresser….
How things have changed. There is no longer the vast selection of vintage emporiums and weekly markets in the city (youth of Bath, rejoice) as the demand for mass-produced and flat-packed furniture took hold of the nation. Until recent times that is. The vintage / collectors market never died, it just took a lower profile but it is back and its ROCKIN’ ! Take the up coming Decorative Fair in Battersea Park, London – a family-owned fair that launched in 1985, the first to specifically unite the antiques and interior design trades. Complimentary tickets are available (see website) and the format brings together a wide range of decorative antiques and twentieth century design. Mixed with formal antiques, collectors’ items, art and accessories from the 20th century, displayed in a room set style.
The media, austerity and possibly some post-jubilee-bonhomie have all played a part in the new-school-cool and the artisan interior, borrowing pieces from every era and eschewing any notion of slavishly following a trend. Since the whole ‘eclectic’ vibe happened, people have been raiding their Auntie Margaret’s loft and edgy boot-sales, upcycling and scanning ebay, hoping to find more unique pieces to furnish their abode than ever before. Something different and preferably with a story. There are entire hotels dedicated to the more challenging of aesthetics and since glass cloches became a la mode, taxidermy sales have presumably doubled?
This collection of exhibitors and specialists from the length and breadth of the UK, gathered in the honey-coloured city of Bath, at what has become a must-see event on the interiors calendar. Three full days of trading one-of-a-kind pieces from history and popular culture. Each with a unique, occasionally remarkable heritage. Artists, collectors, curators and dealers displaying authentic pieces such as 1920s cinema signs, shuttered doors from French farmhouses, unspeakably beautiful 19th century illustrations and a drinks trolley I have thought about constantly since our preview.
Weaving through the stands of amazing offerings and in and out of eras and centuries, was a little like being Mr Benn (some of you are too young for that reference *dabs eyes*). One minute a Victorian portrait, straight to a 1960s ice bucket via religious effigies, fireplaces from romantic French chateaus, huge garden statues and recepticles and a set of letters from an original Woolworths sign. Next, genuine flags from military history, illuminated signs from long since demolished cinemas, and a figurehead from a boat all just waiting to adorn someone’s home and make their heart flutter.
Another advantage is the variety of periods and eras on offer. There genuinely is something for everyone. Of course there are antiques but there is just as likely to be funky stall selling vintage film posters and advertising and several mid-century modern specialists with original pieces from accessories to large furniture items.
Given these are temporary spaces, what is particularly impressive is the merchandising and curating of the stands. Obviously dealers have to bring a selection they feel will sell and simultaneously edit their collection so that it all sits well together and doesn’t look like a jumble sale. Some of the stalls at Bath Decorative Antiques Fair were so well done, they were like a film set or a magazine shoot at Downtown styled by Alexander McQueen and Abigail Aherne. Bliss for a magpie like me.
Its a bit like going interiors shopping in someone’s house but after a fashion, it feels normal. Your very first port of call should be thehoarde.com where you can buy (and sell) and discover all the upcoming events near you. You can also post a ‘wanted’ request for something you’re searching for which is seen directly by the dealers. How clever is that? 1920s drinks trolley coming right up methinks.
Pssssst ! Don’t tell Mr Styleophile but totally influenced by all the feathered offerings, I bagged an amazing hand-drawn illustration of a Raven which is going to look incredible in our lounge. It could have been much much worse…
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that antiques are not all stuffy, stale or staid and decorative antiques fairs are for you if you’re a committed interiors styler, room stager and house faffer. Maybe you’ll grab a stylish piece of history to feature in your home.
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