Welcome to my show notes for the penultimate episode of series ten of the Great Indoors podcast which is out today. On today’s show, we bring you up to speed on the second series of Interior Design Masters (no spoilers), we chat with architectural antiques dealer Drew Pritchard and Kate talks about her fabulous new book. You can of course listen to the full episode here.
On with the show..
I am so delighted to be back on the box in the form of a guest judge, alongside Michelle Ogundehin for BBC2’s fifth episode of Interior Design Masters. Lot’s of love for my ‘Queen’ T-shirt (by Kemi Telford) and technicolour mac, but ultimately it is such a privilege to be part of this hit TV show. While I’m there to judge as an expert, it is a really humbling experience, and I have to say I’m not quite sure whether the TV show can get across the incredible challenge the amateur designers are up against. In business as usual world of interior design, we can take our time to plan methodically, have meetings, pull our team together – we even meet the client! These designers get a written brief, never meet the client and then get just one week to plan, prep, source, get it on site and then get only two days to execute it. Plus, they get the lovely Alan Carr butting in every so often and a camera in their face, so I hold my hands up and say that the contestants are AMAZING! You can follow them all on instagram I’ve put links above the picture above, go give them a follow.
Yes this is a TV show and it’s there to entertain but I for one think there’s lots of design ideas and inspiration to be had – even in my 25 years in the industry I am blown away by some of the ideas from amateur talent as they tend to think outside the box.
You can watch the series on BBC2 on Tuesdays or of course on iPlayer and to all the international listeners, I don’t know when Netflix will pick up series 2 but you’ll be the first to know!
Drew Pritchard is an architectural antiques dealer, and best known for TV’s Salvage Hunters or as the press has dubbed him, the junkyard genius. Although, he’s not sure the title is appropriate, “I think it’s unkind to call it junk, the things I find and buy are rather beautiful and a lot of the time that’s why I’m able to buy them because they’ve been discarded.”
It was his father, a signwriter who taught him how to look at things, “even as a child I couldn’t understand why people would buy new things.” His clients include Ralph Lauren and Marco Pierre-White and he has just designed a collection of furniture for Barker & Stonehouse.
Is it possible to still find a hidden treasure or are people just too savvy now?
“Yes is the resounding answer to that. In every car boot sale, junk shop, salvage yard and antique fair there’s one gem, something remarkable that isn’t where it should be. Everything is on a cycle, it starts off new and exciting then it’s second hand, then it becomes unfashionable, then unwanted, then junk. Then sits there waiting for the right time to become an antique, after 100 years. Just because it’s an antique, doesn’t mean it’s desirable, and that’s the bit you can’t put a finger on – generally, it’s form and quality and I like the form, quality and history.”
For the last 20 years, the so-called brown furniture (classic antiques) has fallen out of fashion, but it’s now coming back, isn’t it?
” To be honest with you, it’s coming back because people like myself are pushing it, I’ve never stopped buying it. Brown furniture was a term coined by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, sorry to be harsh about it. In the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s the Americans, very cleverly, bought all of the best antiques in the UK, so what were we left with? A load of old toot. In the last 200 – 250 years we (UK) have made the best furniture and the people who didn’t know called it brown furniture and the people who knew, bought it.”
What made the UK so good at making furniture?
“It was the quality, the training and people coming back from the grand tour with perfect replicas of drawing and paintings of the architectural style of the Greek and the Romans had nicked it off the Greeks and we nicked it off the Romans and we called it Neo-Classical. So in the 18th century, you had people like Robert Adams and Thomas Chippendale championing it and creating without a doubt the finest furniture from the finest woods, remember we owned large parts of the tropics where these woods came from so we imported it.”
Do you find it hard to part with pieces, is your own home quite full?
“If someone walked in here and offered me a price for everything in the house, I would sell it. I think, for me, it’s all about the hunt. Finding it, recognising it, doing a deal, getting it back, treating it correctly and that’s me done. The selling just gives me the money to continue.”
Are there one or two pieces that stand out for you, in a career of spotting brilliant pieces?
” So many. I found a 17th hatchment panel of the Prince of Wales and when it turned into the King of England they just flipped it and painted a picture of the king on the other side. It was such an astonishingly rare thing and I found it in an antique in the Midlands in bits under a table. Each one, however, is blurred out by the next one.”
“We have been trained like little lab rats to go to Ikea and buy ‘this thing’ because it’s yellow and aren’t they great because they’re shiny lovely people who give you meatballs and sell you something that’s comfortable for five minutes and is instantly worth nothing, whereas you can go and buy yourself a chair at any antique shop or salvage yard or online for the same price or less that will be better and will last for the rest of your life and will be more comfortable, is interesting and is more green because recycling’s all right but re-use is the key.”
Do you have any advice for people who take on the notion of re-using and prolonging life?
“One of the most comfortable chairs you can buy is a smokers bow and you can get one for about £45 and they get better with age. Don’t be afraid of it, you are starting a journey and as I said we have all been trained worldwide to buy new. You have to break the cycle and say that you want something with a bit of soul and a story. Start with one thing and make you love it.”
A good tip, if you go and buy some old lights but think I don’t know a restorer – you don’t have to. Take it to the bloke on the high street who fixes your microwave, telly and dishwasher. Electric is three wires, there’s no mystery to it, just make sure all the bits are there and it’s clean.”
Any advice for visiting an antique market or fair, so that people don’t make an expensive mistake or be ripped off?
“That’s a really tricky one. But the basics are: 1) get there really early before people are out of their vans 2) take measurements with you of what, a measuring tape and a pen & paper 3) wear warm clothes and don’t look like a tourist 4) be polite and don’t try and beat them down on price, ask if that’s the best price they can do.”
Are there any furniture trends that you don’t like?
” I don’t do trends and I don’t follow fashion, to be honest, I go for style and taste. I hate painted furniture, it’s thoughtless and dull.” Drew had some very strong views about painted furniture so Kate played devil’s advocate and asked :
Perhaps if it was a “worthless” piece of furniture and it’s made someone happy to paint it is that not ok?
“The only person getting anything from this is the person who sells you the paint and if it makes you happy then FINE.”
I am going to have to stand up for painted furniture as I think it’s a wonderful way to breathe new life into unloved furniture. It does have to be the right piece of furniture however, if it has a beautiful patina or is a gorgeous wood and you’re not loving it, then pass it on to someone who will.
Do let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below – painted furniture yay or nay?
If you have a design dilemma and would like to be the subject of our Style Surgery, do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Drew for chatting with us, our fab producer Kate Taylor from Feast Collective and you, our lovely listeners.