My first job in the interior design world was working for a traditional sofa shop on the Kings Road called ‘Recline & Sprawl’. Situated just before the New Kings Road we were surrounded by antique shops, lighting, framers etc. Opposite were our arch sofa rivals George Smith sofas; the darling of the traditionally made sofa companies and just a few doors down another competitor George Sherlock Sofas, with their beautiful Howard style sofas that I secretly coveted in fantastic pink linen.
Although we promoted ourselves as having superior webbing on the base of our sofas and hand tied springs (that was our big line), competition was high and George Smith particularly had the edge; not only were they well known for a quality product, they more than often promoted half-price sales, were clearly visible from the road and had a much larger shop window. We on the other hand were hidden under some kind of pagoda like facade, with a small front window, obscured by a red post box, bus stop and clock and were under strict instructions never to offer any such deals or promotions. Our bosses repeated their mantra that selling the sofas at a lower price (which was the sale price of George Smiths sofas) consistently throughout the year would give us the appealing edge.
So it came to pass that people would regularly wander into the entrance of the shop and shout, ‘do you have a sale on’ or when does your sale begin? Barely had we uttered the word no, the person had already crossed over the road and was veering towards the banners of the half-price sale at George Smith with little chance of them hearing us finish ‘but our prices are consistently all year round half the price of George Smith' …. Even if you managed to explain the whole thing, you could see their eyes glaze over at no sale, ‘so you don’t have a sale would be the general response’. People love to know they are getting a bargain and who can blame them, it’s all about marketing. Still sometimes we managed to get the message across and thanks to the amazing manager we had faithful customers and the business continued on.
It was the millennium and these were still exciting times when the Kings Road attracted famous and interesting characters. You didn’t have to go searching for them in night clubs or restaurants, online or in magazines no, they were walking around freely and they would even come to you. So each day was filled with the possibility of someone super famous popping their head around the door.
In this rather nostalgic year we have been experiencing with the passing away of so many beloved celebrities, one of the most recent being George Michael, I am reminded of my time working at Recline & Sprawl and his visit to the little sofa shop. Arriving with his interior designer he walked in wearing a baseball cap and quietly perused the furniture. We had 4 CD’s that we continously played in the shop; Dido, Maria Callas, Burt Bacarch and George Michael – Ladies & Gentlemen The Best of. My manager had this fortunate or unfortunate ability to attract coincidences, so we weren’t entirely surprised to be listening to George Michael when he arrived at the door. Luckily it was for our ears only at the back of the shop, otherwise he would probably have thought we were playing it on purpose, which would have been terribly embarrasing, then we would have been forced to show him our coincidence board; a detailed list of the daily coincidences; 10.30am - discussing Mrs Jones armcaps, phone rings - guess who - it's Mrs Jones. 10.45am - listening to George Michael, 10.50am George Michael walks into showroom - quelle surprise!
His Interior designer did her best to shield him from us fearsome shop assistants; when I asked if they needed any help she immediately bundled him down the stairs tout suite, away from our eager, beaming faces. She had purchased from us before, so there was no need for the hard sale. He however looked up at me, raised his eyebrows and smiled with a kind of an amused I’m sorry expression. Obviously he had prior instructions not to collaborate with the shop assistants. It was an exciting moment, his songs had been part of my life through my teenage years and my twenties and here he was.
His visit albeit brief, left an impression on me not only from his smile but as he walked out he said a sincere goodbye, waved and thanked us. People spotted him in the street and were calling out to him as if they knew him like a friend – ‘Hi George’ and he stopped and waved and called back and for several minutes this went on. His protective Interior designer finally managed to coerce him into the car and off they went and I thought what a genuinely nice guy, how lovely and my manager and I agreed that we loved that George.
A few days later we received an order for some sofas from his interior designer, I like to think they were for George Michael and that our professionalism and contained inner excitement helped him choose us over those Kings Road sofa giants or perhaps it was simply the 70% feather, 30% duck down cushion interiors, superior webbing and hand tied springs.
#GeorgeMichael #memories #sofas #interiordesign #kingsroad #chelsea
As Christmas fast approaches, I ventured out into the shops of Winchester to see what is on offer in the range of beautiful, fun and exciting Christmas gifts for the home.
First on my list was Pure Home in the square. The entrance was beautifully Christmasy and rustic with carved deer and country style wicker baskets. I had a quick scout around the ground floor where there are Christmas decorations, glassware and candles and then decided to peruse upstairs. I was stopped in my tracks by a shop assistant asking me whether she could help me, although it was more in the tone of - and where do you think you are going madam. I thanked her and said I was fine and continued to head upstairs when she proceeded to ask, 'did I know it was only sofas upstairs'? Okay, I said, that’s fine, thank you. She then continued to follow me up the stairs. Remaining undeterred and with the assistant closely at my heels I continued on. What was she thinking I was going to do, steal a sofa? If there had been a sofa shop next door and I had the ability to carry one I imagined myself doing an irrational purchase and walking past Pretty Women styley chanting BIG MISTAKE! BIG MISTAKE! Once upstairs the furniture and layout was a bit underwhelming with leather sofas and simple but well-made oak pieces. I then spotted an Eames like style chair and stool and some unusual and interesting industrial clocks, lighting and furniture, all worth seeing. They also had a great supply of cushions in simple ticking fabrics. I finally came across three delightful ceramic lamps, which would look great in any interior. It was well worth the trip upstairs – as long as you are prepared to navigate your way past security.
Next on my list was The Hambledon. This is one of my favourite shops for clothes in Winchester. Everything I have bought from here I have cherished and loved; the colours and the patterns are timeless and individual and bring a smile to my face when I open my wardrobe. So I was interested to see what they had on offer in the home accessories department. The home section is bijoux but has some real gems. The candle stick holders, vases and tumblers in pretty, cut coloured glass are beautiful and reasonably priced. Lovely, chunky, wool throws and velvet cushions in jewel oranges, blues and green. I particularly loved the parrot and pineapple jugs and cabbage plates. I overheard one young customer next to me say ‘that’s like something my gran would have’ – indeed it may well be but it makes an interior far more interesting to add the occasional unusual, humorous piece, so take a look at Grannies collection with fresh eyes and you may find some beauties.
One of my favourite Streets in Winchester is Parchment Street. They have a wonderful variety of shops. I was delighted to come across two new shops just opening. There is a new Turkish shop called The Mayam Bazaar as well as a new Orchid Furniture shop. You will also find Bell Fine Art, Forme, The Yankee Candle Shop and The Clock Shop.
In The Mayam Bazaar you will find piles & piles of sumptious, wool rugs, wooden side tables with mother of pearl inlay, Turkish cotton towels and rugs and lots of trinkets. I purchased a rather beautiful fabric hanging of the Madonna and Child, which I am thrilled with.
Next door is the newly opened Orchid Furniture. I am particularly drawn to Asian pieces and influences so was overwhelmed with the beautiful colours and patterns of Turquoise, yellows & oranges when I walked in. They have recently started a new range of contemporary pieces in their collection like their fabulous concrete dining table. The combination of different finishes and styles shows the pieces off to perfection.
Bell Fine Art has been on Parchment Street for well over 30 years. I used to go in there when I was in my early 20’s and purchased my first framed prints from them. They have a good collection of artwork but I particularly love their range of ceramics, which are absolutely stunning. It’s a great place to find unusual, individually designed gifts, beautiful for the home.
If you are looking for the ultimate gift then visit The Clock Workshop and view some of their exquisite, antique clocks. Time pieces are beautifully fascinating and are works of art in themselves, some ornate, some simple, all telling their own story.
I paid a little visit to Consortium on Jewry Street; it was so busy it was difficult to get past the front door. Once inside it was rather chilly but this didn’t seem to deter anyone, evidently popular there were people popping up everywhere. Their main look being vintage, industrial style furniture; they have some beautiful throws in limes, pinks and oranges and a great selection of cushions, baskets and rugs.
I finally headed to the Winchester market and came across the wonderful ceramics of ‘Tregear Pottery Design’ from the Isle of Wight. With patterns of seagulls, fish and sailing and all in these pretty whites and blue/greys and green/grey tones.
Happy Christmas shopping; may this season be filled with love, peace and joy and goodwill and happiness for 2017. #winchestershopping #interiordesign #homeaccessories #antiques
Author - Rachel Niddrie
Winchester based Interior Designer. Sharing my design experiences, likes and loves and all things I find beautiful, useful and inspirational in the world of interiors