A Guide to navigating London's Vintage Design Scene
It's great seeing sustainability take hold of our collective consciousness in 2019. Today, we’re all about highlighting our individuality and foregoing the usual mass-produced riffraff from fashion — through to homeware and design. In the midst of all this conscious consumerism, we caught up with some of London’s most creative architectural salvage and vintage connoisseurs to dive deep into their own journeys of design discovery.
From Retrouvius’ incredible work with architectural salvage, to Homeplace’s clever marriage of vintage and contemporary, and finally, The Old Cinema’s historic and unexpected finds. These journeys not only open doors to the past, but also breathe new life and colour into the little spaces we call home. 
Tell us a little bit about the history of the old cinema?
The Old Cinema was opened in 1979 and as the name suggests, it was previously a cinema until 1934, and had a brief spell as parachute storage during World War II. Today, it still has the proscenium arch that once framed the cinema screen, and the hand-carved and gilded dome above what was once the foyer area.     
How do you think vintage furniture is changing the homeware scene?
The history and craftsmanship of vintage furniture is very appealing to people who are turned off by the throwaway culture associated with cheap, mass produced goods. Environmentally conscious  millennials and young creatives are filling their homes with affordable antiques, comforted that they have been built to last and have a sell-on value. It’s a combination of the appeal of sustainability  and  the desire to create a unique living space. 
When visiting the Old Cinema in Chiswick, where is a good place to have a post-shopping drink? 
High Road Brasserie is next door to us is ideal for a rewarding post-shop cocktail.
Is there a particular era of retro/vintage you are more drawn to?
Midcentury has been in the limelight for quite a while, so we are more excited by the revival of antiques and art deco. The Ned embraces this style, and have also purchased a number of pieces from us. Keep a look out for our gilded portraits, taxidermy,  and cut glass barware the next time you’re in The Ned. 
If you are planning a London staycation, what hotel would you stay in? 
The Artist Residence Hotel in Pimlico, because they have vintage inspired rooms with bold contemporary art and a really nice cellar bar! 
Aside from The Old Cinema of course, where would you recommend for vintage shopping?
Some of the market stalls and shops around Brick Lane would be a great start! There's lots to see within a small radius and prices are competitive. 
In what ways do you try to be ‘less ordinary’? 
Our first goal is to inspire and delight, if we succeed in that then the sales usually follow!
 
Wendy Aldridge, HomeplaceHow did Homeplace come  about? 
My husband James and I had bought and renovated an apartment in Neukolln, Berlin, which we were running as a successful holiday let, so between that and spending time at flea markets in the city, combined with renovating our flat in Hackney, I was bitten by the interiors bug and the idea for launching a site that sold a mix of vintage & contemporary homewares, was born.
We also now run two Holiday Lets alongside the online business – one in Ramsgate on the Kent coast and one in the beautiful city of Porto in Portugal. Both apartments have been sympathetically renovated and filled with the kind of pieces we stock on the site, so guests can experience the Homeplace aesthetic first-hand. 
How do you think vintage furniture is changing the homeware scene? 
I think vintage furniture has and always will, influence the homewares scene. So many pieces found in the big retailers have come about because of mid century/1970’s eras coming back into trend. Unfortunately, we often find they are never quite as well made and so there will always a market for high quality vintage pieces, especially as they are always more characterful. 
Are there any hidden gems in London that you can share with us?
Lounge Bohemia – a brilliant little basement bar with a kitschy, 1960s Eastern European inspired interior. You would never know it was there, serving incredible cocktails, under a kebab shop on Great Eastern Street.
What are some of your favourite restaurants and bars in London? 
Lina Stores, because James is a huge pasta fan and they do the best pasta dishes. Duddell’s – for the best Dimsum this side of London. Dishoom King’s Cross for delicious Indian food and a buzzy atmosphere, and finally, Duck & Waffle for incredible views over London
Has there ever been a hotel abroad whose design really resonated with you? 
The Hotel Henriette in Paris – such a little gem of a place with a design ethos that appreciates and mixes beautiful vintage pieces into the interior, to create interesting and characterful rooms.
Aside from Homeplace of course, where would you recommend for vintage shopping?
Try Old Spitalfields Market on a Thursday and check out the Modern shows, which pop up regularly across London and have some really amazing sellers.
 
Retrouvius are driven by the belief that good materials and well-made things are precious’ Could you tell us more about this ethos and how it informs your business today? 
Currently, there are many conversations that are happening around sustainability, waste management, and traceability, which were all obvious to Retrouvius 25 years ago. These ideas underly everything we do. It’s about seeing materials for their worth not their fashionability. Learning where material comes from and how things are made is key to appreciating their value.
Have you had any design projects that really resonated with you throughout the years?
Katie & Alex Clarke’s boutique hotel, The George in Rye. Sam Roddick of Coco De Mer fame was also a key design project for us. She was an enthusiastic customer of our warehouse before our design team worked on her home, and she really got the raw, rough materiality of our stock and the salvage process. (It was the World of Interiors cover story in September 2006.) Hawksmoor restaurant were great customers too — we did the original mahogany panelling and amazing bronze deco lift doors. We also did Perfumer H and Bella Freud's Boutique. 
You’ve been in your lovely Kensal Green Warehouse for almost two decades now — what are your favourite spots in the neighbourhood?
Retrouvius is 25 years old now and we have been in our warehouse since 1999. Locally we love Bel And Ned café Kensal Rise, Harrow Road has many independent eateries from Persian, Spanish tapas, Thai and Brazilian, Portuguese. We can travel the world form our doorstep.
Talk us through your creative re-use process. How do you go about designing space, or salvaging furniture? Where do you start? 
Retrouvius is two very different companies. Our warehouse represents the salvage side; it is a store, display, and showroom for our latest finds. Our sister company, Retrouvius Design, applies our re-use philosophy to select interior design projects.
Salvage tends to be serendipitous — we never know what is coming our way, but we always try to keep plentiful stock of quality salvaged hardwoods and currently have many units of fully adjustable Victorian – era shelving. The warehouse also has a strong museum flavour at the moment. You never know what you will find when you enter through our warehouse doors.
What advice would you have for newbies looking to dive into the world of architectural salvage and re-use?
There are many hunting opportunities. Half the thrill is in the chase; antiques fairs, dealers , etc. Stay disciplined and not get too distracted — don’t buy things that will not work in your project. Salvage should be the first step when you are buying anything. 
~
Interviews by Hannah Tan-Gillies 

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