A Guide to navigating London's Vintage Design Scene
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.
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.
High Road Brasserie is next door to us is ideal for a rewarding post-shop cocktail.
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.
The Artist Residence Hotel in Pimlico, because they have vintage inspired rooms with bold contemporary art and a really nice cellar bar!
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.
Our first goal is to inspire and delight, if we succeed in that then the sales usually follow!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.