U.K. Antiquing: A Travel Diary

ANTIQUING LIKE A DIVA

THE ANTIQUES DIVA
After meeting up in London, our group took a spin on the London Eye, had dinner with the lovely people from Vispring, and then slunk back to our charming quarters at The Cranley Hotel in South Kensington for some much needed rest. The next day, we were going on a whirlwind tour with Toma Haines Clark, The Antiques Diva. An Oklahoma native, Clark currently calls Berlin home and the whole of Europe her backyard. Her company, The Antiques Diva & Co., was born out of a love for beautiful things with stories to tell and the passionate people who work to find them.

THE COTSWOLDS
Just a few hours from London, we found ourselves in the picturesque Cotswolds. Immediately, we decided we would be back to view its rolling green fields and lush landscapes; to admire its charming stone cottages and manor houses trailed with colorful climbing foliage; to sample its locally farmed, deliciously prepared foods; and to experience its traditional red telephone booths that serve as mini free libraries for locals. From our temporary home at the enchanting Calcot Manor, we journeyed to the area’s treasure trove of antique shops of all sizes and proclivities. On the appropriately named Long Street in Tetbury, we found ourselves immersed in a seemingly endless array of antique shops covering every era and style of design.

Anchoring the street is Lorfords. Owned and operated by the Lorfords family, this business offers a massive array of decorative antiques and 20th-century design, as well as interior design services and custom sofas and chairs. Complementing the historic pieces are seasonally rotating art exhibits, such as the thoughtful collection by Anthony Murphy on display during our visit.

Lorfords’ business extends beyond the walls and garden of this shop to two transformed aircraft hangars within a few minutes’ drive.

Long Street itself could keep one busy for days. Whatever an antique collector is searching for, he or she will likely find it here. There is midcentury modern at Muir Antiques, elegant French country at Emma Leschallas Antiques, a garden full of intrigue at Number 51 Antiques, elegant and rustic goods at Trilogie Antiques, newly dyed antique carpets at Long Street Antiques and more inside every friendly door.

The welcoming neighborhood vibe is part of the appeal as well. There is a palpable feeling of pride in the pieces on offer, an eagerness to share the stories behind the goods, and a general sense of love for the craft of antiquing.

After two days in the countryside, we were back in London at the foot of Chelsea Bridge, walking the aisles of the Battersea Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair an hour before it opened. The bi-annual fair brings together an array of styles and goods that draws designers and celebrities from around the globe. An excitement pulsed through the air, champagne was offered on silver trays, and curiosity piqued around every bend.

TOUR LIKE A DIVA
In addition to the U.K., The Antiques Diva & Co. tours are currently available in Italy, Sweden, Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Germany. The customizable tours are meant for everyone – from those in the design trade to those who are just interested in finding something remarkable. The diva and her international team will help clients negotiate with local dealers, arrange for currency transfers from stateside banks, and secure shipping of products. For those who don’t have time to make the trip, The Antiques Diva & Co. will go hunting for you. My advice, however, is to find the time. That’s the easy part. A few short days is all it takes to find out that heading back home from such an exhilarating and educational trip is the hardest part.


BEWITCHING BATTERSEA

The opening moments at The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair at Battersea Park in London are fast, furious and distinctly fashionable. Collectors, the curious, celebrities and quite a few four-legged friends queue up well before the doors officially open and mob the aisles with the fervor of the hunt. Within minutes, velvet side chairs, marble pedestals and 19th-century sideboards are being wheeled down the aisles en route to their new homes.

The juried fair, which celebrated 30 years in 2015, brings dealers from all parts of the United Kingdom, those who have their own shops in locations as nearby as Tetbury and London and still more from further locales. The variety of goods that come along with them is breathtaking – tapestries and textiles that have survived the centuries, hand-carved and -painted wood, jewels from every era, midcentury everything, artwork, ornaments, chandeliers to die for, milliner’s heads, a taxidermy menagerie, and much, much more.

This show also offers the appeal of allowing visitors to buy right off the floor, hence the rush as the doors officially open. However, it’s the variety and quality of goods found here that keep professionals and enthusiasts coming back time and again. Those in the know typically stage at least two visits – one on opening day so as not to miss a thing and another on closing day as the booths sell so much that they will have completely different stock on display by the fair’s end.

From start to finish, The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair is a feast for the senses with price tags that will make most stateside collectors swoon. Just remember, you’ll have to ship it all back!


HALLOWED HALLS LORFORDS

In search of storage for Lorfords’ ever-growing and changing supply of antiques and amazing finds, Toby Lorford happened upon the perfect setting in a series of former World War II Air Force hangars located near the family’s business on Long Street in Tetbury, U.K. Taking space in one of the hangars, the family put the location to work as intended – as storage and basic overflow space for their assortment – but that was soon to change.

Word of the new location spread quickly, and Toby found himself repeatedly explaining to his antique colleagues that the space was simply for storage and not, as rumor had it, a secondary retail location. Many inquiries later, however, the family found themselves asking, “Why not?” And so the next phase of Lorfords began. Partitions were built to establish individual spaces, while maintaining flow throughout the hangar that has maintained its unique charm of tin walls, concrete floors and raftered ceilings.

The setting is so suited for its audience that the business currently boasts about 30 dealers and has expanded to take over one full hangar and a portion of a second one. Future growth is already being discussed.

The experience of the hangars is keenly unique, and the camaraderie among the dealers is notable. A quiet excitement and sense of discovery vibrates through the chilly English air, which wafts through the hangars that are themselves antiques from a bygone era. The curious visitor (and aren’t we all?) will be easily swept away by the history of the setting itself, as well as the mysteries and provenance behind the remarkable pieces that fill these wartime halls.

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