I recently went for lunch at Brunswick House in Vauxhall, not realising this was a hotspot for antiques and salvaged goods.
The Georgian townhouse looks a little out of place surrounded by the overbearing characterless high rise office buildings around it.
Walking into the old building with an endless ceiling and charming decor was like stepping into another world, away from the busy traffic and stressful office life.
There were old mirrors and clocks on the walls and random pieces of furniture were dotted around, such as a garden gate or an old sewing table.
What makes Brunswick House so fun, is that all the furniture is for sale. There are a huge range of different pieces available, from door knobs to large antique baths.
The rooms are used to display the objects but also serve as function rooms. A perfect setting for creative projects and fashion shoots as well as parties. This also serves as an inspiration for designers and decorators showing ways in which the furniture can be used.
The cafe served delicious traditional food from the small daily menu. Before my lunch arrived I had a chance to peer around the magnificent old building.
Had it been smaller it would have looked cluttered, instead the vast expanse of the building made it look like an exhibition space with a cosy cafe tucked into the middle.
Brunswick House is part of LASSCO a company that specialises in restoration and architectural salvage. They rescued the then derelict building from squatters in 2004 and slowly restored the old Georgian mansion to resemble its grand history.
The former home of the Dukes of Brunswick which was built in 1758, it looks a little different now with busy roads replacing the three acres of parkland once surrounding it. However it is wonderful to see that such beautiful old buildings can still be saved and be restored to a level where they can be used as busy functional spaces that everyone can enjoy.
Walking down Brick Lane, Portobello or Camden Passage you can see vintage jewellery, antiques that look like family heirlooms to 80s neon rings or lighting earrings. There are a number of jewellery designers that take old or discarded objects and use them to create new pieces.
It takes a good eye for detail to spot something good in a pile of junk. “My eyes are trained,” says Maria Zureta designer Roberto Costa, who explains that years of experience of working with vintage jewellery have taught him how to find real quality. He sees the importance in saving materials that can be reused “I love being able to give another chance to an object.”
However it is not just the opportunity of a bargain that can be found at these markets or the fact that vintage objects can give pieces real character, but the fact that this is a sustainable way to create interesting and beautiful jewellery. Clementine James, the designer behind Little Glass Clementine says “We live on a finite planet, our resources are dwindling and as artists we need to inspire people to move away from mass-produced fashion.”
“We have enough intriguing objects and beautiful jewellery already made scattered around the globe.” Clementine emphasises the fact that these pieces have character and each individual object has a story. “I try to create a personality in each piece, one that hopefully resonates with others.”
Elspeth Walker, the designer behind Sweetlime loves the fact that vintage tribal pieces she uses have a whole history behind them, adding another dimension to her jewelry. “It may be possible to make these pieces now, but they will never have the same feel of natural aging and warmth,” she says. “These pieces give the new piece an absolute sense of uniqueness.”
Girandoles designers Isabelle and Louise have collected numerous objects to prepare for jewellery in the event of a great idea “we gradually formed a ‘war chest,’ a great stock in terms of quantity, quality and diversity. This is our wealth!.” Boticca describe their line as quirky, whimsical added with some humour, the pieces are transformed into fun and detailed jewellery. Isabelle and Louise describe the process and reworking of objects stating that “each object is thus restored to a different purpose.”
Jolita Jewellery’s designer Algis Abromaitis visits London’s markets several times a week, where he sorts through piles of jewellery looking for pieces to use in his designs. This allows him to use a wide range of different styles and materials “I like incorporating vintage jewelry into my designs as it gives them a new lease of life.” Each piece of Jolita Jewellery is unique and truly original, made from a collaboration of vintage objects.
Vintage, antiques, reusable materials can be found everywhere and in all shapes and sizes, there is a whole art of salvage, reworking and integrating different materials. Recycling old objects is not only a great way to make unique and beautiful jewellery but also sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Islington is home to numerous vintage shops and stalls. I love to stroll down Camden Passage at the weekend and search through the little shops and antique dealers for a unique piece or a bargain. However Camden Passage is not the only place you can find vintage furniture in Islington. Walking along Essex Road past the Criterion Auction House you come to a more contemporary furniture shop.
Fandango has been based in Islington for the last 15 years, sourcing 20th century retro furniture and working with interiors designers.
The shop is a triangular shape and the small space is crammed with furniture, lights and mirrors. I wait outside on a blue bench made of metal piping. As I wait to take a peek inside I am joined by others waiting to take a browse around, I’m glad it’s a nice and sunny.
After some people come out of the shop I finally get to speak to the owner, John, who tells me how he got into the furniture business. John started collecting pieces for his own house, going to car boot sales and flea markets. While travelling in continental Europe he discovered his love for vintage 20th century design.
Since 2009 Fandango has also been representing the East London Art Collective Chish & Fips and their Neon Works.
So when you are next in Islington it may be worth treading off the beaten track onto Essex Road to have a look at what you can find.
A historical Georgian house in Spitalfields East London. It allows you to a peek into the past in a more personal way than a conventional museum.