House & Garden [06/2006]
Photography and text by Marcus Peel - www.marcuspeelphotography.co.uk
On the site of a former Gasworks, half a dozen dealers in antiques, architectural salvage, lighting and iconic modern objects have formed a collective offering rich picking in a diverse taste for collectors and decorators alike.
There are antiques shops and antiques shops. There are those grand old emporia with their names in gold Gothic lettering above the door and lots of reassuringly comfortable, brown, Georgian wood inside and there are those twee little boutiques full of expensive china and silver, there are also, these days, more challenging places, where things are a bit bigger and tougher and you feel that the dealers have a real idea of style. core one And then there is Core One – quite simply, unlike other antiques dealers places. It is a lesson to the eye, a delight and a challenge to the senses, and a serious threat to the bank balance.
Lying deep in the confusing but fascinating old Gasworks complex in the further reaches of Chelsea, Core One is a stone’s throw from the main drag of well-known antiques shops at the end of the Kings Road. Even so, an expedition to find its headquarters is not for the faint-hearted. Entering this huge and sprawling agglomeration of buildings and passing by the great empty and rusty gas towers at it’s centre, you skirt warehouses and workshops that house furniture makers, mosaic workers and such familiar decorating names as Alidad. Eventually, you arrive at an unprepossessing building guarded by a vast totemic urn.
core one Here the loose association of dealers that calls itself Core One has pulled its wagons into a circle and formed an enclave of taste and civilization, defying the dull, homogenized world of ordinary objects and furniture that surrounds us. ‘We were all looking for a great location in which we could operate’, recalls Will Fisher, ‘At the last moment, we found this building, which is the ideal space for the kind of large-scale things in which we all specialise’. However, each of the group has a highly distinctive ethos and their individual areas within Core One reveal very defined looks.
David Grocott and Ian Lemon, who after many years as runners on the Pimlico Road joined forces to trade as Plinth, occupy the rear of the building. core one Their space is distinguished by the boldly painted Fauvist stripes of it’s walls which serve as a backdrop to an ever-evolving, wide-ranging mix of old and new that happily combines grand antique pieces with new, one-off designs, pleasing decay with a distinctly quirky sense of style. Distressed Regency sofas consort with newer tables and chairs covered in fragments of raw linen. Odd Sixties portraits line the walls, while a metal cabinet opens to reveal an unexpected chintz interior. Here the 1650’s meet the 1950’s: ‘style not period’, David and Ian believe is the key. The juxtaposition of something new and something sixteenth century makes an individual piece shine.
Next door, Roderic Haugh Antiques presents and array of English and European pieces chosen for their country-house scale and grandeur. Dim mirrors and big, empty picture frames hang on the walls, massive Regency poles await new, or better still, ancient, tattered curtains to bring them back to life. Wildly shaped Chinese ‘philosophers’ rocks perch on their stands. If there is an underlying factor at work here it is extravagance of form: an otherwise conventional rosewood dining table reveals legs so voluptuous that you understand why the Victorians might have draped them.
If the feeling is dark at the back of the building, towards the front it brightens. Here Gary de Sparham of De Parma has gathered an amazing range of elegant pieces of furniture, mirrors, lighting and other objects of the Fifties and Sixties, a million miles away from the kitsch tat that often passes for post war design: these are the pieces that will join the ranks of real antiques and stand the test of time. core one core one Nearby, at DNA Designs, Annabella and David Ford have assembled a rich mix that tends towards the bright and decorative. Embracing everything from big, classic architectural furniture to quirkier ethnic pieces the emphasis is on beauty of surface. Mirrors here have a sparkle, lamps and pendant lights are finished in pale, delicate verdigris, silver-leaf and other shimmering patinas.
Dean Antiques occupies the two large spaces either side of the main axis at the centre of the building and here too, light fittings are a major element. Dean Gipson has assembled an amazing collection of lamps, chandeliers and vast lanterns. Pieced Gothic lanterns consort with prim, glazed drum-shaped examples from the halls of French chateaux or the blowsy beacons that adorned the outside of Victorian pubs before they were all spoilt. Below this phantasmagoria of old lamps and new, the furniture includes grand-scale cast-iron and wirework pieces. Mirrors feature here too: in this case, Venetian and other facet-cut pieces create a lively effect between the more massive architectural items such as salvaged pillars and columns.
core one In the final space in Core One, Will Fisher, trading as Jamb, keeps one of the best stocks of period chimneypieces anywhere in the world. With an impeccable eye for style and admirable concern for proper provenance, he selects superb architectural pieces that at any one time may range from massive stone surrounds of the seventeenth century through to polite Georgian mantels in inlaid marble or gusty neoclassical pieces in the grandest Soane manner. In addition, on offer is a selection of steel, brass and cast-iron freestanding or insert fire grates. Jamb can also manufacture bespoke chimney pieces to the highest standards of carving: ‘We have a reserve of about 70 tons of marble to draw on’ explains Will, ‘including some fabulously rare pieces with beautiful colour and figuring’. From here it is a small step to Will’s other fascination: country-house curiosities such as glazed cabinets filled with mineral samples, rare skulls, or recently, a glass dome containing a length of martyr’s chain. ‘We always like to say that we also stock the unsaleable’, he explains. It is an essential part of the rich mix at Core One.