Let’s get physical

©Simon Wharton Antiques

As the leaves start to fall, it’s time to feel again with a plethora of physical decorative antiques fairs in the diary. 

The last eighteen months have been challenging, but thanks to an unwavering business drive, digital community (and sales!) the architectural salvage and decorative antiques industries will emerge stronger. Bath Decorative Antiques Fair will be an opportunity to see familiar faces, and new faces with more and more people on the lookout for personality pieces. If you are new to the antiques fair scene then Bath is a great one as it is both fiercely stylish and friendly. 

©Simon Wharton Antiques

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair has a special buzz about it, as returning exhibitor, Simon Wharton Antiques describes it, and the holiday atmosphere that charms anyone exhibiting or visiting the event. Here, Simon Wharton and Geraint Jones, co-founder of Greencore Design which is showing at Bath Decorative for the first time, share reasons to get excited for the next instalment. 

“Digital saved me during Covid,” says Simon, with antiques at a hand’s reach as people shopped from smartphones on their sofas, but “there’s no substitution for meeting people in the flesh.” People are excited to be handling things face to face again, and nothing awakens our senses like feeling the character and hearing the stories from the people that discovered these one-off pieces. Anecdotes include unforgettable fireplace rescue missions, where Simon recalls one particularly hilarious time, with the benefit of hindsight. “We had to let it down a ladder from the window” he describes, having survived being at the bottom as two guys with a combined age of 160 lowered the ropes on a fireplace travelling towards him. 

©Simon Wharton Antiques

Moving magnificent chimneypieces goes with the territory, as Simon’s signature is architectural antiques, stone fireplaces, and boy does he know how to dress them – with decorative and garden delights that complete his collection. The setting of Bath Decorative lends itself to some serious stand decoration, so even just walking around will give you ideas and good connections. I’ll never forget seeing one of Simon’s displays at Bath for the first time. 

Despite the changes that Brexit brought about, nothing has changed business like the pandemic. Simon saw his best August for fireplaces yet, and there is an increasing demand from customers in the countryside in France, as people everywhere opt for a life outside of the city. As well as a strong customer base both sides of the channel, they continue to come from as far as Australia and America. If a desire for eco-friendly design is partly driving your visit to Bath Decorative then you might be interested to know that even Simon’s heaviest antiques could be shipped to America and still save more energy than the embodied carbon cost of making a new fireplace. We know because me and Salvo have been doing tonnes of work on carbon and reclamation this year.

Antique French oak table ©Greencore Design

The attraction to antiques and the urge to design with tactile treasures is also influencing restoration trends with interior designers and other customers seeking unrestored or a lighter touch and less polish. But as Geraint of Greencore Design explains, that doesn’t equal less attention to detail. “Each piece is ‘house ready’ whether it be an old industrial piece or a high end designer piece, we pride ourselves on each item being clean, sound and ready to enjoy. ‘Patina’ does not equal dirt and ‘character’ does not equal a wobbly leg or a broken drawer.”

If you are looking for quality, craftsmanship and a design mash-up that mixes an 18th-century country house piece with a sixties leather chair then you’ll enjoy seeing Greencore Design’s first showing at Bath.

Mid-century modern armchairs by Pieff of Worcester ©Greencore Design
Primitive farmhouse bench seat ©Greencore Design

The company has been trading since 2005, having had a career in architectural cast iron and restoration work on historic buildings, they were initially involved in architectural salvage. “The one great thing in this business is that you never quite know where you will be next,” says Geraint, who rebranded and launched Greencore Design in 2019 with a focus on decorative antiques and vintage furniture. 

Constantly striving to achieve the “right look and feel”, Greencore Design always has some Welsh staples. Geraint explains Wales has it all, from large manor houses to farmhouses, to industrial, which explains why so many of us are falling for Welsh antiques.

“A lot of traditional Welsh furniture has a simplicity and naivety to it which makes them versatile. Very often made from local wood, especially oak so it lasts forever. Interior designers have really embraced antique and vintage furniture and increasingly using new and old alongside each other, which is great to see, both from design viewpoint and the environment.”

Antique Welsh blanket ©Greencore Design

Green to the core, Geraint shows me how they incorporated elements of reclaimed stone into their new build. This got me excited as a sign of where our built environments could expand on what the antiques industry is doing so brilliantly in breaking down the barriers of what eras should sit with what. 

Rules certainly went out of the window in Geraint’s recent rescue of a pair of aesthetic hall lanterns. 

Lanterns before restoration ©Greencore Design

“They were in a sorry state but working with Jolene Farmer Studio, we managed to bring them back to life. The glass proved tricky, I was keen to use some 19th-century glass we had in stock, previously salvaged from a Welsh Church dating to 1860. The glass was a large single pane with a beautiful cross pattern, and the restoration work required us to precisely cut the glazed panel into smaller pieces to fit the faceted lantern sides. Enlisting the expertise of Jolene Farmer we set about finding someone to cut the glass, Jolene had tried all her contacts in London but they all refused on the ground that they could not guarantee that the glass could be cut due to the age and complexity of the glass. In the end, we found someone in Dorset, who worked on old churches and was confident in cutting the glass. The skill and effort that goes into the restoration cannot be underestimated, the cost is also high but it’s an important part of the industry and is essential to save pieces from being lost forever.”

Welsh Church glass cut by Jamie Clark for the restoration ©Greencore Design
Lanterns after restoration ©Greencore Design

See Simon Wharton Antiques and Greencore Design at Bath Decorative Antiques Fair. Here are the details you need to know: 

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair
Date: 22-24 October 2021. Open 11am – 5pm
TRADE PREVIEW Thursday 21 October. Open 12noon – 5pm
Venue: The Pavilion, North Parade Road, Bath, BA2 4EU

Get your tickets here

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