Dealers facing rising rents and rates as well as shifting fashions often have to get creative, particularly when large stock demands space for storage and show. However, a growing number are finding a solution to these challenges in Battersea’s Ingate Place.
The large complex, formerly a furniture depository, was built in the early 20th century and now contains around 100 units serving as office spaces and showrooms.
It has been home to various restorers, craftspeople and dealers over the years, but a recent wave of dealer newcomers have arrived with an eye to raising the site’s profile as an antiques destination.
First it was Kate Thurlow of Gallery Forty One, who moved in around four years ago with her business partner Tony Bunzl. Adam Calvert Bentley and his business partner Lucinda Chetwode (formerly of Ardgowan Antiques) then arrived in June.
Most recently, Jean and Doug Hill of Maison & Jardin joined (they also rent at Lorfords in Gloucestershire)and are just putting the finishing touches on their Ingate Place studio.
This might not be quite the reality of a traditional shop – think more of a street-level front in a London antiques district where regulars and passing trade pop in to snap up the newest stock.
But that conventional option, as far as it exists, is becoming ever more expensive to achieve.
As Doug points out: “So many dealers are being hammered so badly they can’t afford to run shops. Fashions change and costs go up. This place is a showroom and storeroom and it’s got a lot of potential.”
The Hills moved back to the UK around four years ago after many years working in France. They now live in Battersea and enjoyed successful stints at the nearby Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, but battling traffic to their storage facility in Greenwich had become a regular headache.
It was their fellow decorative fair dealer Thurlow who suggested taking a look at the Ingate studios.
“I heard Kate and Adam were here and I thought the place was really nice,” Doug says. “There’s a good atmosphere and the more dealers that take these studios, the better.” The Hills moved in last month.
“Decorators and interior designers don’t mind about not having a shopfront. They want a proper showroom
The burgeoning antiques hub has clear advantages. An expanse of free parking helps, for example, a rarity for London, and commercial lifts make moving the larger stock easier.
It’s easy to operate by appointment and get away for buying expeditions (for the Hills this means time to get to Europe where they source all their stock).
And there’s the bonus of proximity to the Battersea decorative fair for those that show there (Thurlow, Bentley and the Hills all do). Most importantly, plenty of space and high ceilings can accomodate objects of all shapes and sizes.
“It’s an unassuming place but it’s a good alternative.” says Bentley, who describes the space as a sort of well-organised Aladdin’s cave. “Decorators and interior designers don’t mind about not having a shopfront. They want a proper showroom.”
Like Doug, he is keen to get other members of the trade in to join both this latest clutch of dealers as well as those who predate them. It’s a sociable environment, he adds, with not just other dealers but also restorers and craftspeople filling the first-floor units.
“The more of us are here, the more it will be on the map
Restorer and dealer Elizabeth Street Antiques, for example, also operates from the site, as do long-term residents such as furniture restorer Jonathan Storrs and Morgan Davies of Vaughan Antiques.
While Ingate Place is, on one hand, a slightly unconventional space, it is also tried and tested, a logical space for the modern dealer.
“The more of us are here, the more it will be on the map,” Doug adds. “People could come here and visit several dealers at once – then it becomes an attraction.”