Natural Room Emporium
Two years ago we wrote about Grahame Booth of the Natural Room Emporium who ran an antiques and vintage business from his home in the village of Killinchy in Co Down, Northern Ireland.
At the end of 2018, Booth and his wife Jenny bought shop premises in the small town of Comber, 10 miles south of Belfast, and business has soared.
Some of this is certainly down to the knock-on effect of Northern Ireland’s ‘screen tourism’, with Game of Thrones alone bringing an estimated 120,000 visitors a year to visit locations across the region where the series was filmed.
However, for the Booths it is the slow renaissance of the town itself which has been key. As a recent migrant to Northern Ireland last year myself, you know something special is going on when a delicatessen, an artisan bakery, an art gallery, a coffee shop selling speciality blends and a farmers’ market open in a small place like Comber.
Grahame used to buy a lot at local auctions but because he feels that quality has declined and there are more fairs held across the Irish Sea, he now makes the trip over to England monthly to cover IACF Newark, Arthur Swallow Fairs at Lincoln and as many antiques centres nearby as he can fit in for a full vanload. Sometimes dealers come to his shop, buy a piece of furniture he has purchased in England and sell it back there.
The Booths’ shop is a mixture of antique and vintage furniture – desks do well at the moment, Welsh dressers do not – taxidermy, and decorative pieces, plus a pop-up gallery which is booked solid until June and over Christmas.
“Furniture prices here range from under £100 for a Victorian hall chair up to £1950 for a ecclesiastical display cabinet. Small items start at £5 for a vintage glass demi-john,” said Grahame. a member of the local chamber of commerce.
“I hope our business continues to grow in Comber. It’s a thriving town with exciting new, independent businesses opening and we look forward to being a part of that.”
Beetle & Wilde
Caz and Rich Oliver run their interiors business Beetle & Wilde, specialising in natural history, from their Victorian home in Ramsgate.
It is stuffed full of their purchases including mid-century furniture and lots of vintage skulls and antlers. They buy locally from the town’s Petticoat Lane Emporium and Arch 16 and at IACF Ardingly, B2B at Detling and Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park.
Ecologist Caz has always had a love of the natural world. “We sell a lot of natural history pieces like antlers, horns and skulls and look for symmetry, interesting shapes and a good patina as well as number of points on antlers,” she said.
“Best-sellers are our small roe deer antlers at £25, while 10-point antlers are from £150-250.
“We are always on the look-out for items that are unusual and edgy. But the most important thing is quality. We love a bit of rust and patina, but good quality is key.”
Regarding their business name, it could have been Coleoptera & Wilde – but Rich thought that no-one would get this Latin name for beetle.