Times may be tough for the some of the trade, but in west London 22 dealers have a good news story.
These are the shopkeepers of Lillie Road, Fulham, which has formed the Lillie Road Association (LRA) and is ‘soft launching’ its new identity as the Lillie Road Arts & Antiques Quarter. It is all part of a dealer-led council-funded programme aimed at celebrating the area and its place in the market while raising its profile and making it more buyer friendly.
As a destination for antiques, Lillie Road is not new.
It has long been a destination for trade buying, catering to interior designers and decorators. Shops such as Andrew Bewick Antiques and M Charpentier Antiques have been there for decades.
When dealers get a place on the road, they will sometimes move from one shop to another, changing street number but not the street itself (Henry Saywell, Quindry). Some travel to France on buying trips together; many stand at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea.
Among their number is Streett Marburg, who opened his shop there with partner Charlotte Casadéjus shortly before the first lockdown. He offers a huge range of decorative items from 17th century to modern vintage furniture of the 1980s.
He echoes an almost universal sentiment held by Lillie Road dealers when he praises the area for its variety, relative affordability and the affability of its members.
“There is a great mixture and there are some great characters,” he tells ATG. “You’ve got an amazing conglomerate of good dealers here. We aren’t cheap, but compared to all other areas in London we are reasonable.”
However, the recent formation of the LRA (which is responsible for the rebrand to an antiques quarter) gave the area a shot in the arm. Three of the Lillie Road dealers lead the LRA: treasurer Martyn Fowler (Puckhaber Decorative Antiques), Gwen Pilard (Quindry Antiques) and chairman Julian Green (DJ Green Eclectic).
The LRA started working with Hammersmith & Fulham Council in the spring, focusing first on parking for the street and bringing prices down to 60p per hour. It then applied for and was given a grant by the council for £5000 plus additional funding to redo the branding with local agency Chorus and to erect a series of banners marking the area. In all, the council contributed nearly £10,000.
Nicki Burgess, head of business development for the council, called it “a unique and important business hub for the borough and for London”.
She added: “We have been working closely with the Lillie Road Association to support its work.”
Though the immediate goal is to boost the quarter’s reputation in the trade, it is already an open secret. Set in a slightly anonymous part of town, a good stroll away from both Barons Court and Fulham Broadway Underground stations, rents are still comparatively low. Cheaper overheads allow dealers to keep prices achievable.
The formula - one-off items at lower price points - makes it irresistible to interior designers. One regular is Melissa Hamilton of Studio MHD, who has been coming to Lillie Road for 15 years and thinks of it as “central London’s little gem”.
“We love the dealers there because they’re very personable and there’s a good turnover of stock,” she says. “Prices are accessible for our clients,” she adds, explaining that she works with the owners of high-end residential properties around London.
Hamilton’s last visit to Lillie Road, a few weeks ago, consisted of a visit to about six shops, where she found various items to purchase on approval and several more pieces of interest.
Of the changes the LRA has instated, the most appealing to her is the introduction of a regular ‘open day’, when all storefronts will be staffed. On a road where many of the firms are one-man-bands, the occasional closed shop is necessary - how else can these dealers source new stock? But for Hamilton, “one day where all the shops are definitely open, I think that is a useful thing”.
The first Trade Day ran last week and continues every Thursday from 10am-6pm.
Among the newest dealers on the road is Phil Taylor, who specialises in rugs and kilims along with paintings, furniture, posters, and other interior items.
He opened in the summer of 2020, closely followed by Sam Kohn, who moved in next door. Taylor chose the spot for the interior design clientele but says would not mind seeing a wider audience too.
“We need to raise awareness in the private sector. It’s an industry secret at the moment - maybe the interior designers are protecting it. But it’s like the Decorative fair all year round. It’s easy to park, close to Chelsea, a great location. Obviously, it’s important to us to promote it,” Taylor says.
Helming the project alongside the LRA officers, and giving it a good deal of organisational thrust, is Laura Colborn. Though not from an antiques background she has a hand in the trade, working back of house at the Decorative fair and at Lillie Road’s DJ Green Eclectic.
She told ATG that the goal is to make the row of outlets “like a department store of 22 shops”.
Colborn’s hopes for the project include the introduction of a programme of public art as well as regular market events.
So far, though, she and the LRA have simply worked to give the area “a bit of a lift” with a simple message in mind: “Come look at Lillie Road.”
• More than 30 dealers
• 22 current shops
• Over 16,000 sq ft of retail showroom space
• Around 4500 items of stock
Lillie Road Dealers
• 269 Antiques
• 900 Art & Design
• Andrew Bewick
• Canford & Co Frames
• DJ Green Eclectic
• Fiat Lux Chandeliers
• Gear Antiques
• Henry Saywell
• Il Paralume
• James Iles
• James Jackson Antiquaire
• M Charpentier
• Maison Artefact
• Nimmo & Spooner
• Phil Taylor’s Cool Stuff
• Sam Kohn Fine Living
• Shane Meredith
• Strett Marburg
• Willow Antiques