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Friday, 13 February 2015

Decorative Antiques, How We Started, Buying Antiques in and around Arundel & Paint Workshops.

Good Morning
Arundel Eccentrics


 How we started and our paint workshops 

The first time I tried to paint and distress furniture,
 was about twenty years ago.

The offending item was a Habitat coffee table,
with no real age to it, probably 1970's.

It had become scruffy and
 offensive to my eye.

  I had heard there were ways to
paint and distress furniture
 to give a
more interesting aged look to it,
but didn't know where to start looking.

No pc's or Internet then.

No Google to ask.

So I rang an artist friend,
 ( Yep we still just phoned
each other in those days,)
She talked me through sanding the wood back
 and painting it with emulsion, then waxing it.

(Wow, that was a revelation in itself.
We only used emulsion  on walls and ceilings.) 

"What wax?"
"Where do I go to get all this stuff?"
Her reply?
" Don't worry if you can't find the furniture wax,
you can just use brown boot polish"

That's exactly what I did.
the Tuxan mid brown came out and so,
 my first aged and distressed
 piece was completed.

Eighteen years ago, I met my dear friend, Allie.
We worked  the evening shift at
the Trading Post.
The shop at
Body Shop headquarters
 in Littlehampton.

Allie was the evening manageress.

After chatting through coffee breaks
we saw we were both into making
and creating all sorts of things.

We laughed as we talked about
 the same creative milestones.

Macramé and candle making,
crochet and card making, 
and a hundred other things

So, we thought we could
 make a bit of extra cash,
selling on market stalls.

It was my bright idea
to look for a place to work,
and possibly sell from.

We found an old warehouse, 
a 19th century brewery building, 
hidden away in a little side
street in Arundel where I lived.

It was in a total mess.
 Filthy, damp
 and filled to bursting with kitchen units.

They were stacked floor to ceiling.
Left behind by a company who
 had gone into liquidation 

Together with another Body Shop friend, Zoe,
we moved in.

We had an army of helpers and friends
 from Body Shop HQ.
They cleared, cleaned and painted
 and we opened our
warehouse in less than a week.

"Ambiance" was born.

The name was something
 we bashed around for days.
Well...we only had days. 

We went to London to buy stock 
at one of the importers.
Our plan was to have a mix
of old and new.

On the way we had a snack in one of
 the new kind of restaurants
  that had begun springing 
up all over the place....

Cafe Rouge.

Afterwards, we stood outside,
and remarked on the ...the...the...
"What IS that word?"

  "AMBIANCE" Allie yelled.
We jumped up and down and hugged each other.
All so excited by our new venture.

Passers by looked at us as if we were barmy.

At the opening, looking back,
we barely had anything in
 the massive warehouse.
Never mind,  the place was filled with friends
 generously wishing us well,
 and supporting our new venture.
That was good enough for us.

Even Gordon Roddick, 
head of  Body Shop, 
turned out to say
"Good luck"

We suspected our
business would never be
 QUITE as successful as his. LOL

We hardly had any stock.

Well, we hardly had any money.

I had recently lost my job and had previously
been signing on and Allie was bringing up
two very young children.

Somehow, don't ask me how we did it,
we managed  to buy cheap items of furniture 
to restore and decorate.
Mostly 1930's and 40's.

There were many more junk shops around then.

And we went to all the local car boots.

 Eventually we built up  
quite a collection of interesting pieces
 and a loyal following of fans.

We began teaching ourselves 
to paint furniture, decoupage, craquelure and gild.

We scoured books, magazines and experimented.
Went on workshops.

I had never owned a microwave, 
didn't have a clue how they worked.

We were in

Allie's kitchen, 
warming different coloured waxes.
I nearly blew the house up.

We had seen an article somewhere 
and as a result painted an old 1930's cupboard,
grey,I think it was.
Then as per the article
 used different coloured waxes
 to cover, and eventually,
 merged them all in together.

The piece we were experimenting on came out beautifully......
...........but the microwave was never the same again.

The warehouse, though a great space,
was a little off the main street,
and down an alley,
(or twitten, as we say,
down south)

I used to drag Allie out leaflet dropping.

Oh! how she hated it and groaned.

She still sighs, to this day,

at the very thought of it.

We would go round the town, 

handing out leaflets,
Putting them on cars,
Through letter boxes....... get back and put the kettle on,
and by the time the brew was ready,
people were coming round.

 The landlord allowed us to use
 the front of the building, (now the right side of
William Hill,) for the summer months.
It was empty, but was to become a tea shop later in the year.

We went in overnight.
An early pop up shop.

Location, location, location.

It's true what they say isn't it?

We took more in the first week 
than we had in six months around the back.

But more than that, we had a window on the world.

An Arundel antique dealer,
who was, still is, one of the most
 prestigious in the country,
 saw what we were doing and
as luck would have it, 
was looking for someone to decorate 
his Victorian Bamboo
furniture.....with decoupage.

A  good friend, Julie, also from the Body Shop days
 was working there,
and she kindly introduced us.

The previous bamboo person 
was going to teach us.

 It was all arranged.

Until he 
 handed in his notice, from a foreign
location, by email.

That, it appeared, was that.

We put the phone down devastated.

We really needed this break and without
the person to teach us how,
the whole idea was  doomed from the start. 

 We thought about it.
It took only seconds and called back.

"What about if you talk us through the recipe
 and we do a couple of samples?
If they are good, then we are on,
 but if they are not up
 to your standard,
 then we shall

Bear in mind, we were small fry,
 and, as far as we were concerned,
this was an internationally
 known antique god
 we were
talking to.

We were quaking in our boots when we made that call.

We were given a bamboo cabinet to work on.
It was to be painted a saffron yellow,
 then crackle glazed 
 and the same 
gorgeous yellow,
as a top coat.

Antique wax was to be applied
 to sit in the cracks, 
giving a fantastic aged look.

Only problem was, 
we hadn't even attempted crackle glaze.

Out came the books, and we studied all we could find on crackle.

The expert we found the most information
was Jocasta Innes, (remember her?)
and, as luck would have it,
there was one of her Paint Magic shops
in Arundel High Street.

How to put it on?
Her books suggested in a haphazard way.
I forget who did the first brush stroke,
we both hovered over the piece
 with loaded brushes
"You go first"
"No, you first"

Well, we finished over a  few days
working on it in the back of the shop
between customers.

The last wax was on and 
we were ecstatically buffing it up,
 late at night, when Julie passed by
and saw the lights on.

We swept her in to the shop and with a
flourish proudly showed her the cabinet.

To our horror, and massive disappointment,
 Julie shook her head and said,
"Oh dear, he won't like that"
We had done large haphazard cracks,
and what were required were
small, neat,
cracks in a

We decided there was nothing else for it, 
if we were to get this job,
we had to do the whole thing all over again.

We re-did the piece, and as far as
 I know it was a pretty good finish.
Well we got the job,
so I guess it must have been ok.

After that,  we worked on
Victorian bamboo tables for some time.

We used the opportunity wisely and learnt a massive amount
 about painting and ageing on
some glorious items of furniture.

With  our humble income,
we would never have had
access to these huge French armoires
and other stylish continental antiques.

As luck would have it, the company were also
looking for an extra man on their team.
Nass went to work in the shop, on a days trial.
He stayed 14 years.

Fifteen years ago
I opened my own shop.

  In Nineveh House in Tarrant Street, Arundel.

I kept the Ambiance name,
but later changed it to
Arundel Eccentrics.

At the same time I found a workshop to use
as a studio/showroom
 on a farm in Binsted,
a little village just outside Arundel.


By then, I had taken over the
Victorian Bamboo myself
and had  US trade customers 
who came
 to visit me regularly.

They loved the
higgledy piggledy - ness
( is that a real word?
Well, you know what I mean...)
of  driving down country lanes and tramping
 through mud to get to my hidden away studio.

Actually, it was more successful, than sitting in the shop,
so I gave that up and operated from my studio,
working on 19th century
 chests of drawers and  Bamboo
 & selling to the trade.

The images and look worked well on bamboo
I wondered if it would work equally well
on larger pieces of furniture.

our warehouse
a 19th century brewery warehouse.
The last remaining building of the Arundel Swallow Brewery.

I found a Georgian chest that was so battered
but a beautiful shape.
Decided to give it a try.

It went to a shop in NYC.
Two years later, in turned up in the prestigious US interiors magazine
Architectural Digest. Exciting stuff

Occasionally, I would pop up in one of the
 many antique centres that were  around the town,
and stay for a year or two.

I needed to have my pieces seen.
I stalled out at antique fairs 
such as Newark and Ardingly,
sleeping in the van overnight.

Brrrrrr cold sometimes.

Building up a business is hard hey?
Sometimes, you need
 bread and butter money
 while you are doing it.

the BBC came to film at the warehouse for Antiques Celebrity Roadtrip

.....with the actress Alison Steadman

So I took a night job.

Full time nights at a residential home for
"Adolescents with Challenging Behaviour".

It was, at times, wild.
Scary too.
Those kids were damaged.

I could tell you stories that would
 make dead straight hair, curl.

It was exhausting trying to juggle the two, 
and sometimes I worked on furniture all day,
worked a wild night shift,
 drove back to Arundel to see clients.

Often I'd  finish a piece of furniture 
throw a dinner in the slow cooker, at 2pm.
Sink into a fitful slumber.
Up at 6pm.
Shower eat and out the door by 7pm


Oh my, it was quite a seven years.
I aged by 10.

I eventually gave up a couple of years ago.

Wanted  to concentrate on what I do best.

My furniture.
Also wanted to start the workshops
that many people had nagged me to do.

What are relief  not to chase absconders over
 the south of England, or collect naughties 
from London police stations in dead of night.

Having said that, I did the job to the
 very best of my ability,
 and staff and most
 of the kids seemed to quite like me.

I hoped in some small way, 
I changed a young life along the way.

I didn't want  
  to be in that particular 
 front line any more, but 
I wouldn't have missed the
 experience for anything.
It opened my eyes to a lot. 

Last year one of those kids tracked me down.

Now in her early twenties she told me how I'd changed her life.
She was working for a local authority 
helping kids who were as damaged
 and lost as she had once been.
Nice hey?

 Four years ago, Nass and two friends
 set up an antiques warehouse.
Guess where?

Yes, the very same place I had started all those years ago.
So, I shared the space with them.
Talk about going full circle.

Almost 20 years later. LOL

Nass and I now share the warehouse.
He set up Nass Interiors
and we work along side each other.

We work on pieces in the studio
at the end of our garden.
it's right by the river Arun in beautiful Arundel.

Nass deals in all types of decorative antique furniture

This is work my aunt does.
She paints beautifully.

that's one clever aunty.

When I started the business my grandfather, her father was delighted.
He said I'd come into the business through the back door.

Grandad had been a restorer and decorator for many years.

We couldn't get him to retire,
he eventually stopped working when he was 88 years old.

My aunt took over the business he had started,

And I concentrate on the  upcycling side of things.

Victorian bamboo

And chests of drawers .........
...........French bedsides

hand painted tartan

music on a 19th century chest

one of our pieces in House and Garden mag

 galvanised metal and wood items

One of our pieces in Liberty.
Gilt and decoupage bamboo table

Deed boxes

 old cooking pots

Anything that needs a lift.
I paint and decorate using decoupage.
Sometimes I gild and decoupage.

Once when I had pieces in an
antique centre in Arundel High Street,
now a restaurant,
a grown up daughter and mother came in.
The daughter looked at a gilt fish chest of drawers.

"Oh look Mummy, what a lovely chest of drawers."
"Dahling, its absolutely hideous."

Ha Ha but never ignored n'est pas?

We source pieces everywhere.
car boots and antique fairs.

So saying Ardingly Antiques Fair next week.
If you've never been
put it in the diary.

Some of our pieces in Liberty in London

one of our tables in Liberty London...exciting hey?

My son Jay is a menswear designer in California.
He says in their business, 
it takes you 10 years to become an overnight success.

You beaver away quietly and then suddenly everyone knows you 
and thinks you have come from no-where.

Well, lets hope that after 20 years
Arundel Eccentrics will be an
overnight success............

and if  its not...

I've certainly had fun and learnt a huge amount, trying..........
An Arundel Eccentrics gilt Victorian Bamboo Homes and Gardens Magazine

My dream?
To have a shop in the US with my sons
menswear clothes displayed on and in our
antique decorative furniture.

He lives on Laguna Beach.
What better place for our shells and fish decorative pieces to be. LOL

Decorative Antiques and Interiors 

Where to buy in and around Arundel.

Looking for antiques or interior pieces? Something interesting  for your home.
Maybe a cheap and cheerful battered bargain to paint and up cycle  with your own individual style.
Or a beautiful investment decorative item that you can put immediately in  pride of place.
Your taste in interiors could be traditional or it might be contemporary. Possibly  even bordering on the wacky. Alternatively you might  just want to browse and see what catches your eye and suits your wallet.

Arundel with its diverse collection of individual  shops ,warehouses  and car boots, could hold the answer. Lets start with the latter. If you have never driven down to Ford airfield bleary eyed at 7.30 on a Thursday or Saturday morning you've missed a treat.  The car boot  starts early . Sellers queue and snooze  in cars and vans from around 3am.  Some come for miles as Ford Car Boot is renowned for being  the best in the area. Vendors even  travel from France and Holland.

You COULD saunter down later in the morning  after a leisurely breakfast.  But you would miss the buzz. Trade and private buyers alike, dashing to  peer into the backs of unloading vans and cars.  The deal often clinched before the item has even seen the light of day. You'll  possibly walk back to your car clutching a real gem of a bargain. But if you haven't found that perfect item ,there are local flower  and book sellers, bread stalls and coffee stands to help you cope with disappointment.
And there's always next week.

Back in Arundel itself  and  down Tarrant Street you will find Antiquities, Vintage Maison, Gasnier and Daughters and Nineveh House. A myriad of antique and vintage items of furniture or small collectables.
If its art you are after look no further than the Zimmer Stewart gallery  or  Arundel Art Room.
While you wander,  do look beyond the main streets, for Arundel holds so many  hidden gems.
Go inside the arcade in Tarrant Street and check out the Walking Stick Shop with its many antique canes. If you are looking for an antique picture restorer  you'll find one in Tarrant Street.

In Arundel High Street , there is the Old Print Shop, Spencer Swaffer Antiques, Scandinavian Collectables, Crown Antiques, Bridge Antique Centre and Arundel Antiques  Warehouse..........Phew

Maybe stop at the vintage style cafe, Lula Mae for sustenance.
Or the Tudor Rose  and afterwards peruse the area in their basement displaying antique and vintage small items.

Venture over the bridge and down the little alley next to William Hill. Turn left at the end and you will find the only remaining buildings of the 19th century Arundel Swallow Brewery. Relatively untouched, the three large brewery warehouses are  now home to decorative antique and interiors showrooms in the quirkiest of settings.  French Loft, Harmony Trading, Arundel Eccentrics and Nass Interiors all trade from what is fast becoming  a snoopers paradise.

You will need to drive to The Vinery at Poling  just outside Arundel. It's one of the areas best  kept antique shopping secrets and well worth investigating.The site was for many years a mushroom farm. Now the long tunnels are home to antique dealers and restorers. There is even a shipper should you want to send antiques to far flung  destinations.
Most are open in the week and Saturday morning, but be aware the gates are closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

There are antique and interiors traders working from all manner of places. Check out the farm shop at  Crossbush just up the road from Arundel and you will find as well as  their  free range organic meat, vintage items stacked up just outside the front door. If its antique mirrors you want, you might want to contact Clealls Antiques  at Lyminster who work by appointment  from their lovely home.

For details of  antiques and interiors venues and their opening times go to ;

Paint and decorate furniture workshops

Learn to
paint & distress,
wax and age,
crackle and craquelure
& gild.....
make an old piece of furniture
found unloved,
looking seriously
destined for the rubbish tip,
into, at the most, a work of art
& treasured heirloom
at the very least
very much more beautiful than it did.
At the same time, enjoying
the tranquillity
of our
Riverside Studio
in the beautiful,
country town of Arundel,
you will be learning in a small friendly class
and enjoying a tasty, vegetarian lunch
with a glass of wine.

I know, I know, 
 they really are as fun as they sound

Three friends who wanted to spend the day together.
and yes...they were hilarious.

We have met some lovely people
 and had some
 great workshops. 

Here is what some of them have to say.....

"What a wonderful, inspirational day,
I loved every minute of it"

"What an incredible experience
 doing decoupage with Brenda."

Ha ha this person added

"her ideas and her talent are endless,
her charm is delightful,
now add her scrumptious lunch
and you won't want to leave"

Thank you Sandy,
I only just noticed all those 
wonderful things you said, 
and now my head is 
so large I cannot get
 out of my house through the door.
I would also like to officially
 sign you up as my agent.

" I never thought I could 
do anything remotely usable"
said Chrissie,
who turned this

and this

into this...she had NEVER done anything like this before.

We use all sorts of products
and introduce people to 

painting, distressing and waxing,
crackle glaze,
 and aging pieces in all different ways.

A day costs £95, but if you would
 like to do the whole weekend,with a friend or two,
we will do both days for £145 per person.

Watch this space for
2015 dates.

Have a great day.

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