What was the first antique you ever acquired?
Some things you never forget! I was in Brick Lane at 4am on a Sunday morning (it used to be a great place for antiques) when I spotted an elegant, but roughly painted, Victorian chest of drawers. Armed with a little money and no knowledge I moved in. £35 later I was the proud owner. It turned out the veneers on the sides were missing while the top was a piece of heavily-glued formica! Removing it was almost impossible. I managed to pass it on to another dealer who fancied a project. Zero loss, zero profit but a free lesson!
Why, and when, did you start in the business?
As with many people in this business it was my predecessors who sparked my interest. My father was a
rug dealer, as was his father and, before that, my great grandparents – who dealt in antique rugs in Prague before coming to this country. I started working for my father at the age of 21. My first job was the terribly glamorous task of sweeping without creating dust. I started visiting Brick Lane looking for rugs, and bought other bits and pieces such as Victorian ceramics that I’d take to Camden Market and sell them there.
Who influenced you most when you started?
My father taught me a great deal about people. The lessons were observational. For example, you can’t learn how to be a good dealer if it’s not in the blood. Dealers are born and customers are made.
What piece would you still most like to find?
Although I am now a furniture dealer, the piece I would most like to find is a small-pattern Holbein rug from the late-15th or early-16th century. They were made in Anatolia (Turkey) and so-called because they were often depicted in the paintings of Hans Holbein.
Best buy and biggest mistake?
My best buy was a 15th-century Iznik tile that I discovered in a box of household tiles. It still makes me smile to think about it (and I still own it). When it comes to mistakes there are too many to mention. However, the best advice is to never regret, just move on.
What do you like most about today’s antiques business?
I love the energy that the new generation brings to the business. Young buyers are now dictating the look. As dealers we need to remain adaptable to change – or sink without trace.
What do you dislike most about today’s antiques business?
The plethora of antiques programmes on TV encouraging the public to ignore the asking price and make a ridiculous offer. Dealers work very hard to source the best and, to use us as entertainment, I find difficult to swallow.
Do you attend fairs? If so, which?
Buying is a passion. My family and colleagues call it an obsession. I travel to as many fairs across Europe as my marriage allows. As well as running it, I’ve exhibited at all three Battersea Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fairs for more than 20 years. You’d have to go a long way to find a harder-working group of dealers.
What is the reference book you couldn’t live without?
Identifying Marble by Jacques Dubarry de Lassale which is (now out of print), which I find invaluable. A lot of the furniture I buy includes marble and it’s fascinating to discover the variety of different marbles and fossilized stone that have been used for decoration over the centuries.
What is your favourite non-antiques activity?
I love travelling – the farther the better. India, where people just get on with life, is a personal favourite. I love the colours, the sights and the food…
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A personal chef would tick many boxes; or possibly a teleportation machine so I could zoom across Europe arriving instantly at fairs.