Nick Jones specialises in 18th to 20th-century antiques at his shop in Church Street, Marylebone. A regular exhibitor at the thrice yearly Decorative Fair in Battersea, he shares his pick of top destinations for some antique hunting in London.
If money was no object, where should we go antique hunting in London?
For me, there are so many really fantastic shops on Church Street that I wouldn’t have to stray far from Marylebone. But, slightly farther away, I would recommend M Charpentier in Lillie Road, Fulham. It’s run by Alix and Camilla Charpentier who grew up dealing in antiques and have the most amazing eye. They stock an eclectic mix – from decorative furniture, to mercury mirrors and garden ornaments and just get it right. They have innate style.
Another dealer on my list would be Schmid McDonagh, here in Church Street – again another dealer with an excellent eye. Another must-visit dealer, also in Church Street, is the legendary Simon Sprake whose style I really admire. His striking window displays are worth a trip on their own. His shop is notorious among Londoners ‘in the know’ for having some unbelievable treasures. He specialises in one-of-a-kind items from fantastical French and English furniture to voodoo dolls.
What about if you were on a budget?
One dealer who springs to mind is Andrew Collier but, because he is based in Nottingham, you’d have to time your visit to coincide with when he is at one of the London fairs. He specialises in oddities, curiosities and gentlemen’s paraphernalia and his stuff is not only great, but really, really affordable. You could start a collection with Andrew for £20.
What antiques do you collect?
Bronze sculptural figures. I’m not sure how it happened but my home is full of them. I don’t collect for the sake of it, I buy things that I love. if you just collect one thing you are rather restricted. I’ll buy anything from a Chinese screen to a piece of German ceramics. I am also a great fan of Empire furniture and now is a great time to buy. I recently bought a Queen Anne chest, a few years ago it would have cost £12,000, I bought it for £3,000.
What areas are currently selling well?
Lighting has suddenly taken off. It might sound odd but, come the autumn, when people start switching the lights on, lighting becomes a top seller. At the moment it’s 1950s Italian floor lamps, as well as ceiling lights. Popular furniture at the moment is earlier – from the 1820s-1900. People don’t buy in the same way they used to. Today the criteria is how it will look in the home. People might buy more than one, say, Clarice Cliff vase but it would be because they look good on a particular table, not because they collect art deco ceramics.
Portobello Market on a Saturday, but you need to get there early because it’s pretty much over by 11.30am; the fairs at Alexandra Palace; the “Horti” Sunday fairs at the Royal Horticultural Halls, Elverton Street, are terrific and the Decorative Fair Battersea is a must visit. In fact, if I had one tip it would be for visitors to coincide their visit with the Decorative Fair. All the exhibitors, including myself, take new stock previously unseen. I’m taking a pair of Spanish green-veined marbled console tables and a pair of gilt mirrors decorated with gilt feathers. It’s a chance for dealers to showcase their stock to interior designers, as well impress potential new clients – so there are some wonderful things on show, all of which are vetted.
Recommend your top London museums or galleries that are a must for antique lovers?
If you are looking to develop an eye, or learn about craftsmanship there is no better place to start than museums. I love the British Museum for its antiquities. Also Tate Britain and the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln Inn Fields. The Wallace Collection, which is open seven days a week and free to enter, is an absolute must for anyone interested in antiques.