THERE is a nostalgia for the past in the current economic climate – perhaps one of the many consequences of recession – that is increasingly drawing nest-building shoppers away from high-street stores to little out-of-the way shops stuffed with eclectic jumbles of ageing leather chairs, carved wooden chests, railway carriage seats, and antique signage.
It is perhaps not fashion alone that accounts for the popularity of such goods; anything that has been around for thirty or forty years and is still in good nick will likely last for a fair few years yet.
Not surprisingly, purveyors of vintage furniture have sprouted up in abundance in Hackney over the past few years, with concentrations in Finsbury Park, Stoke Newington Church Street and London Fields. Prices here are far more reasonable than you will find in most of London’s more central antique centres, and proximity to your home can be a distinct advantage when it comes to bulky purchases.
Starting in Finsbury Park, ‘87’ on Blackstock Road boasts a wide range of 1950s-1970s homeware, with particularly good ranges of chairs, sofas, lights, and lamps.
Around the corner in Mountgrove Road is Bennet & Brown, perhaps the most charming of the shops in the area, with an excellent selection of lovingly-restored furniture and fittings, many of which are from the first half of the twentieth century. ‘Interesting things to buy’ is the shop’s fitting motto; of particular note are the fine oak pieces and unusual antique toys.
You may also want to come here if you don’t fancy spending your weekends stripping paint from that slightly-battered piece you found in a junk shop. Furniture restoration is in fact the main occupation of owner Dominic Bennet. As he explains, people like the idea of buying vintage furniture in part because the items tend to come from nearby, thereby reducing their ‘furniture miles’.
Dominic sources almost all of his stock from within the M25, and for the ethically-conscious, he notes an additional advantage of buying vintage: “It is almost certainly sustainably sourced if it’s pre-war, because that’s just what they did then.”
Moving east to Stoke Newington, we come to another hotspot, based around Church Street. The Cobbled Yard on Bouverie Road is the largest vintage furniture shop in the borough, featuring a showroom in a former stables opening onto the eponymous cobbled yard.
Across the street in Bouverie Mews there is an even larger second space, open at weekends, that is well worth a visit for its historic value alone. As Cobbled Yard owner Carole Lucas explains, Bouverie Hall ballroom still has the original sprung floor and oak-panelled ceiling that once adorned this former function room and dance academy.
The size of this space makes it possible to display a range of larger items that would not fit in most vintage goods shops, so this is the place to go if you are on the lookout for a wardrobe, a table or an armchair. There is an especially good selection of tables and chairs, as the shop caters for the pub and restaurant trade as well as selling retail.
The Cobbled Yard does not specialise in any particular period, but it generally has a wide range of Victorian wooden items, in addition to more recent things. If the piece you want to buy is in less than perfect condition, the shop also offers a restoration service.
To finish off decorating your home, you may want to have a look in the pair of smaller vintage shops on Church Street itself – Nanadobbie and Pictures & Light – both of which feature items from the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s. Nanadobbie is a great place to look for glass and ceramics, while prints and posters feature strongly in the collectibles to be found at Pictures & Light.
The third main area of concentration of vintage furniture is London Fields. Here we find what is perhaps the most unusual shop of its kind in Hackney – the Dog and Wardrobe. This tiny space on the ground floor of Regent Studios is open at the weekend and during the week by appointment.
Owners Jane and V spend their most of their weekdays as designers working on shop displays, windows and props. Many of the goods in the shop represent over-flow from the couple’s week-time work, so you will often find multiples of a single type: from globes and desk lamps to 1950s bevelled mirrors, brass lettering and even animal skulls.
The Dog and Wardrobe benefits from ample space outside, where shoppers can sift through bigger pieces such as chairs and tables. Jane and V will also source items for customers on demand, which makes them popular with celebrities and locals alike.
Just north on Broadway Market, there are another two places worth a look. Stella Blunt has a choice selection of mostly smaller items; especially noteworthy is the glassware to be found in this shop. A few doors down is Broadway Retro, with a varied collection of furniture and bric-a-brac from the 1950s-1970s. Here’s the full list of the outlets reviewed:
87 Blackstock Road N4 2JW
07751 906 739
Bennet and Brown
84 Mountgrove Road N5 2LT
020 7704 9200
The Cobbled Yard
1 Bouverie Road N16 0AH
020 8809 5286
106 Stoke Newington Church Street N16 0LA
020 7923 0391
Pictures & Light
41 Stoke Newington Church Street
020 7923 7923
The Dog and Wardrobe
Unit 3B Regent Studios
8 Andrews Road E8 4QN
07855 958 741
75 Broadway Market E8 4PH
07958 716 916
16 Broadway Market E8 4QJ
07858 771 803