My interest in furniture started at a very young age from a visit to my Grandmother ’Gammie', who lived in Winnipeg, Canada, in a house furnished in ’The English Taste'.
We always dined formerly, seated on Georgian chairs around a Georgian table; dressed with Victorian crockery, Birks sterling, crystal glasses, and aquatint place-mats depicting English cathedrals. In this room, against the wall, was a handsome walnut veneered William and Mary cupboard-on- stand. It stood on sculptural barley-twist legs and the plain cupboard doors opened to display a mass of little drawers surrounding a small cupboard.
I was fascinated by this stately piece of furniture, which in quieter moments I explored unsure as to whether I was transgressing Gammie’s house rules. I suppose my interest in old well-crafted furniture started here, but the decision to become a furniture restorer came much later: Some time after I had left home I was visiting my mother in the house that myself and my brothers had grown up in.
I was on the hunt for some kitchen chairs and I knew there to be some unwanted ones in the garden shed. I made my way down the over-grown garden and came to the shed door, which had remained closed for many years. Ivy wove in and out of the loose clapper boards and broken windows. I yanked the rusty handle until enough tendrils tore and loosened to allow the door ajar. I squeezed through to enter. Rusty tools, broken mowers, piles of timber, sagging mould-flocked boxes, and discarded furniture lay undisturbed covered in gritty dust and cobwebs. Partially hidden nearby was a small oak table. I pulled it free from the clutter and set it down outside. In Isolation I was able to survey it more thoroughly and was struck by its simple elegance. The legs gently tapered towards the ground and narrow flaps hung from the long edge of the rectangular top. The flaps of the table were stuck and unable to move but I could see that when open these flaps created a square surface with softly rounded corners large enough to seat a cosy four. I was immediately inspired to try and bring this lovely little table, that I remembered from my childhood, back to life. I felt a bit like Caractacus Potts, from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, transforming the old Grand Prix car into his dream machine. It was very rewarding and I thought I could enjoy a career in restoration.
From here I restored some other bits and pieces and then went onto study Furniture and Furniture Restoration at the London College of Furniture on Commercial Road in London. I then worked for a couple of different restoration companies. In 1997 I set up my own studio, restoring furniture for private clients and London Antique dealers.
In 2015 we moved to Hastings and set up Pelham’s fine furniture & ceramics.