If it’s good enough for Madonna
A new vintage home store has got the A list frothing at the mouth with excitement. Second-hand furniture has never been so chic, says Bronwyn Cosgrave on today’s Times
When Donatella Versace asked Michael Howells, the London-based production designer, to create the backdrop for her spring/summer 2005 womenswear ad campaign shot by Mario Testino, she advised him to think big and imagine its star, Madonna, as a Los Angeles music mogul lounging around in a palatial white office.
Howells is accustomed to conjuring up mega fashion-fantasy set designs for the blockbuster catwalk shows of clients John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, and, as he listened to Versace describe the “pure” and “clean” environment she imagined for the shoot, one place immediately came to mind: Revival, a small vintage-furniture emporium in London?s Notting Hill.
Howells noticed Revival shortly after it opened in November 2004, and was drawn inside by the Perspex furniture gleaming through the shop window. Convinced that these pieces would set off Versace?s sartorial glitz, he picked up a glass dining table and a chunky, cubist-inspired lamp, both with bases made from Perspex.
As Madonna worked her magic on the shoot, the furniture caught Testino?s eye. Soon after the cameras had been packed up, one of his assistants called to ask where it had come from. Meanwhile, other customers were expressing an interest in the table, which began life in 1950s Miami. ?It sold two days after it was returned from the shoot,? says Jenny-lyn Hart, Revival?s co-proprietor. Whether the sale was prompted by the affordable price tag (at £2,000, it was the most expensive item in the shop) or the celebrity endorsement is anyone?s guess.
Hart is a rare breed among shopkeepers in today?s celebrity-obsessed age, where a famous name attached to a product guarantees a sale. She keeps her clients as close to her chest as her sources (although it is rumoured that Naomi Campbell?s stylist and Julien Macdonald have both dropped into the shop to see what is on offer).
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Part of Revival?s success is down to the prices. Hart keeps her mark-ups to a minimum. This ensures that turnover is high and the shop always looks fresh. ?It?s about equality,? she explains. ?I like the idea that everybody should be able to afford beautiful things.?
Her interiors credentials play another part. A stylish caramel-blonde Australian, Hart has lived in London for nine years, and has worked with some of the best names in interior design. She assisted the society decorator David Gill when he opened his enormous rare-furniture gallery in Vauxhall in 2000, then moved on to manage Valerie Wade, the chic Chelsea furniture shop. Revival came about when one of Hart?s best contacts, the expert upholsterer Seamus Kelly (whose work can be found in the London homes of members of U2), moved his workshop to the basement of his building and offered her the chance to open a boutique above.
Hart explains her approach to selling as simply ?fusion? ? juxtaposing treasures drawn from different eras of the 20th century and enhancing old finds with modern decorative techniques. The result is a space that is a homey hybrid of period pieces. “I?m a hunter-gatherer,? she explains. ?And this is where I put my finds on show.”