What’s the secret of Howe’s interior design recipe?

Have you noticed how the idea of a ‘soiree‘ or ‘salon‘ has been emerging as a way of bringing together like-minded people in the worlds of art and interiors? Talks by specialists, dinners with gorgeous ‘grammable’ tablescapes all put together with small groups of people who are, of course, networking – albeit in a much more subtle way. I have to say I didn’t hesitate when PR Georgie Pridden invited me along to meet a group of extremely interesting guests for a Midsummer Night’s supper in June. As a special one-off for Georgie, the venue for the evening was Howe’s achingly stylish showroom in London.

There are two Howe showrooms, one concentrates on their fabrics and wallcoverings and the other on furniture (both old and new) and interior design. The showrooms are in a part of Belgravia which has become a must-see destination because of its cluster of exquisite interior design showroom and window displays. If ever there was a perfect recipe (and food is very much part of this) for running a successful interior design/antique and furniture-making business, then Howe hold many of the key ingredients.

Below stairs

In collaboration with Plain English design company, Howe have installed in their Pimlico Road basement showroom a working kitchen with a studpendously long dresser and a row of pantry cupboards. It’s the sort of dream kitchen that TV/film script writers like Julian Fellowes have unwittingly embedded into our 21st Century design psyche!

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PR Georgie (wearing vintage 60s knitwear evening dress) adding the final touches to her table with the stupendously long Plain English kitchen dresser – which connects with several ‘pantry’ country house style cupboards at the end. Photo: Charis White.

Howe to begin?

I don’t know where to begin to talk about the many facets of Howe’s design business or in fact the evening I enjoyed there but I will start by saying it was one of the most special and enjoyable interiors events I have been to in a long time.

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Salon chair with deconstructed back in Beetled pewter linen with red leather handle, Made by Howe

Howe’s interior design recipe

  •  Add Christopher Howe’s 30 years of experience (along with 4 warehouses full of antiques) in the antiques trade
  •  Nurturing their 14 staff and 30 specialist crafts people to recreate and keep alive the techniques for antique furniture designs for their Made by Howe collections
  •  Having an eye for the quirky such as the signature Made by Howe partially exposed upholstery pieces (furniture made to antique designs but given a quirky deconstructed twist by leaving some of the bones of upholstery bare and open) but also for Howe’s own range of vegetable tanned leathers, handwoven linens, archival based fabric and wallpaper prints as well as vintage collections (Howe at 36 Bourne Street).
  • For cutting their own design groove and knowing that the next big wallpaper and fabric print trend is going to be small scale – even though they don’t do trends.
  •  Having a Plain English kitchen for the team to entertain clients which doubles up as the staff canteen (the team sit down to home cooked lunches of seasonal, local, sustainable food). Please note: the kitchen/showroom aren’t normally hired out as a venue.
  •  Creating a relaxed and welcoming environment for clients in the showroom helped by four-legged team member ‘Bear’ (Holly’s dog)
  • Marketing via a really fun and creative Instagram feed (liberally sprinkled with food shots).
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Howe’s Ladderback chair with immaculate red goatskin covered seat.
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17th Century style wrought iron bed Made by Howe for a project by @hardingandread in Bath. Pillows in vintage Swedish ticking and flags, c1950 Turkish rugs and drapes hung with vintage linen and mangle cloth. Photo: @Paul_massey for House & Garden
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Armchair covered in vintage ticking, Howe.
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Bobbin legged footstool in leather Made by Howe
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George III hall chair c1800 found by Howe
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Antique mirror in the Howe showroom with a wallpaper swatch of Cyprus Paper Cocoa one of around 9 small prints (which also come as a fabric). So excited to see this cocoa colourway as it is one I am quite partial to. Especially as you don’t see much cocoa colourways in current interiors collections – see my Instagram post below. Photo: Charis White
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I took this shot which I posted on Instagram in February this year as colour/print inspiration for an interior decorating scheme. I found it in the South Asian section of the V&A. Now so excited to find Howe’s Cyprus Cocoa wallpaper above!

A Midsummer Night’s supper

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Georgie Pridden’s gorgeous long table complete with daisy flowers in stone jars – set in the Howe downstairs dining/kitchen/showroom/office. Photo: Charis White.
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Lampshade in one of Howe’s small print fabrics on to linen from a loom specially built by Howe. Note how the pink frill is finished with pinking shears only. Photo: Charis White

Georgie, who lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children, cut her teeth working in the London art world for Christies and for art PR Cawdell Douglas (now trading as Golden Squared).

Howe’s friendly Bear

Christopher Howe and his daughter Holly (who is his partner in the business – both studied art at Goldsmiths) made us feel so relaxed and welcome. The group of 20 or so guests were a cross section of people connected with design from an illustrator/art school lecturer, to journalists, interior designer, antique and textile experts, a builder who specialises in decoration as well as a bespoke joiner, an artist, an embroiderer/ex museum curator and an owner/designer of a lifestyle brand.

I loved the fact that Holly’s sweet dog ‘Bear’ sat on my lap for some of the dinner. The result of this family affair meant that it didn’t feel like a worky work do at all. It was more like being at a private dinner party in the rather smart ‘below stairs’ kitchen of a country house.

Howe 19th Cen spindle turned chair Great Bear dog bed
‘Bear’ modelling Howe’s luxurious spindle wood turned dog bed.
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A Howe sofa called ‘dog bed‘ in the window at Howe. Covers are removable and washable. Perfect for larger dogs but also for Bears and Pandas alike. (Panda, if you didn’t know is the name of our miniature schnauzer!). Cushions made from vintage stripes.

The menu

Holly says that the menu was ‘so effortlessly put together by Georgie’ (who had come down that day from Yorkshire) in the Howe kitchen/pantry. Respect. We had a lovely summery supper of homemade quiches (from Tom Parker Bowles F&M cookbook – illustrations by Edward Bawden) with vegetables and salad that looked like they had just been picked a few minutes before. The piece de resistance was Georgie’s homemade Summer Pudding with clotted cream – really never had such a yummy one!

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This is the pantry section of the Plain English kitchen in the downstairs showroom at Howe. Photo: Charis White.

Personal

As well as dressing the long table with stone jars full of daisy flowers, Georgie had also run up on her sewing machine some bespoke napkins/place cards out of fabric for the evening. The homemade and the handmade always stands out for me – it is extremely personal and thoughtful.

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Photo: Charis White

Thank you

Thank you so much to Georgie, Christopher, Holly and to you for reading!

I hope you are enjoying or finding ways of surviving this extraordinary summer heat? It certainly makes me think about how we might wish to decorate/insulate our homes for the future.

If you have enjoyed reading the blog and if you or your friends would like to receive email alerts for future posts then please just press the large blue ‘Follow’ button either at the beginning or end of a post.  With very many thanks, Charis x

RHS
Charis White, interior stylist/writer and online shopkeeper!

 

 

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