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.
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!
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.
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).
A Midsummer Night’s supper
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.
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!
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.
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.
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