I love the idea of filling my flat with vintage furniture but I don’t have the patience to poke around junk shops. And the thought of going to an auction – where an itchy nose might result in the accidental purchase of a bank manager-botheringly expensive piece – makes me feel all kinds of nervous.
So I was happy to hear that Vault, a stylishly decorated and carefully curated vintage store (think white walls, black floorboards and covetable pieces such as Ercol dining tables and chairs, vintage cutlery and glass apothecary jars), had opened on Leyton High Road last month. I popped in to meet owner Lucy Winstanley Norris to find out more.
“When I first left university I wrote for a title called Antiques Magazine, which was very high-end and focused on exquisite antique pieces,” explains Lucy. “I was following all these auctions but my eye was always drawn to the battered old thing in the corner rather than the antique in the spotlight! I think furniture tells a story and I loved to see the life of a piece written all over it.”
Lucy went on to write features for magazines and newspapers, but was always tinkering around with bits of furniture. “When my husband, Matt, mentioned we had rather a lot of chairs, I decided it was time to start selling some. So I set up a little online shop which I ran in the background.”
At the time the couple were living in Tottenham: “We had a big flat in an old store room on an industrial estate. There are lots of live/work units there now, but when we moved it was just us. It was silent at the weekend – we had no neighbours, nobody walked down the street. It was great because it gave both of us the space to start our businesses (Matt has a graphic design business).”
Two years ago Lucy and Matt moved to Leyton. “We love it here. Now we have neighbours, and it feels so residential and community-based. But we did have to build a big workshop in the garden.”
The physical shop was a bit a whim. “I had a job I didn’t enjoy and made a throwaway comment to Matt about noticing a To Let sign in a shop window on the high street. We rang the estate agent out of curiosity and one thing led to another. I don’t think we quite realised what we were letting ourselves in for.”
Most of the stock is vintage. “I find stuff all over the place. I’m from the Midlands originally, where there are rich pickings. I find things lurking in the corners of old junk shops and house clearances.
I’m also a keen auction buyer. Typically the pieces I buy are not in great condition, so I do them up. The challenge is restoring them to glory, while keeping the character. There are some new items too that are made or designed by us, or that just fit in well with the shop.”
For the time being Vault is appointment only. “Because Vault is still so small, I need to spend the time working on the pieces. But in the future I want to open more at the weekend. I’m enjoying see it grow bit by bit. In future perhaps there will be more of our own designs, too.”