A new generation of interiors connoisseurs are forgoing bricks and mortar to curate online shop windows. It’s never been easier to get a dose of design inspiration – or snap up a bargain
“We don’t have a physical store, we consider Instagram to be our shop window,” says Adam Dillon, founder of Sauce London, an online antiques store he founded in 2018. “We share new stock daily, as well as images that inspire us and give context to our inventory. Instagram has been a powerful marketing tool, enabling us to reach a global market and network with like-minded dealers and designers.”
He’s not the only design aficionado who’s doing this, either. A new generation of 30-something dealers have transformed the antiques market; using social media to buy, sell and curate collections of art and objects that speak to them. Many started dealing as a side-hustle during lockdown, and have grown their followings into established businesses. From stunning ceramics to restored 18th century furniture, these six are standouts who inspire us with their characterful and composed ‘drops’ of antique one-offs. Here’s hoping they’ll inspire you, too.
- Four Quarters
“Like many businesses, Four Quarters was born out of lockdown,” explains founder, Brad Downs, “I had moved into a new house, was buying furniture, changing my mind, selling it and realising there was a possible business in it.” Skip forward two years or so, and Four Quarters is a full-time occupation for Downs, and an outlet for him to engage with his passion. “I primarily focus on furniture from 1950-1980s,” he says, “but try not to let this bracket rule what I buy. For me it’s more about form; I am always looking to strong lines and angles, rounded edges and unusual designs.” From stunning 1970s Georgia Jacobs lamps, to remarkable chairs by the likes of Maurice Burke, Mario Bellini or Miles Van Der Rohne, browsing Downs’s Instagram feed is an exercise in pure mid-century jealously.
2. Estelle London
Less is more at Estelle London, an Instagram antiques dealer who also curates pieces for Retrouvius. Estelle takes pride in sourcing quirky mid-century artworks and decorative objects – often rendered in muted colours with rich textures and simple forms. From oil paintings heavy with impasto, to rugged-looking vases and hand-glazed earthenware dishes, this is a dealer to follow if you’re searching for earthy, one-off finds with oodles of character.
3. Studio Forty Nine
Studio Forty Nine’s curation has a distinct regency feel with immaculate 18th century furniture, chinoiserie ceramics and brass bobbin lamps all in evidence. Not that the studio is proscriptive; you’ll also find rarities like early 20th century impressionist sketches, forged copper planters and retro green glass bookends. Simple and elegant, but with a quirky eye for detail, new pieces drop on Instagram every few weeks. This account is a ‘must-follow’ for classicists.
4. Sauce London
“I began by selling through online marketplaces in my spare time,” says Adam Dillon, the aforementioned founder of Sauce London. “Our website launched in 2019 and Sauce has been full-time for me since September 2021, with Hannah [Mottishaw, his colleague] looking after our marketing and supporting with sourcing alongside her full-time job.” For this design duo, tasteful eclecticism is the name of the game. “We have an eclectic inventory of predominantly French 20th century furniture and lighting, complemented by much earlier pieces. We have a passion for items that can tell a story and add character to a room. Whether its rustic farmhouse or modernist art deco, if it boasts charm and quality, we’ll buy it.”
5. The Attic
The Attic’s Lara Atkinson isn’t afraid of a splash of colour. Her curations of vintage glassware, ceramics and home accessories are thoroughly eclectic, but united by their sense of fun. Retro, but not kitsch, her eye for quirky, hand-painted ceramics is second to none. Playful representations of fish are a recurring theme, whether woven into placemats or glazed onto serving dishes. Products drop in batches every few months or so, whenever Atkinson’s sourced enough pieces to upload online. Best keep your eyes peeled so you don’t miss out.
6. Anna Unwin
Anna Unwin’s Instagram feed and accompanying website both feel like a breath of fresh air. An interiors stylist by trade, Unwin’s taste for neutral textiles and furniture designed with minimal, Scandi-style silhouettes creates a serine impression. “I have always just sourced pieces I love and pieces I want to live with, with a lean towards minimalism and timelessness,” she explains. “I particularly look out for pieces that get better with age – natural materials like stone, leather, wood – or surfaces you can use which show patina and history.” Visit her online store for sculptural pieces in polished marble or cool stone, or else for elegant mid-century seating upholstered in subtle shades of cream, taupe and beige. It’s the ideal curation for interiors purists, “I don’t really follow trends, it’s about longevity for me,” she says.