We chatted with Amanda Holly, founder of Ruby in the Dust a few weeks ago at her stunning home in North London. She has chosen to use the space to showcase her beautiful pieces – think Hollywood Regency, Art Deco and everything sparkly!
Amanda quickly dispelled any preconceived ideas of how one might anticipate an antiques dealer to be, her chosen collection is beautiful, unique and fresh, each with a vibrant personality of its own – pretty much how we might describe Amanda herself!
It was a fascinating interview, Amanda is a person of many layers and dimensions. Little did we know that we would be admiring a beautiful grand piano within minutes of arriving, Amanda bid for it some years ago at an auction and won. It was only later that she discovered through an uncanny set of circumstances thats its previous owner had been Rick Wright, the keyboard player of Pink Floyd.
Now that really is like discovering the ruby! Oh and speaking of layers and dimensions, music was a big part of Amanda’s younger years and she played the piano as well as the violin and the viola before choosing to pursue a different path some years ago.
What is your background?
I originally worked in fashion PR and then PR and marketing for restaurants and bars. They were evolving with the birth of the celebrity chef and we saw interior designers starting to create amazing bars and dining rooms. I have always been aware of trends and what people are interested in. I completely changed focus and decided to work in the City as a consultant, with an extremely high-pressured lifestyle together with long and unsociable hours. I used the weekends to get away from the pressure and took frequent city breaks to places like France and Italy. I was accustomed to being awake at the crack of dawn, so I used the early mornings to discover the local markets and became enthralled with European antiques and vintage pieces.
How did you get started with your own antiques business?
It was all a bit of an evolution really – I used to come home from my travels with pieces that I had bought for myself and then my friends and family would ask me to buy something similar for them when I returned. I had also become tired of the pace at which I was working in the City so I just decided to take the leap and do it full-time as a business.
Who is your typical client?
It started off as a smattering of private buyers who had the confidence to purchase directly from me because they had an appreciation for design and I still do business in this way. Things then developed and I became known within the trade and my competitive price point means that there is still a margin left for a retailer if they buy from me. I would say these days, my core business is with interior designers who come to me for decorative pieces. It’s all about relationships and this only happens through hard work and trust. I am obviously happy to sell to anyone who loves my pieces.
How has your buying style evolved?
In the beginning I was incredibly naive and made decisions based on a feeling rather than provenance and I did have some early disappointments. That said, I still only buy the pieces that I love myself and this has always stood me in good stead. My initial love was Art Deco and even today I am drawn to pieces that are influenced by this design era, for example the beautiful 1970s wall light in my kitchen simply sings Art Deco! I have always loved the glitz and the glamour of Hollywood Regency, anything gold or crystal and this trend is very much in play now, which was probably not the case in the early days. I was probably bucking the trend.
How often do you go on buying trips?
Well, these days not as often as I used to as the dealers are now thankfully happy to come to me which again refers back to building relationships. In the early days I would find myself at a market at 4am trying to push my way into a van with lots of enthusiastic male dealers and being no match for them. But after many many early mornings, they eventually took me seriously, and now we are very close knit. There is a lot of trust in our business, and now I’ve earned it. They make trips through Europe buying just for me these days! Most of my pieces have never been seen before and have literally been lifted out of an Italian home which may not have been touched since the 1970s.
Do you ever keep your favourite pieces?
I am continually fighting against holding onto the beautiful pieces that I have managed to source! I am lucky to be able to live amongst many of the pieces, enjoy them, then pass them onto the next custodian. There are of course some items that would never be for sale, I have been disappointed in the past when through naivety I may have let something go, only to find out later that it was probably a one off.
What is the most rewarding thing about owning your own business?
There are so many! It is very difficult to list them all – it is enormously pleasurable when you find something by torchlight at 4am which looks tired and forgotten but once I have finished restoring it, taking it apart, buffing and polishing it and it suddenly becomes renewed… I suppose its that Tah Dah! moment. Clients often send me pictures of a piece in situ and the fact that they now love it and it sits within a new space always makes me happy.
What does the future hold for Ruby in the Dust? Do you have any plans for the future?
I am in the process of re-evaluating my stock and looking at where the trends are going to determine my buying criteria for the future. Gold is something I have always been drawn to and it is particularly relevant at the moment. There is a shift towards more moody interiors and the gold pieces that I buy along with the crystals are the perfect marriage for this setting.
What do you do when you are not working?
I am a great family person and I am incredibly close to my parents and like to spend as much time as possible with them. In fact, it is not unusual for my lovely mum to accompany me to the various auctions – even if she sometimes can’t understand my decisions to buy a dirty old piece, I can see it still has some potential!
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