Here at Layer we obsess over design, photography and representing our traders and shoots in the very best light. So when we arrived at Dustin’s storage unit for Industrious Interiors in Nottingham, we felt like we’d hit the jackpot. It came as no surprise to either of us that Dustin has already forged a successful career as a photographer, his two storage units were impeccably styled and camera-ready. The stunning photograph of Dustin’s daughter, Isla, hanging above the desk left us in no doubt as to the creative credentials of this photographer turned vintage furniture trader.
Dustin’s father owned a clothes shop in Nottingham and Dustin’s appreciation for curiosities clearly began during this time, as he helped out at the shop and would source, style and dress the shop window with spectacular scenes. With spells spent living and travelling all over the world (including a stint in South Korea!), Dustin returned to his roots and spent seven years working as a photographer at the Nottingham Post before starting Industrious Interiors with his wife Sarah. They buy furniture that they truly love – quirky, vintage pieces often with an industrial vibe – and that they would (and sometimes do!) like to have in their own homes.
How did you get started?
My wife and I started Industrious Interiors because we wanted to do something together and with a bit of flexibility. We have a 5 year old and a 3 year old so we wanted to be able to spend some time with the kids. It started a couple of years ago when we moved house and we were sourcing pieces for ourselves and ended up buying so many other bits we loved that didn’t really have a place in our home. So we officially started the business a year ago to pass on some of the things we’d accumulated!
What is your background?
I started working at my Dad’s clothes shop in Nottingham when I was 15 and he always had quirky things like stuffed animals, jukeboxes, old barber’s chairs and wacky prints in the shop. I used to style the window displays with these props and clothes and tried to create a really unique look.
I was initially going to do Furniture Design at university, but I changed my mind and studied Fine Art at Bristol. When I finished studying I started a business hiring out vintage clothes for a while, before moving to South Korea for a couple of years teaching English and then came back to study photo-journalism and worked at the newspaper in Nottingham for seven years.
Even since the days at the shop, it’s always been about just putting things together and seeing what works.
Where do you source most of your pieces from?
All over the place – auction houses, antique fairs, reclamation yards. As and when we can really!
Are there any particular periods that you’re really interested in?
I love all the mid century pieces – they’re sleek, clean, elegant.
I am also drawn to the really gaudy stuff sometimes, things that have a bit of a home-made feel to them! I bought a picture recently that is almost like someone has created a paint-by-numbers of a fishing scene but it looks really good. It could be seen as quite amateur-ish but I don’t think that matters.
I like objects that have a purpose, and that have had a life before. Things that have an authenticity – they are made to be used not just to sit somewhere looking pretty.
Are you tempted to keep some of the pieces?
Yes, all the time. I buy pieces that I would have in my own house – if I had a 50-bedroom house! If I don’t like it, I just don’t buy it. I don’t see the point otherwise.
Do you and your wife agree on what to buy?
My wife and I agree on what to buy probably 90% of the time, but she reigns me in sometimes as I can go for things that are a bit outlandish! But we work really well together, we just sort of balance each other out.
Do you have a favourite piece in stock at the moment?
Yes, the old fruit machine. It’s old and tatty, but I just love it. It doesn’t even work, but there’s something about it. If I kept it, I’d put it on its back as a coffee table or I’d use the front door as a piece of art on the wall.
What’s your typical customer like?
Sadly we don’t often get to know a lot about our customers, as so much of our business is online. But one of our very first customers was a guy from San Francisco who bought some of the white Benjamin industrial lights from us for a lovely loft apartment kitchen which he sent some photos of.
What was the first piece that you sold?
We had a couple of the old Staverton bookcases and I actually really didn’t want to sell them! They were government issue from the 1950s and I really didn’t want to split them up, so I was pleased to sell them to someone as a pair.
What’s the most rewarding thing about having your own business?
It’s great being your own boss, that’s always good! I also appreciate the flexibility and I really enjoy going out buying, being out and about, meeting so many different people. It’s a buzz when you do find something unique!
What do you do when you’re not working?
Kids take up quite a lot of time, they tend to keep us busy!
But when I’m not with the kids, I’ve been doing Aikido for over seven years so I’m second dan black belt and an assistant instructor now. The kids come down and watch sometimes but they’re a bit small for it at the moment!
My wife and I still enjoy travelling but with kids on board these days it’s mainly camping. I travelled over to Germany earlier this year to buy and drive back a 1996 Hymer Motorhome.
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