When we meet in the 18th Century Coachhouse that is the main showroom of House of Twenty, light streams through the large, vaulted ceiling windows and stunning mid-century furniture is positioned on every surface. Based in cool Clapton, House of Twenty is a mid-century furniture company specialising in pieces from Denmark and Norway. With an enviable eye for design and the little black book to match it, Natalie Harding is the founder and owner of the company and we met with her to talk business (and chairs, obviously).
How did you get started with House of Twenty?
My entire family is in furniture, which of course meant I wasn’t really into it when I was younger!
My Dad used to run a furniture factory in High Wycombe which was next to G-Plan and Ercol, my Grandad worked for the Forestry Commission and his father was a wood-turner. So you sort of fight against it but it’s probably in the blood!
After university I worked for a vintage furniture company for 8 years before deciding in 2010 that I needed to do it for myself. I started at my parents’ place, just filling their whole house with furniture and it has gone from there.
All of my family have worked with me at certain points and my Dad works with me now as a restorer and making sure our deliveries get there safely. It’s lovely to work with him!
Why ‘House of Twenty’?
Twentieth Century furniture!
How do you source your pieces?
I source mainly from Denmark and Norway. I used to go to Denmark every other week, these days it’s every month as I have people in Denmark and Norway who pick things out for me. I love going but its quite a long time to spend away. Norway isn’t as widely known, they had a lot of beautiful designers too but their pieces just aren’t as widely marketed.
I buy a mixture of pieces I really like but also things that I know people are looking for. We try to keep it quite classic and practical so people actually want it in the house. We don’t want a really striking piece that people can’t sit on!
I also buy a bit from France and Germany 1950s furniture. It’s less regular than Scandinavia, but I source a lot of industrial lighting and club chairs from there.
What’s a typical customer like?
We work with lots of companies, restaurants, interior designers and more recently, tech companies that are opening up near Old Street and want this sort of aesthetic in their offices.
In terms of individuals, it’s really varied. It’s a mixture of first-time buyers and collectors. We like having a varied price range so people can come in and have a look and not feel put off.
How has your style evolved over the five years?
I do like the classic pieces, but the girls that work with me sometimes come buying and I always listen to what they say too. Things like the velvet pieces wouldn’t be my natural choice, but some of the girls love them and they’ve actually sold really well.
House of Twenty will always stay quite classic, with pieces that have a good quality, and then I don’t think you can really go wrong.
Do you ever just want to keep pieces for yourself?
Yes! I used to live just down the road in Clapton and I was always moving things in and out of the showroom into my flat.
People always say that I must have an amazing house, but I end up keeping pieces that have been slightly damaged or broken and I can’t bear to part with them!
What do you do when you’re not working?
I spend a lot of time with family and friends and try to switch off completely. House of Twenty is a primarily online business though, so I do feel the need to keep connected and I’m constantly being told off for being on my phone!
On Sundays I spent a lot of time outside as we live near woodlands and we go mountain biking and swimming and lots of nice outdoors-y activities.
Whats the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
Being your own boss, definitely! I don’t mind working really long hours when it’s for myself. Seeing somebody buy something when it’s for their first home or their first piece of proper furniture is amazing, especially when they send you pictures of the furniture in situ it’s just really nice. It’s great to see the pieces go somewhere and know that it will probably be kept forever.
I also love that we sell a lot locally, so it feels good to be building that community and to know that they will come back again.