On our recent trip to Arundel, we were lucky enough to be able to meet Steve at Harmony Antiques. His business is based in a beautiful old brewery building just on the outskirts of the main town. When we arrived Steve was working at his desk space outside his shopfront where he mainly runs the admin side of things. He explained that gaining a mobile signal from inside the old building is rather difficult, so his open-to-the-elements office is a necessity and he quite likes that anyway.
We were already getting the impression that Steve is someone who absolutely loves what he does, the ridiculously early morning starts on the hunt for that unique piece is something that he relishes and he always makes sure he is first through the gates when on a buying expedition.
Once inside the building we could see how this passion and rather quirky style has been translated into an interesting and eclectic space. His pieces and decorative objects are carefully layered to create a visual feast and he seems to have the knack of cleverly drawing together the unexpected – the name Harmony was beginning to make sense!
How did you get started?
I have been in the business for over 22 years and originally worked for another well-known dealer for 15 of those. I set up Harmony Antiques 7 years ago – I wanted to concentrate on the bit that I enjoy the most which is the buying side of things and to have complete control myself.
Where do you source your pieces from?
I occasionally travel to France but after so many years I have established relationships with French dealers who understand what I am looking for so they are able to bring the pieces to me. I also travel far and wide in the UK to many of the large antique fairs and again I know where to head for the pieces which work for me.
Do you do any restoration yourself ?
I have a small workshop where I do the smaller jobs such as painting and waxing. I also work with local restorers and upholsterers for the more in depth stuff.
Can you tell me a bit more about the buying side of things and how you decide what to purchase?
I want to ensure that the pieces that I stock are affordable as well as beautiful. There are three of us dealing and selling here in the Brewery and we all have a similar approach. As you can see I have anything from the 1880s to the 1940s or 50s – it is what ever I am drawn to and its great to be able to show how pieces from all eras can work harmoniously together.
Can you remember the first piece you ever sold?
Yes it was two beautiful 19th century armchairs which were prepared and ready for upholstery.
Has there ever been a piece that you have bought that has blown you away?
Yes, a hand-made wooden table football game from Paris, it was truly exquisite.
You seem to have a wonderful array of French antique armchairs here…
Yes, I like to show them stripped down so that the shape and beauty can be appreciated. I occasionally reupholster them in a beautiful plain Russian linen but mainly leave them for the customer to make the decision.
Is there any particular piece here at the moment that you will be sad to see go?
I love this pair of vintage leather armchairs, its very rare to find them with the leather on the seats still intact. The patina of the leather is just wonderful. I also love the wooden tambour cabinets from the 30s and 40s which
have become so popular.
What are the main rewards of running your own antiques business?
Well, where else would you be lucky enough to have a job like this? I have complete freedom and can decide exactly where I want to be and what I want to buy. I adore the hunt even if the day does sometimes begin at 4am! When I buy something that someone else loves and appreciates enough to buy, it’s a real buzz!
Are there any downsides to the business?
There is always an element of uncertainty in this business in terms of when you might make the sales, but that is also something that attracted me in the first place.
What are your plans for the future?
I would love to increase my digital presence so that I can then concentrate on the side of the business which I love – the sourcing and the buying!