The father and son team at The Furniture Rooms have been working together for the last 10 years since Toby Thomas joined his father’s antiques business. When Toby started at The Furniture Rooms he quickly recognised the burgeoning trend for mid century furniture and so he began to source twentieth century pieces from England and Denmark alongside Terry’s authentic and more traditional antiques. The business now reflects their varied tastes and interests – with a beautiful selection of mid century, art deco and authentic antiques.
As a fellow family business, we were excited to meet a team making it work so well. The Furniture Rooms is based in a large Kent warehouse, and visiting them there felt like a trip into Aladdin’s Cave – polished and restored furniture around every corner and beautiful timeworn pieces patiently waiting their turn for the Thomas rehabilitation service. The duo make it work spectacularly, boasting an enviable little black book of suppliers filling their demand for pieces from the likes of Arne Vodder, Robert Heritage and Finn Juhl and their in-house restoration team then rebuilding them back to their former glory.
Toby and Terry have embraced a similar mentality to us here at Layer – by mixing beautiful, quality pieces from different eras, designers and countries, they have created a distinctive look that is unmistakably theirs. With interests in differing time periods, they share a keen eye for classic lines, beautiful leather upholstery and luxurious, grown-up designs. We’re delighted to showcase this wonderful selection of pieces on the Layer marketplace and to have been able to chat to Toby and Terry in depth a few weeks ago.
So, how did you get into the trade?
Toby: My Dad had always been a market trader before moving into buying and selling furniture. He started to buy higher quality pieces and his standard of stock just became better and better. He’s been doing this for about 30 years and I joined 10 years ago. I’d worked in the printing business before this but after becoming more and more interested, I made the decision to join Dad here!
Terry: I’ve been an antiques dealer for over 30 years, starting out in the Bermondsey antiques set. We used to come in to meet the London dealers under the arches every Friday morning then go over for breakfast on Jamaica Road.
I’ve seen things change and develop – back in the day, Peckham where you are based was the centre of the trade with shop after shop selling antiques.
And how do you two find working together?
Toby: He’s easy to get along with! Before I started working with Dad, the business used to all be antiques but then when I arrived we moved into buying and selling more 20th century pieces. We sometimes have different styles and tastes, but we agree on most things once we’ve talked it through.
What designers and styles do you look for?
Toby: I go through phases with what style I like – just like anything in life really – with mid century design being my favourite, but quality and style is what I look for in every piece. It’s mainly art deco and 20th century designs, I like the Danish pieces but I also really enjoy classic English design.
Terry: I look for more traditional, classic antiques.
How do you source your pieces?
Toby: We buy from everywhere we can really – from the silly early starts of antiques fairs to waiting around all day in auctions. Luckily, these days people know what we are looking for and they send us photos of pieces from all across Europe. It’s been a learning curve over the last ten years, and one of the most valuable skills has been to learn how to identify and value pieces, but we have a distinct style now and we really know what we are looking for.
Do you have different roles within the business?
Toby: We work together on most things. I started ‘doing the Internet’ (as Dad would’ve said) when I joined the business and Dad used to laugh at me! I was putting Dad’s things online but it was really really difficult back then because people didn’t want to part with that amount of money over the Internet. Now, I spend a great deal of time cultivating the online business – I’ve taught myself a lot about SEO and Adwords and it’s a huge part of what we do. I can get on with that and know that Dad will be out sourcing and finding new stock.
Terry: We talk things through and sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we get it right! We have similar tastes but we both have our own styles too.
Have you ever come across anything really spectacular?
Terry: I’ve had a few of those, but a few shockers as well. A long time ago, I bought a pair of Sphinxes for £800 and then took them up the road and sold them for much more than that which I was very happy with. But someone a few months later sold them at an auction in Belgium for £250,000! That’s my biggest find and my worst mistake!
What is your favourite piece?
Terry: For me, it’s without doubt the aviator desk that Toby has constructed over months of hard graft.
Toby: I built this desk using the shell of a 1950s light aircraft, the frame is made of two wings and welded steel. It’s taken a long time, and it’s been a labour of love but the result is just amazing. It’s given a new lease of life to something that is over 60 years old and was originally built for a completely different purpose.
I’m also a big fan of these red Finn Juhl chairs. They are a classic design and really beautiful.
What was the first thing you ever sold?
Terry: Probably a Regency writing table back in the day.
Toby: For me, it would have been something of Dad’s when I was just starting out. It would most definitely have been a piece sold online as the Internet was what I was interested in growing back in the day.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Toby: I asked this question to my wife last night, and she said ‘You don’t, you just work!’. But that can’t be true because we recently bought an old VW Camper and we take the kids away – we’ve done two music festivals with them!
Most difficult and most rewarding aspects of running your own business?
Toby: Running a small but growing business means that you have got to be on top of organisation all the time which can be a challenge.
To me, the end finish is everything. The restoration has to be faultless which is why we work on most items in-house – I like it to be coming out of our workshops in showroom condition, like new! Seeing something completely restored to its former glory is such an amazing feeling.
What are your hopes for the future for the Furniture Rooms?
Toby: We hope that people who would normally find things in Pimlico or the King’s Road will start to find things online from us instead!
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