When it comes to re-covered vintage seating on Instagram, there can only be one Queen of the Cocktail Chairs and that award simply has to go to Amy Cawson of Florrie & Bill fame. We discovered her stunning Instagram feed and have been absolutely hooked since then – check it out for an addictive photo gallery of behind-the-scenes sneak previews, her finished colourful chairs against an industrial backdrop and some edgy black and white shots thrown in for good measure.
We spotted the striking Florrie & Bill logo on the cute white van outside the old mill in Nottingham when we travelled up to visit Amy and knew straight away that we were in for a treat. Everything about the space is filled with potential and Amy’s clear-headed, creative passion is infectious. The space itself is huge and Amy has plans – *big* plans – for it. And if the stunning design and attention to detail that goes into Amy’s chairs are anything to go by, we don’t doubt for a second that whatever’s next is going to be exceptional. We hope that Amy will have us back again to share some of the developments with you guys!
The chairs speak for themselves, vintage beauties lovingly restored and covered in modern, colourful fabrics that simply pop against the industrial, distressed interior of Amy’s workspace. Amy puts a great deal of thought into exactly which fabric will marry best with a particular chair and often sources fabric from young British designers to showcase their work.
We came away from our meeting with Amy absolutely buzzing, there’s no other way to describe it. She is a creative powerhouse and we’re so excited to share this #MeetTheTrader feature with you.
What is your background?
I don’t come from at traditional design background at all, but I’ve been fascinated since I was a little girl by interiors and decorating and was always painting furniture and covering my own chair seats. I’ve worked within sales and accounts so I understand the business side of things. About 8 years ago I set up a company called Girl Friday doing the admin, marketing and websites for small businesses in the UK and Europe. So combining all of that experience with my natural affinity for fabrics and chairs, has obviously worked.
When did you start trading? How did you get into the trade?
I started trading in 2012. I bought and restored a vintage chesterfield sofa from a local second hand furniture store, and it was actually a complete impulse buy! My husband, Will, is a designer in the upholstery industry and said it would be a great project for me to do in my spare time. I used the services of a local upholsterer, and replaced the original worn out leather seat covers with fabric. It sold almost immediately on eBay and spurred me on to continue with other projects.
What did you do before this?
I was a self employed Virtual Assistant, working from my home office assisting various UK and European based companies with their admin duties – which included report typing, web design and marketing.
What designers or periods are you particularly interested and inspired by?
I love seeking out great British brand names, such as G Plan, Ercol and Parker Knoll. I focus mainly on chairs from the 1950s through to the 1970s. I am also inspired by the shapes of vintage Danish furniture, whose compact forms make them perfect for fitting into many of today’s smaller modern homes.
From which countries do you source your antique pieces?
I source my chairs from across the UK and Europe.
Have you ever come across a really spectacular find that blew you away?
I came across a Scandinavian lounge chair with a beautiful wood frame which I fell in love with instantly. The shape is so simple, elegant and is really comfortable. I have recently restored this chair for our own home, as I really couldn’t part with it!
Where do you source your fabrics from?
We work with all of the major fabric houses, as well as collaborating with smaller companies. Flock is one of these collaborations – they work with all of the recent graduate designers to showcase their fabrics and pay them a royalty for every metre of their fabric that we buy. We’ve also worked with Kitty McCall on a range that has been popular. We try to stick to great British designers as much as we can.
I’ve also recently put a call out to up and coming fabric designers on Instagram to submit their fabric books to me. I’ve got ten spots for sample books to sit in my new studio space, so when people come in to look at the chairs and decide on a bespoke fabric, their designs can be one of the options for people to look at.
What is your favourite piece right now?
I still really love the Aldgate East Mustard cocktail chair, which is part of the ‘Flocktail’ collaboration I launched with Studio Flock.
What do you do when you are not working?
When I’m not working, I’m a mum to Stanley , and I enjoy shopping, playing my guitar and home interiors projects.
Who is your typical customer?
My typical customers are those that are looking for an investment piece, a unique chair that they will keep for many years to come. I also complete work for Interior Design companies who are sourcing bespoke seating for client projects.
What are the most difficult and the rewarding aspects about running your own business?
The most difficult part at the moment is maintaining a healthy work-life balance! Due to the move into the new workshop and showroom, things have been a little hectic! I’ve recently employed part-time Creative Assistant, Sarah, to help with homewares, styling and photography. Hopefully I will be able to start doing less admin work in the evenings.
The most rewarding thing is definitely seeing the transformation of old chairs into pieces that my customers will treasure in their own homes for generations to come. Also, seeing my ideas come to fruition and realising that my own hard work made it all possible.
What’s next for Florrie + Bill?
This year will see the release of more ready to go retro chairs, already reupholstered by us, and will be available to view and purchase from our showroom. There will also be open studio days where customers will be able to see live upholstery and view our chairs within our showroom setting.
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