The Suffolk interiors shop that can help your home stand out from the crowd
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
For the past few years, vintage has been all the rage.
Whether it’s vintage cars, clothing or interiors, everybody loves looking back on the past with a fond sense of nostalgia.
That, combined with the rise in popularity of upcycling has seen many crave a sense of uniqueness within their homes. This has ultimately led to scores of people blending old items with new, in lieu of buying mass-manufactured homewares straight off the shelf.
One couple who especially understands the joys a vintage, one-of-a-kind life can bring are Simon Leak and Danielle Spelman. The Beccles-based duo are the owners of Vintage Mischief, a retro homewares and furniture shop nestled in the heart of East Anglia.
With a focus on all things post-war, mid-century and antique, the pair have been based at The Old Dairy for the past nine and a half years – and want to share their love of all things timely with the rest of the region.
But how did the two find themselves running such an emporium of trinkets and homewares galore?
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“Danielle trained as a ceramicist, and lectured in both ceramics, and art and design. She then started producing ceramics for Paul Smith,” explains Simon.
Simon, on the other hand, originally came from a sales and marketing background, working alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber in the theatre industry.
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“With Danielle’s honed eyed and my enthusiasm for creating a spectacle, that’s how we came up with Vintage Mischief.”
The pair originally began collecting and selling vintage wares online, but after needing more storage space, the two decided to take the plunge and invest in a warehouse.
“We were having a walk around Beccles on a Saturday afternoon, and we stumbled upon The Old Dairy. We thought we may as well open up something that added a facet to the local community, and carry on the history and legacy that came with the building.”
Since opening as a physical shop, things have gone from strength-to-strength for Simon and Danielle.
But for anyone who may be reading this and is unfamiliar with vintage – what exactly classifies as ‘vintage’?
The terms ‘vintage’, ‘retro’ and ‘antique’ are often used interchangeably, but each refers to a certain time period. For something to be vintage, it would have been produced between the 1900s and 1960s. Anything older would be antique, whereas anything newer would be retro.
Simon and Danielle mainly focus their efforts on homewares dated between the 1940s to the 1970s – with Simon adding they have a particular penchant for post-war design from 1945 through to the mid-50s.
“In essence, we always look for furniture and pieces that catch our eye that we feel could either work well with current trends, or come from classic eras such as Art Nouveau or the Arts and Crafts movement.
“We’ll then find smaller pieces like trinkets and add those in our shop – you could say that’s where the ‘mischief’ comes from. We like to have a play around with things in our shop so when customers come in, we can make a suggestion as to what they might be looking for. Sometimes they’re a bit too out there, but it gets the creative juices flowing.”
Having been in business for just under a decade, Simon and Danielle have seen thousands of collectibles come through their shop doors – but there’s one find that has always stuck with them.
“We once found a bookshelf at a car boot sale that we paid £2 for, and it turned out to be an Ernest Race Penguin bookcase. It’s quite an important piece of post-war British design, and Ernest was a leader in that. These bookcases were made to hold Penguin books, a staple of British literature.
“However, once we took the bookshelf home, we found out it actually had a value of £500. It was amazing that something that was made of plywood and about a foot high was worth so much.”
As well as the excitement that comes with sourcing and buying vintage homewares, Simon notes how popular they’re becoming as of late.
"Vintage and retro homewares have enjoyed a huge renaissance lately, and I think that’s thanks to lockdown. There’s definitely been a renewed interest when it comes to injecting a bit of interest and vibrance in the home as that’s where people are spending most of their time.
“And often, people will spot something they adored in their grandmother or mother’s house they’ve not seen for years and will buy it because it’s so nostalgic and evokes a lot of memories.”
So what are some of the biggest trends right now when it comes to vintage interiors and homewares?
“We’ve seen a rise in the number of people looking for Chinoiserie pieces, especially those ebonised with gold detailing. And tiger cane furniture is selling really well at the moment too.”
In terms of smaller pieces, Simon recommends anyone who wishes to get into vintage design to start off small in the kitchen, and work your way out into the rest of the home.
Think crockery, utensils, pots and pans, and pantry and cupboard storage.
“Kitchenalia is always nice because it provides both form and function.
“And also, vases. British ceramicists such as Hornsea Pottery are a great place to start if you’re looking to inject some vintage flair in your home.”