x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Where nothing is predictable

Cult shop Walk past Valerie Wade on London's Fulham Road at any time and you will find somebody with their nose pressed up against the window.

Valerie Wade French Art Deco day bed, lily wall lights and an American 1950s chrome and glass ball lamp.
Valerie Wade French Art Deco day bed, lily wall lights and an American 1950s chrome and glass ball lamp.

Walk past Valerie Wade on London's Fulham Road at any time and you will find somebody with their nose pressed up against the window. That's because the store, as small as it is, is always filled with an intriguing mix of antique, vintage and new furniture, lighting and accessories you can't help but linger over. There are mirrored furniture items, some with mother-of-pearl inlays, Venetian lotus-flower chandeliers, Perspex pieces, Art Deco chaises longues, jewellery boxes, glassware and dressing table knick-knacks, all displayed apparently randomly, yet in a way that creates an enticing Aladdin's cave.

Wade herself is hard-pressed to put a label to her style, saying that she just "gets what she likes". If there's a common thread it's in an exotic quirkiness that defies categorisation; how do you group a carpet from Radio City Music Hall in New York with a Swedish leather and wood sofa? Or standard lamps from the Savoy Hotel sale with a new custom-made Perspex and mirror console table? "I just buy and design what takes my fancy - I suppose I pick my style out of the ether, without any rules," says Wade.

"Some of the stock changes with fashion but certain ranges, such as the mother of pearl furniture, have been part of my repertoire for a long time." The mother of pearl pieces, some of which are delicate and others imposing, have been a signature feature of the shop for nearly two decades, since Wade first travelled to Damascus and fell in love with the style. "That look is not about fashion," she says. "It has a certain appeal that is perennial - provided you like that sort of thing, of course." Today, the work is mostly new, whether stock items or bespoke, with the occasional antique among them.

And nor are the mirrored side tables, chests of drawers and dressing tables about fleeting fashion, for, although they are currently enjoying a fashion surge, they are also long-standing favourites among her customers. Almost all of the mirrored furniture is new, with the occasional 20th-century piece to be found. Valerie Wade shop has been in the same location for "at least 25 years" now, in a part of South Kensington that has become known as a design and décor destination. At least half of her customers are repeat visitors - individuals with a taste for something special, style mavens such as Joseph Ettedgui, the renowned fashion retailer, or decorators looking for that extra edge for their clients. She ships purchases all over the world.

One of Wade's catch phrases is "nothing is predictable". She left a full-time journalism career and launched her business after the papier mâché trays she was making just for fun really caught on. Today she's running a place where lights from Buffalo's landmark Central Terminal railway station, circa 1929, vie for space with a 1970s Perspex and walnut table and a Syrian chest of drawers. Truly, nothing is predictable.

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