Heather Maskill,13 Mar
It’s our 16th birthday in May. I’m not sure where those years have gone but I thought I would share some of it with you. Mark and I met whilst I was working for Yellow Pages, yes the days when the book was so thick you could barely lift it! He was upholstering and selling a few restored items through Interior Designers and Antique Centres. His restored pieces were selling but he wasn’t actually making any money from them as the commission was so high. I’d had enough of driving hundreds of miles each week, a small shop became available, so I gave in my notice and we took the plunge and opened the shop in May 2001. The reason we are called A Little Furniture Shop is when you advertised in Yellow Pages, listings were always in alphabetical order so we thought this would be a good name as we would be first on the list! How times have changed. Our shop is also small so it sort of made sense at the time. When we opened Bank Holiday weekend in May 2001, our furniture was restored and re-upholstered Victorian and Edwardian furniture. We sold almost everything on the first day and didn’t know what had hit us. Most of our un-restored furniture was bought from various auctions and we had some stock but had to continually search for new stock. We found that most of our clients wanted usable furniture, not furniture to look at. We sold chaises, sofas, chairs. Bergeres were very popular and we always had interesting fabrics on our pieces. We decided to offer customers a service where they could see some of the un-restored pieces and choose their own fabric to suit the house and decor. What we need was more workshop space so we moved to larger workshops in March 2002. By this time I was pregnant with our first child. When he was born in May 2002, after two weeks, he came into the shop with me. (the joys of being self employed!) Our second son came along in 2007, and again he was in the shop with me. By the time recession hit in 2010, clients taste had changed. A chaise bought as a decorative item was no longer something we could sell and we were having more clients loving what we did, but the fabric was wrong or the sofa was a bit too big. Mark had taken a furniture making course whilst learning upholstery too so he could always repair and re-glue the pieces which needed repairs, so he decided to try and copy a 1920’s chair. The 1920’s chairs had always been good sellers as they are compact but comfy chairs. The first piece was made and we started taking orders. Since then our range has extended to Edwardian style chairs and sofas, knole sofas and now retro 1960’s style. We still have a few pieces which we restore, but we were finding that clients can’t really see passed the old fabric which may be on there. You do have to have some imagination and our old pieces are not for everyone. Our new pieces can be made bigger, smaller, deeper or higher at the back which makes this ideal if you struggle to find something which fits. We have always had customers from all over the UK, and by delivering the pieces ourselves, it means our children have visited lots of different places where they may not have had the opportunity to go to before. Everyday is different and every piece is different which is why we do it. I don’t think we will be having a 16th birthday party. Maybe a glass of wine to celebrate our achievements and a lie in on the Sunday morning!.