Liz Nicholls chats to Nat & Ko, whose emporium Gilt & Grain in Southmoor is adding style & pizzazz to homes big and small.
Forget the pub… for more than 2,000 interiors fans, the Friday evening new stock email from Gilt & Grain is the real start of the weekend.
The weekly mail drop of fresh treasures has a sales rate most businesses can only dream of, with more than 60% of items snapped up this way. If you see something you like, you’d better buy it quickly as the beautiful, eclectic items go like hot cakes, as I learned to my cost recently.
I am now primed for buying, which is how I became proud owner of an enormous Tudor-meets Bridgerton upholstered headboard last weekend.
“Customers often refer to the Friday evening email as one of the highlights of their week due to the eclectic list of items,” Ko tells me. “When it arrives they know it is the beginning of their weekend!”
If you see something you like, you’d better buy it quickly as the beautiful, ecletic items go like hot cakes
Gilt & Grain has a gorgeously curated bricks-and-mortar shop in a lovingly restored 19th century chapel featuring a steel mezzanine. But one of the reasons Gilt & Grain has such a loyal fanbase is the couple’s decision to have a strong online presence by operating a website that is updated daily with multiple photographs and dimensions of each item of furniture.
After turning 40, after 24 years as a self-employed carpenter mainly working on period houses, Nat decided to start selling antiques and paintings on Ebay. After 18 months, a run-down shop became available in Oxford which he thought would be good for storage.
And after 20 years in retail Ko, who was at the time manager for TOAST on the High Street, was looking for a new challenge. The East Oxford treasure trove won a loyal customer base (me included) for a few years before the Old Chapel called…
The couple still live in Oxfordshire, and their two-year-old cocker spaniel Millie can often be found lending a paw in the shop.
“Our own interior aesthetic is eclectic,” adds Nat. “Our home is full of what I love whether mid-century or Georgian period furniture. I’ve always believed good design from any period, if carefully selected, can always look good together. We take very little notice of trends so this means interior designers often pick up rather good buys from us! Bamboo and rattan furniture is still selling very swiftly as is furniture with bobbin-turned legs. Due to Instagram, trends are now so swift that they come and go without us even noticing!”
Buying antique and used furniture is sustainable: a lot of the furniture Gilt & Grain sells is at least 200 years old and still perfectly usable, practical and very attractive.
“In recession people look around to save money and antiques are still very affordable,” adds Ko. “For example we recently sold a beautiful Regency sideboard for £185 with the original receipt from a LAPADA member dealer which the previous deceased owner originally purchased in the late 1980s for £1,895. We also often sell used modern good quality or designer pieces as greatly reduced sums.”
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Thanks to their good eye and high turnover, the shop attracts people from all walks of life, including some high-profile celebrities… And you might hear Ko practising the cello with Millie. Or else join the club of subscribers. Fight you for the best bits!