Retailers make room for inspiring design

The Timothy Oulton range encompasses furniture, homewares, art and lighting with a distinctively British streak. Photo: Miranda TayMost people have trouble pulling a room together. They are all right with the big items such as couches and coffee tables. It’s the details that bother them. Should the cushions match or contrast with the furniture?
Nanjing Night Net

Is that mirror or painting too big and too dominating to go over the fireplace or so small it shrinks into insignificance? And should the television take pride of place on the wall or be tucked into a corner?

Luckily, retailers are reaching out with a helping hand. They’re marketing their furniture and accessories in room settings so customers can buy one piece, or the whole lot if they prefer, so they know the styling will look right at home.

The latest idea is the concept store. This is, in effect, a store within a store. A retailer gives over floor space to a designer whose products it believes are a winner so you can embrace the whole look.

The best bit is that, if clients like the concept or idea, they can buy everything from a desk or table to accessories, lights and the rug on the floor.

Coco Republic has opened a stand-alone concept store featuring the British, Timothy Oulton range, at 488 Church Street, Richmond, a couple of doors from its main store at 500 Church Street.

The label will occupy the store for two years. Timothy Oulton replaces Oly, a San Francisco-based brand the store featured previously in the space, which is as pale and feminine as Oulton is leathery and masculine.

Oulton has married the eclectic and off-beat with good design and excellent workmanship. All through the furniture, homewares, art and lighting runs a thoroughly British streak.

There’s furniture that appears to have been built from the wing of a plane, including a hand-finished aluminium table and the Aviator Tomcat armchair that could have come straight from a fighter jet cockpit.

There’s even an aircraft propeller supporting a glass-top coffee table and a storage unit that wouldn’t be out of place as school lockers.

There are tables and desks like solid old travelling trunks and faded and beautiful floor rugs with a Union Jack design. Or clients can have the Union Jack design on a button-back sofa if they don’t fancy traditional leather.

There are 30 stores worldwide, including the US flagship store in Dallas, a concession in Harrods, London, and another in the Coco Republic Design Centre in Sydney, which opened last November.

Oulton grew up in Manchester where his father ran an antiques business.

He went to boarding school in an old Benedictine monastery, which helped inspire his love of classic English style.

He took over the antiques business but realised antiques had a limited future so changed direction to design antique pieces with a modern twist.

Timber is reclaimed from ancient buildings including distilleries and mills, and sassafras hardwood is salvaged from the hulls of old Chinese junks. So pieces have the beautiful imperfections that come with years of use and natural weathering.

Oulton is also known for his attention to detail. He has an innate ability to take in the history and detail of old pieces and re-create them in his own way.

When he came upon an antique trunk in a market, he pulled it to pieces to find exactly how it was made so he could replicate the craftsmanship in his contemporary furniture.

US company opens store

West Elm is another newcomer to the Melbourne design scene.

The US-based company has opened its second Australian store (the first is in Bondi Junction, Sydney) at 464 Chapel Street, Prahran.

This coincides with the opening of a store in Tottenham Court Road, London. ”The cities of London and Melbourne have such vibrant communities centred around design and innovation,” company president Jim Brett says.

Launched in New York about 11 years ago, the company describes its products as authentic and affordable. The range includes furniture, bedding, bathroom accessories, rugs, dining and kitchen pieces and lighting.

Their designers also work with artists, independent designers and craft communities to develop exclusive ranges, and create ”statement pieces and seasonal collections that make a positive impact on people and the environment”.

West Elm Green products are responsibly produced, organic, recycled and non-toxic.

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