Shirk off the shackles of minimalism and immerse yourself in Timothy Oulton’s antique chic interiors in his new flagship Chelsea showroom
Words: Emily Manson
Fascinating. Intriguing. Beguiling. These are all words that instantly spring to mind when looking at designer Timothy Oulton’s new showroom located in the iconic premises of Bluebird’s ground floor.
Taking over the entire ‘garage’ space, it’s not so much a design showroom as an eccentric curation of curios that somehow meld together to create a uniquely irreverent – a yellow submarine, a giant rock crystal and one of the world’s largest collections of vintage Louis Vuitton bags – yet classic British style.
Although for many, concessions in Harrods and Heal’s and a global brand would be enough, Oulton had always wanted a flagship showroom in London, so when the iconic Bluebird site came up, he couldn’t resist.
‘It was beyond my wildest dreams,’ he says straight off. Although he’s never lived in London, having gone straight from Yorkshire to China, he enthuses: ‘Even as a child I knew Bluebird. You get in a taxi, you never have to give the address, it’s such a landmark and from a global perspective that’s great.’
The gallery includes a wide range of room concepts to intrigue customers from Age of Elegance and Loft to Metro, Beat Generation and Coastal Drift.
It’s not hard to see that this Mancunian-born former antiques dealer’s inspiration is driven from the past, yet clearly provides unique creations for now and the future.
‘No one’s interested in antique stores anymore,’ says Oulton, candidly. ‘Antiques can end up dusty and looking like your granny’s flat, but we want to carry them forward, create something new and make them relevant in their own right.’
I’ve had enough of minimalism. I want sensory overload! To experience and entertain. To see stuff. Learn from stuff and be blown away by it!
So he takes his favourite materials such as wood, leather, marble and crystal and puts his mark on them: ‘I try to invoke a reaction from customers. Vintage leather and timber does that – there’s something about it that evokes a nostalgia and taps into people’s psyche.’
And that’s what his Bluebird site is all about. Inspiring people. Evoking reactions with an anti-establishment irreverence through relevance. His yellow submarine, plays the song and has fish in it.
‘That’s not about the commercial angle, it’s wanting people to walk out thinking what on earth was that? And yet be inspired and intrigued.’
And although at first glance his style might seem masculine, he argues this is missing the point, and anyway women like it too as there are lots of smaller glamorous pieces.
‘I’ve had enough of minimalism. I want sensory overload! To experience and entertain. To see stuff. Learn from stuff and be blown away by it!’ he says. ‘Women are the lead negotiators when buying furniture, but couples who come in like what they see. Pieces have a deeper resonance with men and their eyes light up!’
But, he adds, it does depend what you want from your home: ‘If it’s a serene cocoon, then other brands might be more appealing, but if you’re more entrepreneurial in attitude and see your home as a platform to fill with stories and inspiration then that’s where we come in.’
So despite the economic uncertainty in the UK right now, he’s bullish about this move. ‘You can’t influence that stuff,’ he says. ‘You can only concentrate on your business philosophy and brand.
London has always been one of the three best cities in the world for design, so it’s imperative to have a great store here
‘London has always been one of the three best cities in the world for design – alongside New York and Hong Kong – so it’s imperative to have a great store here, and when this came up, although it’s not a great time and the rent is punitive, it’s the King’s Road, a cool building and we’ll just get on with it and keep going.
‘We’re swimming upstream not downstream. If we wanted to make lots of money, we’d sell cheap stuff on bingbong.com but that is not appealing to me at all and is not going to inspire people.
‘There’s only around 60 great pieces of iconic furniture that everyone knows the name of from the last 50 years and we want to be on that list.’
Bluebird, 350 King’s Road, Chelsea SW3 5UU; timothyoulton.com