London's pop up shops in private homes

Young artists need showrooms. Now Londoners are offering their homes as pop-up exhibition spaces, discovers Liz Hoggard
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We’re in the home of art and antiques collector Preston Fitzgerald, who is letting students from the RCA’s ceramics and glass course stage a sale in his house.

Other collectors, journalists and gallery owners are wandering around with their glasses of wine and canapés. By the end of the evening, many pieces have been sold. Welcome to a new breed of domestic pop-up.

House of Hackney
Furnishing company House of Hackney turns its "show home" into stylish room sets displaying wallpaper, lampshades and interiors

Fitzgerald, an art adviser, and his partner, Cedric Smith, an internet entrepreneur, are happy to play host if it helps promote young artists just starting out on their careers.

Today’s pop-up came about when the RCA students approached the pair with the idea of exhibiting work along the theme of “home”. And, says Fitzgerald: “What an incredible privilege it has been to influence their work.” Several of the young artists were moved to pursue new directions with their art in response to their hosts’ existing art collection and furnishings.


Context matters

London galleries and fashion labels are increasingly holding events like this in private homes, partly because potential buyers love to be invited to an intimate VIP party. But Yvonna Demczynska, who has her own stand-alone gallery, Flow, in Notting Hill, has another reason for exhibiting work in private houses. “We can place ceramics, glass and silverware in the domestic context for which they were designed,” she says. “The objects come to life and allow people to envisage beautiful handcrafted pieces in their own homes.”

Demczynska has shown work at pop-ups in the home of collector Caroline Weiland, wife of film director Paul Weiland (and in aid of The Child Bereavement Trust), and several times at Preston Fitzgerald’s home. “The majority of the artists in the last show at Preston’s were only two or three years out of college and very excited about exhibiting in a private home for the first time. This is our gallery philosophy, too, to show emerging talent alongside well-established artists.”

A big influence on the trend has been House of Hackney, the home furnishings brand, which has its own “private house” in Hackney (described as “Colefax and Fowler on acid”). Here you can see wallpaper, lampshades and furniture styled as room sets.

Says co-founder Frieda Gormley, a former buyer for Topshop: “We set it up because there were so few interior brands catering to the younger, more fashion-conscious market.”

23 Welbeck Street
Ruth and Tom Champan's Matches label plays host to shopping events in the "family home" at 23 Welbeck Street
They decorate rooms with fine bone china teacups and ceramic cake ornaments by young makers. It has been so successful they’ve just opened a concession at Liberty and a new store is planned for Redchurch Street, Clerkenwell.

Fashion label Matches also has a “family home” at 23 Welbeck Street, Marylebone, where owners Ruth and Tom Chapman invite friends and fashionistas for a programme of “quietly glamorous” shopping events. The six-storey Georgian townhouse, decorated with mid-century modern furniture and modern art, has four private shopping suites, plus stylists and a tailor on site.

Home party sales have surged by 120 per cent in the past two years to an annual £400 million, despite the difficult economic climate. But these aren’t just upmarket versions of the familiar Tupperware party. Guests must be hand-picked, just like the designers whose work is shown, and to host one you need to live in a pretty exciting space.

House of Hackney room sets
House of Hackney have been a huge influence on the trend with their "private house" in Hackney

Personal touch

Eloise Grey, whose organic silk dresses are stocked by Livia Firth, holds pop-ups at the home of hedge fund manager Gerard Griffin and his collector wife Sarah. It’s an exquisite, stucco-fronted house in Notting Hill, with its own gallery of ceramics by Edmund de Waal. Grey says: “We spend a lot of time styling her house and Sarah has the right sort of contacts in the art world. There’s a wow factor, but also intimacy.”

Hand-made bed company Marshall & Stewart held a pop-up event at 40 Winks, David Carter’s bijoux home-cum-hotel in Mile End. “We wanted a property that was altogether more personal and memorable,” says the firm’s Brent Cooper .

A desire to engage directly with artists and designers is key to the new collecting boom. Recently, Contemporary Applied Arts turned its Fitzrovia gallery into the fantasy collector’s home for an exhibition, domesticMATTERS. Proof that domestic interiors are the new exclusive showcases.

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