Welsh Vernacular Furniture: A New Adventure
A husband and wife team with a passion for antique welsh furniture are taking their flourishing business to the next level.
Ceredigion based Jonathon and Yvonne Holder specialise in pure Welsh vernacular style furniture, and have been working in the trade together full-time for the last three years.
The pair were in their teens when they started to buy antiques, and went on to buy early welsh oak as they furnished their first house.
Jonathon said: “Like most people, we dabbled a bit as a hobby for a while. We have always had quite a collection and knew a lot of people in the trade.
“We sort of drifted into the trade, we hit the ground running because we knew so many people, and got a really great private customer base very quickly as well.
Jonathon’s eye for detail was honed in his past occupations as a former harp maker, and design engineer for the MoD. After their children came along the couple made the decision to leave their jobs and go into the business full time.
Now in their 30s, they continue to furnish National Trust buildings across Wales, and are often called on to supply items for TV and film sets and magazine shoots.
Jonathon said: “My harp making background allows me to bring the best out of a piece. We offer a high standard product, but our prices are very, very fair. “Reputation is everything for us.”
The couple avoid buying items requiring large amounts of restoration, and appraise each piece for work needed to ensure it has a long life. Sympathetic materials, methods and products are used to make sure a piece looks its best, and items are mainly bought from private sources around the UK.
Following trade trends in the 1970s, the majority of welsh furniture is now outside the country, and much of the couple’s time is spent sourcing it and bringing it back.
Jonathon said: “People move away and take furniture with them, a lot of furniture we sell goes to London, usually to someone with a Welsh connection who has moved there for work.
“They understand the quality and want that little bit of home.”
“We do not tend to sell anything of historical importance aboard. Once they have gone abroad they don’t come back due to the import and export taxes. Once they’re gone, they’ve gone.”
He added: “We care about our clients and always describe our pieces as accurately and honestly as possible to enable each customer to make a well informed purchase.”
Having outgrown their current premises, the couple found a small vestry nearby, which they are in the process of converting to a showroom where customers will soon be able to view items by appointment.
Jonathon sold his classic car to buy and renovate the new building.
He said: “I sold my Mk1 Escort, which shows how dedicated we are to our business. But that’s ok because it means we are on to bigger and better things.”
While an old chapel vestry signals a fresh opportunity for the business, the couple are also keen to further embrace the possibilities offered by social media, such as the use of Instagram.
They can look at around 25,000 items a week in order to buy two or three rare pieces that fit their criteria, spending a lot of the week online and on the road to see as many items in the flesh as possible.
Jonathon added: “It’s an industry where knowledge is everything, the more you see the more you know. Meeting like-minded people to have chats about furniture is always nice too.
“It’s a passion, turned hobby, turned full time occupation. We are so enthusiastic about what we do. We just love it.”
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