Darlington mum Nicola Thompson has created Peppercorn House – a business reviving antique furniture. Ruth Addicott talks to her about some of her fascinating new finds.
WHETHER it’s an elegant French table or cast-iron bar stool in the shape of a tractor seat, if you’re looking for furniture with a quirky twist, Peppercorn House is the place to go.
The new online venture specialises in preserving and reviving quality antique furniture and is the brainchild of Nicola Thompson, a mum of two from Middleton-St-George.
Nicola came up with the idea while on maternity leave after buying some antique bedroom furniture from an auction and revamping it in her garage. It became such a passion, she gradually built a collection and ended up selling several pieces to friends.
Torn between going back to her old job as a medical rep and branching out on her, she decided to take voluntary redundancy and set up Peppercorn House.
“It was always my passion to do something like this and you’ve got to follow your heart,”
she says. “My parents have always loved antiques so I got the bug from a young age. It can be quite addictive.”
Nicola launched the website in December, offering everything from a hand-painted Ercol chair (£65) and French table (£125) to a steel framed, super king-sized bed (£603). She hopes to cater for all tastes be it “shabby chic”, country, period or retro and spends her time scouring auctions around Durham, Darlington, Northallerton and Thirsk, searching for interesting pieces.
“I like to go for something that’s a little bit original,” she says. “I try to view the day before so I can make a note of what I want, but it’s pot luck. There’s a lot of competition and if you see a piece you really like and you’re bidding against someone who wants it for their personal collection, they’ll often bid a lot more.”
Part of the enjoyment is not knowing what she is going to stumble across next.
Nicola has had all sorts of finds from a child’s Bonanza one-armed bandit (£52) to an apothecary bottle in excellent condition embossed with the word Poison (£20). The website features some gorgeous hand-painted chairs, but for anyone looking for something more unusual, there are tractor seat cast-iron bar stools and a solid oak pew.
Prices range from £20 up to £1,000. “I want to be able to sell nice pieces that are affordable,”
Nicola hopes to stand out from other furniture companies by offering quality hand-painted one-off pieces that are not mass produced.
While there are plenty of vintage-style pieces available on the High Street and online, she says a lot of them are made to look antique and don’t have the quality of original items.
“Why pay a fortune for a piece of MDF which is made to look old when you can have the real thing?” she says. “It’s nice to have something different and it stops beautiful pieces rotting away in someone’s garage. The idea is to get people to move away from buying mass-produced flat-packed furniture when they can buy something that’s good quality and has got age and character with it.”
By recycling old pieces and using waxes that are made from raw natural ingredients, Nicola points out it will also have a more positive impact on the environment.
“I want to offer pieces that are eco-friendly,”
she says. “Research shows that reusing furniture can save about 70 per cent of carbon that may be generated from making a new piece. It’s too easy these days not to think about what we’re doing to our environment and furniture and our homes play a big part in this without us realising.”
Peppercorn House also offers a bespoke service and can source a particular piece if customers are looking for something special. Likewise, if they already have a piece that is in need of a makeover, Nicola is happy to arrange a consultation and breathe new life into it.
Being a mum to two small boys, three-yearold Sam and Max, one, has meant Nicola often ends up taking them to auctions with her. Her parents have also taken an interest and when there are two bids going on at the same time, it’s not unusual to find Nicola in one room and her mum in the other.
One of her most unusual finds to date was a coloured lantern of Middle Eastern origin for £145. “I’ve also got a really unusual wooden folding chair from Africa, I bought it purely for it quirkiness,” she says. “I love to create a totally individual look.”* For further information, visit peppercornhouse.
com or call 01325-401778.