Where the rich are investing 2016

Ode to Britannia

Timothy Oulton shares how he blends his passion for vintage products with his furniture design company

As the son of an antiques dealer who opened his first shop in 1976, in Hale, UK, Timothy Oulton grew up surrounded by them. He started working for his father Major Philip Oulton right out of boarding school, and began “reinventing” antiques for the wholesale market in 1990, opening his first retail space in Los Angeles in 2008. 

Why the shift from antiques to retail? 
I wanted to honour that same handcraftsmanship but make useful pieces that would work for modern lifestyles. An object with events it has witnessed, and stories behind it. 

What did you like to collect when you were growing up? 
I had a fascination for military drums as a child – that’s why the Drum collection is one of my favourites. It’s one of the world’s oldest musical instruments. I was steeped in the pageantry that goes with that profession. I love the old sports memorabilia as well, since I played rugby when I was young.  

The first luggage collection that you did, can you tell us a bit about this? 
I’ve always had a thing for vintage luggage. Some of the trunks are repurposed as coffee tables or side tables, and some like the Globetrekker range, we’ve evolved further into desks and bookcases. We only use the traditional craftsmanship methods, and every piece is authentically handcrafted like the original trunks would have been. 

Where did you get the reclaimed wood you use in your furniture? 
The reclaimed wood we use is taken from the roof beams and flooring of old buildings in the UK, some up to a century old. The wood in the Defence Colony store comes from disused buildings – old whisky distilleries, mills, or schools. We also use English parquet flooring for the Museum collection, a combination of oak and mahogany – some of it actually comes from old dance halls. 

You’ve sourced wood from Chinese sailboats, for the tables upstairs?
The Axel collection is handcrafted from reclaimed boat wood that we’ve sourced from old Chinese fishing junks – it has this rugged weathered patina that you just can’t replicate. 

In the store, you have a corner that is dedicated to polo, one to maritime, and others to boating. 

Do you also do interiors solutions?
We worked with the Los Angeles Athletic Club last year and redesigned their historic Blue Room – it’s a club within a club and has a speakeasy feel to it. We also designed an entire boutique hotel in England – it’s got this Alice in Wonderland meets 19th century collectors feel to it.  

Please tell me a bit about your manufacture outside Hong Kong. 
We have a small network of workshops located in a village a few hours from Hong Kong, where I moved to in 2004, as they have craftsmanship capabilities that could handle the complex construction techniques I was looking for, and that’s why we call it Easy Street. 

Your chandeliers also use K9 optical glass for your chandeliers. Why is that?
We use K9 optical glass in some of our lighting and that’s because it’s much lighter than crystal so you can use it in big installations. It has better clarity than crystal too; it diffuses the light for a softer glow.

Which is your most iconic chair? The Mimi, or the Furious Professor? 
The Mimi is based on a 1940s French design so we wanted an elegant French name, and the Professor is inspired by chairs found in old English universities. Our most iconic chair is the Mars. 

You’re fond of using the Union Jack as a décor symbol. Why?
The Union Jack conjures up images of Carnaby Street – rock and roll and London in the 1960s. It’s a celebration of everything great about Britain and British craftsmanship – our salute to royal Britannia mixed in with a bit of a rock star attitude.

How many varieties of leather can the Indian customer choose from? 
We’ve got 30 at the moment, but we’re innovating with new finishes. Our leather has a very natural look and feel – we use translucent aniline dyes which highlight leather’s natural characteristics.

Kylie Jenner has made the Rex mirror famous via snapchat! Please comment.

It’s great to see people like Kylie Jenner sharing pictures of our designs. The most important thing is still word of mouth – people fall in love with our products and are excited to tell their friends. 

After Delhi, what’s next? 
We’re focusing on New Delhi, to make it a really great store, but we’ve always said we wanted to be in 50 of the world’s best gateway cities!