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Forty years on, leading the field in home interiors

It was forty years ago that David Hick Interiors started life as David Hick Antiques. Sarah Jane Holt met David to uncover his path from leading the field in antiques, to being one of the most prestigious businesses dealing in quality interiors.

So, you no longer deal in antiques? We still have a fair few antiques but it’s no longer the main part of our business. After about 15 years trading here we started to add another angle which was bespoke handmade quality furniture, in the old style. We then built an extension to cater for that, specialising in dining tables and chairs, desks and other things that were sought after, yet hard to buy, as antiques. That part of our business grew quite strongly for a few years whilst we were also dealing with beautiful period pieces. More recently I have designed my own sofa range to cater for our client’s bespoke needs.

When did you rename to David Hick Interiors? It was early 2000 we changed our name to David Hick Interiors. A natural evolution took place, the business was growing towards ‘the look’, the interiors look. Not just furniture but also soft furnishings, accessories, curtains and interior design.

The building plans to further extend Alexandra House had been approved previously. The actual building work went ahead in 2005 and took two years to reach completion.

The front of Alexandra House we retained as the original Victorian shop. The conversion encompassed the old bakehouse and the vegetable garden with the completed project spanning 12,000 square feet over three galleried floors. The main entrance became the rear of the property in the shadow of the old Methodist chapel. The frontage with its stained-glass work and curved entrance was designed to look like a church hall to offer an impressive introduction to the showrooms.

Kitchens are a major part of what we do, along with bathrooms, bedrooms and general home interiors, in fact everything you could want for your home. Our collections include significant contemporary ranges in addition to retaining traditional looks.

Why did you move the focus to interiors? 20 years ago, antiques became much harder to source. When you did locate them, they were that much harder to sell as the market was changing. Previously once you’d located an exquisite period piece it would be no problem finding a buyer, in fact we had a waiting list. Once the change started to take place, and buyers were becoming as scarce as the antiques themselves, I made the decision to change direction.

"You’ve got to have that goal ahead of you. You’ve got to have ambition, you’ve got to always be looking forward."

What did you do before becoming involved with antiques? It was always antiques. I was just sixteen when I started training in antiques and furniture restoration in Hertfordshire. You could say it was in my blood. I loved the finer things in life and fully immersed myself in what was to become my passion for helping others who appreciate the finest and the best. I was brought up in Jersey and returned in 1977 to open up my first antiques shop in Union Street, where Hospice Care shop is now. Then three years later I moved to Burrard Street.

Did you restore antiques as well at that time? We had warehouses in St Lawrence where we would carry out restorations and at one point there were seven cabinet makers preparing furniture for export. The export of larger items to the overseas market was a very large part of our business for the first ten years, then when we relocated here to Alexandra House, the focus moved to retail.

We also retained a presence in town in Halkett Place, where Laura Ashley is now. Laura Ashley became part of the business about seven years ago – another angle which fitted in extremely nicely with where we were headed.

Who would you say was the typical David Hick Interiors client? Our client base is quite mixed but all have the same love of quality that we do – we have a very good relationship with people who understand quality.

First impressions count, and there are people who say they’ve never been here – that will always happen in any business – however those who pop in to browse are blown away by what we have to offer and many have become lifelong customers.

Someone may just call in to find the perfect mirror or a bespoke sofa, whereas others want to discuss a major redesign, and we cater for all. Our team handles design projects of all sizes but all with the same care and attention to detail.

We encourage people to browse and wander in a non-pressurised environment, to really get a feeling from their surroundings on how well a look could fit with their lifestyle. Often clients don’t have a clear idea of what they’re after. Or how they could possibly change a look they’ve had in their home for years. Many say it’s our showroom displays that help the process and inspire ideas.

A major part of what we do is work with the client, not dictate to them. We have the products to show them – they don’t have to choose from a catalogue and then find it doesn’t ‘sit’ right in their home. Plus of course there’s the element of trust. We will give as little or as much help as they want and they trust us to deliver it. Our work with the client is important, they have to have input into the final creation of their project.

Are there seasonal trends? By having a finger on the pulse of the interior design market we keep ahead of trends rather than having to change to accommodate them. We pride ourselves in leading the way in trends, which at the moment is all about contemporary.

Contemporary is huge. Many would think it’s due to the move towards a discerning younger client base. However, clients I have dealt with for years who I have handled major design projects for in the past – we’re talking large, multi-roomed properties with land – are now downsizing and buying contemporary apartments. They are travelling more, the family have moved on and they maybe want a smaller space, a property with less maintenance. So, contemporary is not just about the younger market, it’s not an ageist thing.

On the flip side, there are also younger customers who prefer the traditional look. Basically, we cater for all tastes. It’s just about finding out what the client wants and working with them to deliver.

Looking back, did you make the right decision to move away from solely antiques? I don’t miss antiques as they are not easy to sell anymore. I get a buzz now from doing something quite different. After 30 odd years focussing on antiques it was quite refreshing to do something entirely different.

I just employed exactly the same criteria I used for selling antiques and put it across to everything else. It’s the same formula and just meant transferring my skill sets across from quality period pieces to high end products both contemporary and traditional.

Is it now time to sit back and take it easy? 40 years on I’m still enjoying it. Yet there are other things we’re looking at, there are ideas out there – I can’t share now, but all in good time. You’ve got to have that goal ahead of you. You’ve got to have ambition, you’ve got to always be looking forward.

How would you sum up your 40 years? I would describe the time as fulfilling. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed building the business. In the first 20 to thirty years I met some great people in the antiques business, and extremely appreciative clients who loved the things we used to source – sourcing nice things for nice people; very fulfilling.

The fun has always been, and still is, selling nice things to nice people and being appreciated by people who understand the difference.

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