Cult shop: avant-garde design with a glass of wine
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Interiors news every morning.
Jermaine Gallacher’s journey as a design dealer started with a squiggle. “The first thing I ever sold was a zigzag candlestick I picked up at Battersea car boot sale,” he says. “I’ve always been drawn to objects with a sculptural silhouette.”
Today, his showroom is a lime-washed wonderland of waves, wiggles and snaking lines housed inside a 19th-century cork factory in London’s Borough. Since opening in 2018, it has become a hunting ground for those whose tastes tread the fine line between the bizarre and the beautiful. “It’s certainly not for everyone,” says Gallacher of his eclectic assortment of contemporary design, postmodern antiques and Arts and Crafts curios that might include a pillar-box-red wall-hanging axe, a pair of spiral wall sconces or a set of four leopard-print chairs. “I like interiors that make you feel something,” he says. “I want to be surrounded by things that alter the mood.”
Although he’s reluctant to be termed a gallerist, Gallacher’s showroom has also become an incubator for nascent creative talents such as Miranda Keyes, whose foot-shaped jesmonite bookends sit alongside the lacquered steel and leather chairs and lamps of Lukas Gschwandtner, an Austrian furniture maker who poetically reimagines the proportions of Viennese modernism in poetic new forms. In September, the Lant Street space hosted an exhibition of Italian artist Viola Lanari’s powdery plaster creations – consoles and tables that began as an ode to Giacometti’s 1930s Tête de Femme lamps. This month it’s the turn of London’s Tom Atton Moore, who hand-tufts his abstracted rugs in his shed.
Gallacher honed his magpie eye for design by scouring the junk shops of his native Brighton. “Snoopers Paradise was my second home,” says the Camberwell art school graduate, whose weekly pitch at Spitalfields Market gradually evolved into more permanent shop spaces across Soho, Waterloo and Dalston. It was on a visit to Lant Street Wine, an independent shop around the corner from his home, that Gallacher found his current base. “It turned out that they had a huge warehouse space,” he explains. “It was being used for storage but owner Ben Wilcock wanted to make it into a bar.” Which is why Gallacher’s by-appointment showroom doubles as a drinking den, social restrictions allowing, on Thursday and Friday nights – and why Lant Street Wine’s bottles bear Gallacher’s signature wiggle logo.
“Furniture shops can be bloody dull,” he says. “I had no intention of just sitting behind an expensive desk all day waiting for someone to come and spend lots of money.” His epicurean set-up seems to inspire the latter, however. When Kelly Wearstler, the doyenne of West Coast interior design, visited recently, her buying spree included a pair of Gschwandtner’s leather and steel chairs, several vases and a postmodern elm dining table. Gallacher’s sales tactic was simple: “I just shut the doors, poured a glass of wine and let her shop.”
And now there comes a further draw: Gallacher’s debut Prototype collection of furniture and decorative accessories. Chief among the series of candelabras, consoles, shelf brackets and stools – which all come in unadorned raw steel or contrastingly pop-y hues – is an enormous high-backed throne. Wrought entirely from angular, zig-zagging lines, it’s the antithesis of prettiness. “It’s a rather wild occasional chair,” he says. “I imagine it in a hallway – with a huge 1980s push-button telephone on it.”