Christopher Howe is an antique dealer, designer and decorator. He has two shops in Belgravia: Howe at 36 Bourne Street, which stocks carefully produced and sourced materials and antique textiles, and Howe London at 93 Pimlico Road, his main showroom which has an ever changing and inspiring interior and a Georgian kitchen, made in collaboration with Plain English, where something is always cooking. Howe began trading in 1986 and is renowned for his quality craftsmanship and discerning eye for European antiques.
From left to right
This clock face was one of many curious gifts that a mentor of mine, Peter Twining, gave to me. Peter taught me to go on gut instinct when buying a piece: "I can always judge a piece of furniture from 10 paces", he said. Whilst I’d learnt about the business as a wood carver and furniture restorer, Peter taught me that gut feeling is just as important as attention to detail.
Wire balloon leaf guard
This object prevents leaves from clogging your drainpipes. It’s from Farmer Brothers on the Fulham Road, which is a brilliant shop. It has everything you need. This object cost just a couple of quid and it’s one of those things that hasn’t been substituted with something nasty and modern, yet. The trouble is, nobody knows what it is anymore.
Triangular wooden carriage stops
I bought eight of these from the Chatsworth House Attic Sale in 2010, which was probably one of the most amazing country house sales of my career. When I was starting out, there were a dozen good country house sales every year, now there are none. Those sales were really my favourite source because you were buying items from their original provenance. These stops are made from oak that has turned black from being on the oily, dirty floor of a carriage house. They are totally functional, simple and sculptural, and incredibly historic at the same time.
Kermit the Frog
Although I didn’t buy him in the 70s or add all the badges, he’s incredibly nostalgic. The Muppets were part of my childhood. He lives on the shelves above my desk in the shop on the Pimlico Road and people keep wanting to buy him. I don’t like telling customers that things aren’t for sale, but he has to be the exception.
This is from a French brocante. The brocantes in France are a way of life; they are just something they do. When you ask for a price for something they’ll shrug their shoulders and say "cinque euros?" The money is not the point, it’s the wine and socialising, so don’t ask for a price between noon and 2pm when they’re having lunch. I have my coffee in this cup every morning.
Marble King Charles spaniel
I bought this 18th-century marble carving thirty years ago from a runner called Gary Brunswick. A runner is a person who brings items to your shop and Gary was a very knowledgeable Jewish carpet dealer who bought and sold the odd object too. It’s a wonderful piece because it has all the characteristics of the earliest King Charles Spaniel. My only regret – half regret – is that I didn’t sell it to Tom Parr when he asked about it. He was the august boss of Colefax and Fowler in the 1980s and that dog at least reminds me of him.
Coloured oil painting
This isn’t a great painting, but it was made by my great friend Sallie Ann Peterson, who loved colour. She was a real southern belle, like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. Even in her late 70s, she was incredibly beautiful and elegantly dressed. She used to come into my shop where she fell in love with my dog, Dotty. Dotty actually bit her, and instead of suing me, we became best friends.
The dragon was carved by my great friend, Charlie, about 25 years ago. It was made to go on top of a Regency giltwood convex mirror. Convex mirrors usually had the symbol of an eagle on the top, but Charlie carved this dragon for me instead.
Oak leaf carving
This came from the barn of antique dealer Mr Flavel who had moved to Morocco, leaving his beautiful estate, Midgham Park, to be cleared by his grounds man. I bought all sorts of bits from his barn: chandelier pieces, gardening books, stacks of flowerpots and odd bits of carving, including this bracket, which was in three pieces. It was one of my first repair jobs.
Record player and speaker
I’ve got a ridiculously huge collection of record decks, amplifiers and speakers, which are gradually finding their way out of storage and into the shop. I learnt everything there was to know about Hi-Fis in the 70s when I had a Saturday job in a Hi-Fi shop. At school, it was my job to go to the record store and buy records for the school disco, with the money we made from selling pop and crisps. At home, my mother would play French 60s music and dance around the house. I used to sit cross-legged in front of the stereogram playing records that belonged to my parents or older siblings. I still prefer the sound records produce; it makes people actually listen to the music.
Another of my early restoration projects. I bought a few of these from the Harewood House sale, all of them missing pieces.
Carved claw and postcard
This carved lion paw was made in 1810 and inspired the Irish paw-foot bench made for us by Roy Smith 30 years ago. It was for one of our first big commissions: to make the benches for the reception of the National Gallery. Eight of them stand on the left and right of you as you go in: people sit and eat their sandwiches there. Last year, Roy gave a carving demonstration in our shop window for London Craft Week, and the postcard behind is the invite I sketched.
A reminder of the 70’s Cadbury’s Smash advert and it still has the original 70’s terracotta-coloured bulb. One of the eyeballs keeps dropping out. My children call me the Great Mender but it’s one of the jobs I’ve been putting off for years.