Lorfords Antiques, the British design-antiques firm, is expanding into an unusual new space: The company has acquired its second of two World War II airplane hangars, implemented for showcasing a roster of antiques dealers’ wares. The new exhibition space, measuring 7,500 square feet and located, as the first hangar, on Babdown Airfield near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, sold out within 24 hours of the expansion announcement, and will open at the beginning of next month.
Lorfords acquired Hangar One in November 2014, and in May of last year, the company acquired half of another hangar across the airfield. Phase two of that hangar, which features two floors of space, was acquired in December of last year. Some of the confirmed dealers include Drew Pritchard, Ark Angel, JOE Antiques, Hetman Gallery, Original House, Seventeen-Twenty-One, Doe & Hope Antiques and eddintheclouds antiques. (The latter two are members of the Antiques Young Guns organization for young dealers, an initiative sponsored by Lorfords.)
Lorfords co-owner Toby Lorford chatted with EAL about the big space with big personality:
Tell us about the hangar concept. How did you know this was the right space for Lorfords?
Lorfords has a long history of working with other antique dealers. As the economic recovery took hold in the U.K. in 2011, we were looking to re-engage with a number of dealers that we had previously worked with. At the same time, we were looking for storage and a photographic studio. The first time I stepped through into a dark corner of the original World War II building, there was no question in my mind. Despite the filth and lines of stacked steel crates, the hangar had a quiet magnificence that really excited me.
What do dealers and visitors like most about the hangars?
The dealers…that is very simple! Almost every dealer I know loves buying but is not really enamored with the rest of the business; cataloguing, photographing, loading to websites, selling, delivering, and all the paperwork that goes with it all. We allow the dealers to do what they do best—find beautiful and rare furniture and objects. And because we all benefit from economies of scale, we can offer all those services for less than it would cost to rent your own shop.
The visitors love three aspects: choice, service and inspiration. We offer an unrivaled selection of antiques in Europe, at the same time we are working with some of the most creative and stunning stand setting that we know of. One of the guiding ideas behind the concept was how to compete with the proliferation of aggregate websites, the likes of 1stdibs—an amazing success story and awe-inspiring player in our market. The only aspect we can genuinely compete on is the customer experience, from inspiring display to personal attention throughout the customers’ purchases. We hold stock for over 30 dealers, yet the buyer has the service level that only one supplier brings.
How does such an unexpected space lend itself to interiors, art and antiques?
The space is a vast blank canvas with a stunning but unobtrusive architectural frame. We have divided it up in a simple way that maintains the overarching sense of space and history. Unlike modern warehouse spaces, the building has very strong personality; it exudes calmness, strength and grandeur. Other than being a little cold in winter, it is a serene and lovely place to be in.
Not to play favorites, but which dealer’s space do you find most interesting or innovative?
To me, it is not one or two dealers that stand out, but the juxtaposition of styles, presentation and eras that excites and challenges. Jacky Hall’s is timelessly beautiful, Lee Wright’s is innovative, bringing modern styling to period furniture, and Dean Antiques’ is a master class in retail presentation. But to me, it is the whole—the contradiction between modern minimalism, traditional country house and World War II austerity that makes the whole so special.