Luke Honey Luke Honey

Firstly, you have a wealth of experience in the arts and antiques world. How did it all begin?

My grandparents were great collectors, and had the most beautiful houses. I've always been fascinated by antiques, it has to be in the blood. At fourteen I subscribed to The World of Interiors, which, with hindsight, was a rather odd thing for a young boy to do. I read history at UCL; I've always been obsessed with the past. I then had grand plans to be a barrister, drank the port at the Inner Temple, but struggled to get my head around the mysteries of Land Law. After a brief flirtation with publishing in the early 90's, including a stint at the old Foyle's bookshop in the Charing Cross Road, I managed to scrape a job as a van driver of sorts at the old Bonhams saleroom in the Lot's Road, which in turn, led to Phillips, New Bond Street. I was a furniture porter there for two years, before joining the European Works of Art department as a specialist and cataloguer. This is where I first encountered antique chess sets. We held regular auctions of rare chess sets and games at the Bond Street saleroom- and also in New York. I then transferred to Valuations and ended up running the department at the Phillips Bayswater saleroom.

I left Phillips in 2001, and began to deal in Modern British paintings, drawings and prints (it's always been an interest), while, at the same time, catalogued and directed antique games auctions for Freeman's in Philadelphia, Bloomsbury (the rare book auctioneers) and Bonhams; and valued antiques and paintings for Seymour's Art Advisors. Oh, and don't forget Natural History- I've been involved in that area for quite a long time now too. I've now been a full-time dealer for two years: I've finally made that transfer from being an auction specialist and consultant to a full-time online antiques dealer. It's great fun, extremely creative and also very challenging.

What gets you excited at fairs and auctions? What decorative arts do you look out for?

The chase. There's always something new around the corner; always something exciting to discover. I happen to specialise in the "Gentleman's Library" look, which means: library steps, globes, phrenology heads, convex mirrors, gambling and racing stuff, graphic posters and cigar humidors, things like that. "Mantiques" is the current buzz word. I was, of course, already well-known in the business for selling old backgammon boards and chess sets. But anything quirky and eclectic now catches my eye, especially if there's a bit of original patina. Nothing too blingy please, no James Bond ejector seats in brand new shiny chrome. I'm a bit more "Old School". But then it's also helps if you inject a bit of Mid-Century Modern or Festival of Britain into a traditional clubby interior. It gives it an "edge". It's a fun and creative niche market to be in.

I exhibit at the Battersea Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair twice a year. It's one of the best London fairs, in my opinion, with a wide selection of stylish and innovative dealers. There's a relaxed, friendly approach, which I appreciate too. It's also incredibly visual.

I try not to restore- if at all possible. I prefer to keep things in their original condition; my fascination lies with objects that tell a story. Like quirky magic posters from the Golden Age of the Illusionists; things that have a rich history and a story to tell. There's also beauty in imperfection.

What is your favourite piece you have ever acquired?

Oh, where do you start? I recently sold a large model of the Goodyear Zeppelin airship to another dealer. It was terrific. A window display model from an American garage of the 1920's or 30's, from the days of Bonnie and Clyde. It came with it's own docking post. There was also a fabulous original poster of the American stage magician, hypnotist and rogue, Claude Alexander Conlin who supposedly had fourteen wives. That one sold within a few minutes. A current favourite, currently in stock, is a signed Orpen collotype of Vera Hone, his muse, dressed in the uniform of the Roscommon Dragoons, an Irish territorial regiment. She has a haunting face. I can see why he was entranced.

Tell us what's in your home collection? Are there any pieces you can't bear to part with?

I can tell you exactly. Books. My God, we have far too many books, it's insane. I tried to count them once, and gave up. I think there must be about 4000 of them. I adore books as you've probably gathered. Can't think of anything better than a musty old second-hand book shop on a rainy Saturday morning. I love it when things fall out of books: a library slip from 1950, some old dear's shopping list, a love letter or something; or some cryptic birthday message written in faded biro. Sends a shiver up my spine. It's all about association, isn't it? In a funny way there's a subtle book Renaissance going on. I don't think Kindle has destroyed the printed word, instead publishers are re-inventing the market and producing books as beautifully designed, luxury objects for a select audience. The quality of book design and production in this country is superb.

I love 20th century literature. We've got a burgeoning collection of Modern Firsts: Bruce Chatwin, Aldous Huxley, Robin Maugham, Graham Greene, Patricia Highsmith, Patrick Hamilton, Iain Sinclair, authors like that. I've also got a large stack of Noel Carrington's Picture Puffins series. Wonderfully illustrated by the likes of Stanley Roy Badmin. So evocative of that immediate post-war period. Books on photography, fashion and design are a must too. Cecil Beaton's eminently collectable.

And then there's our modest collection of 20th century British art. I bought an original Stanley Spencer drawing the other day, a study for the Bedales Music School. It has a marvellous, very- Spencer-ish, almost Christ-Like figure in the centre. Patrick Procktor's stunning aquatint of the Forbidden City is another recent favourite. I would also love to have the entire set of Hockney's Brothers Grimm series. I once had an artist's proof, which I now regret selling. I'm a huge fan of Eric Ravilious too, but the days when you could buy a Ravilious lithograph for a few hundred pounds are long, long over. And this might amuse you: I've only got one chess set, but it's a rather lovely Islamic one with faded, subtle colours of red and green; it's an unusual thing and looks stunning against an upholstered Robert Kime ottoman we've got in the Drawing Room.

What is the next big thing on the 'mantiques' market?

"Eclecticism" is currently the talk of the town. I'm a great believer in mixing periods. If the quality's there it will work. It's all about layers and associations. What works well with what, about developing an 'eye'. About re-arranging rooms so that they don't get boring. Why not display a lovely old 18th century backgammon set on a modernist coffee table, or a quirky Victorian phrenologist's head on an Air Ministry desk from the Battle of Britain? Of course, this sort of approach was very popular in the 1960's, David Hicks was The Master.

Vintage backgammon sets are currently hot. They're popular with a City crowd, bankers, financiers, people with a mathematical bent. And then there's Mahjong which is currently very much on trend. It's cool to go to a party and say I'm learning Mahjong. I like people who appreciate old objects with a fascinating history. Everything that I sell has to have a story behind it. I sell things with character, that's what I do.

And outside of antiques? Tell us about your other interests, we hear you're a bit of a foodie...

I've been writing a food blog (The Greasy Spoon) for seven years now. It's a labour of love. Back then, you would admit to some girl at a cocktail party that you were a 'blogger', and her eyes would glaze over with badly concealed horror, but now I've had the last laugh, and everybody wants a piece of the action. I get so much out of writing, it's theraputic. I've also blogged for The Spectator, The Dabbler and Homes & Antiques magazine. It's early mornings for me. All the ideas arrive with the cornflakes. I'm an amateur cook too, or at least try to be. Kedgeree is the signature dish of the moment. It's an absolute Anglo-Indian classic. I'm very keen on authentic Indian food. Don't get me started. I'm incredibly greedy.

Check out Luke Honey's items on Barnebys here.

Luke Honey will be exhibiting at Battersea Decorative Antiques & Textile Fair, 21st-26th April. For more information see here.

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