Henry of 52 Metres

52 Meters with Henry Saywell

Post War furniture, although decades old, is perhaps still some way off from reaching the coveted antique status, or so you would think… With a showroom packed with treasures, contemporary antique dealers 52 Meters are out to prove modern can be just as precious as mature.

Nestled on the Lille Road, Fulham, the interiors company specialises in rare 20th Century furniture and homewares. Here, co-founder Henry tells us all about his contemporary antiques store.

How did you begin your career in antiques?

Originally I wanted to be an artist and studied at Wimbledon School of Art. However, quite quickly I realised I should concentrate on other people’s work and went on to study Art History. After I graduated I got a job as a waiter, where one evening at an exhibition of 16th century Italian old master drawings, the dealer who I was waiting for offered me a job. A week later I was in New York and ever so slightly out of my depth. For the next five years I worked for various dealers around the world until I took an MA in Arts and Business and set up on my own.

When did you open 52 Meters?

We set up 52 meters about five years ago. I already had a small shop on the Lillie road in Fulham when Tom (Stewart-Liberty), who had previously been at Alfies Antique Market, came and joined me. Doing any type of work on your own, day in day out, is quite hard and so having a business partner is just more interesting and fun, not to mention easier when it comes to moving heavy bits of furniture around.

The Lillie road is also a great street to be on. There are around 20 independent antique and interior shops; it really is a hidden gem.

How do you source each piece?

We travel extensively throughout the UK and Europe, as well as the rest of the world.

How do you begin to restore the pieces?

When we started we restored everything ourselves, but now we tend to let professional restorers do most of the work.

Do you try and restore pieces to how they were or do you prefer to give them a modern makeover?

We like to try and keep things in their original state as much as possible, even if they need restoration.

What is your favourite design era?

We specialise in 20th century design furniture and lighting, so any post-war decade interests me – even stuff that is being made today. The ’50s produced some fantastic things, as they tried to forget the World War II and excitedly embraced the future.

What’s your most favourite piece that you currently have in stock?

I like the small French palm tree lamp, made in the ’70s by Maison Jansen. It is an early one as its trunk is real bamboo (later they used metal). If you described it to someone, it would sound awful, but in reality it is quite charming.

You have given artists the chance to display their work at the 52 Meters showroom. What was the inspiration behind this?

We thought that most contemporary art shows are held in very clinical white boxes; but if you are going to live with these things at home, then they would be in an environment more like our shop. It’s an alternative exhibition space to the white box and a good chance to get young artists’ work shown. The artists are chosen either by us, because we liked their work, or the curators putting the shows together.


Are you ever commissioned to find pieces?

We do get commissioned to find works all the time for people. One ongoing project we have is with Byron hamburger restaurants, my favourite being in Camden. It is based on a ’70s minicab office – go and have a look. The food is great too!

52 Meters is set to appear at a number of contemporary furniture designer shows this year; to be added to their guest list enter your email address at www.52meters.com.

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