November 22 2009
In a quiet corner of London’s Bloomsbury, Ben Pentreath is a curious little shop that could have been conceived and designed specifically to please would-be scholars with frequent idle moments and a sincere interest in interior design. In fact, me. I appreciate that this probably wasn’t Ben Pentreath and Bridie Hall’s entire mission statement when they started up their interiors store last year at 17 Rugby Street, but their combination of thick, coloured glass tumblers, vividly patterned textiles, Peter Hone’s plaster casts and the odd crocodile skull strikes just the perfect quirky but decorative chord for my taste.
Stock changes, so it’s well worth making regular visits, or at least keeping their website bookmarked. Recently, there was a sculptural clump of barnacles (£30) which I felt would be ideal tucked into a space on the bookcase; a luminously beautiful deep purple resin cast table lamp, made by Marianna Kennedy’s workshop in Spitalfields, the shape of the base reminiscent of a turned wood table leg (£400); and small circular convex mirrors, with frames entirely covered in stamps (£175) – Bridie’s own design.
I came away with some new arrivals: patterned sheets of paper originally printed for bookbinders by Judd Street Papers, and now produced by Alan Powers, with designs by famous 20th-century graphic artists such as Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious (50cm x 70cm, £2.50 per sheet). Astonishingly inexpensive for their impact, appeal and venerable pedigree, these will make outrageously stylish Christmas wrap.
Ben Pentreath is a store where you come away with more than your purchases – it sparks inspiration for all sorts of outlandish projects. Now I fancy a proper panelled study for a collection of corals, crystals and croc skulls. And, in the shorter term, I’m wondering about papering a feature wall in a mid-20th-century printed patchwork. Until November 25, Ben Pentreath’s shop will be holding a selling show, a Cabinet of Curiosities, filled with natural wonders and fantastic collectors’ objects.