Somerset’s new draw for the art crowd

Kensington’s newest gallery and design store, 8 Holland Street, is already expanding with a second outpost

The Kensington gallery is a trove for everything from 18th-century Japanese screens to early Heal’s furniture and midcentury European design
The Kensington gallery is a trove for everything from 18th-century Japanese screens to early Heal’s furniture and midcentury European design | Image: James McDonald

A gallery that cites among its inspirations Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, Peggy Guggenheim’s Venetian palazzo and Charles and Ray Eames’ California home clearly has big ambitions, yet this unique mix of intimacy, drama and modernity is exactly what designer Tobias Vernon and curator Rowena Morgan-Cox have achieved at 8 Holland Street. Their two-floor space, which opened this spring and is tucked away off Kensington High Street, is exquisite without being intimidating. “We find the imposing, white-cube style of exhibiting very stuffy,” says Vernon. “We want 8 Holland Street to show visitors how they could actually live with works of art. It’s somewhere to wander around, sit and discover.” Their project is already gathering pace and the pair will open a second outpost in Somerset this summer.

The gallery shows visitors how they could actually live with works of art. It’s somewhere to wander around, sit and discover
The gallery shows visitors how they could actually live with works of art. It’s somewhere to wander around, sit and discover | Image: James McDonald

The vision for the venue is eclectic, and visitors will find everything from 18th-century Japanese screens to early Heal’s furniture, midcentury European design (think Giò Ponti and Hans Wegner) and engravings by Elisabeth Frink. “There’s no need to stick to a single period or style,” Vernon says. “What matters is that every item has provenance and a story, and everything sits together in harmony, like a home.” Morgan-Cox is also keen to point out that there are smaller, more accessibly priced pieces in the mix, such as handmade recycled glass tumblers from Mexico, Irish linens, books and studio pottery.

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The second iteration of the gallery, in Vernon’s home county of Somerset, is scheduled to open at the end of June in a converted barn around a mile outside the historic village of Mells. It will be arranged like a home, just like its London counterpart, and will similarly offer an interior design service to clients, as well as furniture sourcing and advice on buying art.

A second outpost will open in summer in Somerset
A second outpost will open in summer in Somerset | Image: Rachael Cocker

With Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, Messum’s Wiltshire in Salisbury and the artists’ studios of Spike Island in Bristol all nearby, the area is quickly becoming a hub for contemporary arts and crafts, and 8 Holland Street promises to make the lure west that bit more enticing…

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