When Tobias Vernon was studying history of art at Cambridge, a simple, sunny sketch of a fishing trawler by the St Ives artist Bryan Pearce hung in his room. Borrowed from the collection of Kettle’s Yard gallery, the work is an early example of Vernon’s magpie eye for collecting and curating. It’s these skills that he’s become known for at 8 Holland Street, the gallery and design store he founded in 2018.
The store’s harmonious assortment of art and decorative objects spans paintings by Vernon’s beloved St Ives artists, ceramics and textiles from modern-day makers and furniture from some of the big hitters of midcentury design, such as Hans J Wegner. Fascinated by what he describes as “the interconnecting web of things”, Vernon freely mixes styles, eras and the high with the low. A David Shrigley poster might sit happily beside a Ben Nicholson etching; a Bernard Leach pot with a piece of found French studio pottery. Against a white backdrop, arrangements of items balance the familiar with the unexpected – pulled together with a sense of vibrancy and generosity.
Last year, Vernon opened a second shop in Bath, in a Georgian building a few steps from The Royal Crescent. This winter he is expanding this store with a three-bedroom space named the 8 Holland Street Townhouse, a project created with a four-strong in-house design team that works with him on private interiors commissions.
Accessed by a separate entrance – a glossy black door – it will be a place for visitors, friends, artists and makers to spend time and stay. He drew inspiration from the homes of collectors and creatives including Peggy Guggenheim, Charles and Ray Eames and, of course, Jim Ede, the British collector who founded Kettle’s Yard. All of the furniture and decor will be for sale – from the Man Ray and Cartier-Bresson prints (from £900) on the wall of the snug, to the Angelo Mangiarotti table (£14,000) and Märta Måås-Fjetterström rug (£8,000) in the kitchen.
The mood is artisanal with a touch of opulence. In the dressing room, walls decked with Peggy Angus wallpaper are hung with one-of-a-kind Murano glass lights from Barovier & Toso (£2,400); in one of the bedrooms, vintage bamboo beds (£3,200) jostle for attention with a Morris & Co arts and crafts chair (£800) and a cool-toned artwork by Victor Pasmore (£3,200). “Everything tells a story,” says Vernon.
“Normally when we create an interior for a client the look is a toned-down version of the shop – but this will be full throttle,” he laughs. The design team are now working on the interiors for homes in Los Angeles and London, as well as a Riba-shortlisted house in the UK and homes for several high-profile contemporary art-world figures.
“It’s always been about the mix of found and fine things; pieces that draw the eye, rather than grand provenance,” says Vernon. “I’m wasted on projects where things are overly planned. For the townhouse, we’ve been able to playfully put this interior together as we go.” The result, with its grand Venetian windows overlooking Brock Street and perfectly proportioned drawing room decorated with a vast Sandra Blow canvas, is the perfect space for 8 Holland Street’s patrons to step inside, and stay a while.