Matt Dixon - Tallboy Interiors
Matt, you’re young, free, with no ties or commitments, and you spend a lot of time on the road. Do you feel like you’ve set good foundations for what could become a long career in antiques?
I have been fortunate enough to get involved in this business from a young age. Starting so young without ties meant I could be a bit braver with my money and buy a wide array of interesting pieces that I felt complimented me, and items I could personally live with. I like to think that it meant I made a statement and stood out from the crowd. By buying a range of antiques it also allowed me to make connections with a whole host of different individuals who helped create the foundations, which I hope I can build on in the years to come
France seems to be your favourite place to go hunting for stock, as many other dealers do. Don’t you think France has been overdone now? Any plans to try somewhere new?
I absolutely love going to France to buy! It was a challenge last year, to see if I could make it work with the expenses of shipping etc. Thankfully, so far so good. With that being said, no I don’t believe it has been overdone. It’s true that a lot of English and American dealers go there and have done for 20+ years, but it works just the same as any fair. Every time you go there is something new and exciting to find. The reason I believe it will never die as a place to buy antiques, is because of the sheer amount of variety. Although you are in France the number of dealers selling there from other countries is huge, Dutch, Swedish, and Italian to name a few, so the mixture of pieces is always high. I would love to try other places, I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline, however it’s too early to go into more detail I’m afraid.
When you aren’t in France or stripping chairs, what is your typical day?
That’s a tough one! I very rarely get days off as there always seems to be something that needs doing, and to be honest I love the industry so don’t see my days as work. I now do a lot of my own deliveries where I can. It allows me to meet my clients and trade buyers face to face, which really helps build relationships. Driving up and down the country takes up a lot of my days, along with trips to house calls, auctions etc, where I need to be to keep on top of my stock. On the odd occasion when I get a day off, you can find me relaxing, reading through various interior design books and magazines, which helps me keep an eye on trends and alternative styles.
You’ve built up a good following within the trade, almost becoming a runner for other dealers. Do you prefer selling to the trade for a quick turnaround?
When it comes to selling, I like to have a balance. I will always work with trade, as they never stop wanting new items and are most likely to buy from you on a regular basis. By running around the UK daily, I find quite a lot of stock, meaning I do need a fast turnaround. A lot of the trade have commitments with shops and jobs for example, and don’t have the time to find the pieces themselves. That’s where I come in, supplying them with the pieces they need. The antiques world is very close and that’s why we are happy to help each other out. At times, I find some real gems, but have to pay a lot of money to get them, which does make it harder to sell them to the trade. That’s why I believe a balance of trade and private buyers is very important, and also why I work hard to maintain a regular face on trade sites, social media and at fairs.
There’s nothing wrong with paying too much for ‘Gems’, the problem is paying too much for pieces you can’t move on! Do you have stock lying around that you wish you hadn’t bought, or realise you paid too much for?
Absolutely! Talk to any dealer out there and they will tell you the same as me, there are pieces in the darkest corner of their storage containers that they wouldn’t be able to access if they wanted to. It comes with the business, the little mistakes we make over the years add up. In recent times though I have tried to become a lot pickier with the pieces I buy, so that I can limit the amount of slow moving stock. It’s never an easy thing
to predict, believe me, the amount of times I have bought pieces that I thought wouldn’t last long, and they are still here six months later! As long as stock continues to sell, then over time everything will go, as there will be a buyer out there. Although sometimes you just have to admit the mistake, and get some money back and go again.
Speaking of money... how did you get started?
As a Northerner, it’s not the ‘done’ thing to talk about money in detail, but here’s a little bit of info. I had roughly £500 given to me by my family on my 18th birthday. I knew straight away that I wanted to do something with it rather than just buy something frivolous. I also knew I didn’t want to work in a dead-end job, being told what to do all day. I had enough of that at school! Saying that, I did well at school, completed sixth form with good grades in design, business and photography, which I felt gave me a good grounding. I decided to start dabbling in antiques and spent a year buying anything and everything to see where I wanted to go with my business. I would buy things for £10 and sell them for £20 and it all just built up over the next couple of years. I then decided to do a course in interior design, which I also passed with good grades. This was the real boost and turning point in my career that paved the way for TallBoy Interiors. I have worked on a small number of projects so far which I have loved and through the style of items I buy, I hope this will continue to develop.
Being Northern explains your work ethic and why you’re a grafter. If you’re anything like my wife, being Northern also makes you a tough negotiator, right?
Ha-ha! I have met you and your wife, and by the way you guys negotiate with me I can tell her Northern philosophy is rubbing off on you! I will always try to get the best deal; it’s in my nature. I have adopted a softer touch when selling though, as I said earlier, the business is all about helping each other out. As long as I am making my share and the next dealer is too, then I’m happy. I always want to try and work out a deal, mainly to fuel my buying habits! The more stock I have, the less space and money I have to buy, and that doesn’t sit well with me. I like to keep things turning, so I can get back on the road and find some more stunning pieces. That’s the real driving force for me, going out and never knowing what you may find!
What’s next for TallBoy?
I have been working with an upholsterer for the past six months or so to develop my seating. I now supply trade with stripped back chairs and can offer the ability to have them upholstered in any fabric they choose, saving time and money. I built a section on my website allowing the order to come through as a whole and the buyer can see the prices instantly without having to wait for me to reply with quotes, as I know a lot of people are on tight time schedules. I am also working towards establishing myself as an Interior Designer. I have already worked on a number of projects, which have all been great. However, they are very infrequent. I love every stage of design, from building work to decorating to furnishing, so yeah, working towards that is my biggest goal!