Barney James - The Home Bothy
Although you’re relatively new to the antiques business, The Home Bothy already feels so well established and it wouldn’t be far stretched to believe you’d been doing it for decades! Do you feel like you’ve settled in nicely?
Gosh! That is really kind but Sam and I don’t feel “established”. We are always learning, always moving forwards, and love what we do.
The Bothy is a charming space, was it the inspiration for the business?
The Bothy was our first showroom, a wonderful moss covered building, and it still has 19th century game orders for various London restaurants written with a pencil on the wooden walls! It’s on Home Farm where we live, hence the name ‘The Home Bothy’. We didn’t build the business around the bothy, it grew organically.
Your jump from the Bothy to the Warehouse was a big move, seemingly overnight. Was it something you were planning for a while, or just a matter of snapping up an opportunity?
It was a big and enjoyable move, what the Bothy has over the warehouse in character, the warehouse more than makes up for in scale. We can showcase and buy bigger more dramatic pieces, which hopefully create a real sense of theatre. It is far more functional for getting inventory in and out quicker and enables people to clearly see a large quantity of stock quickly. It is ideal having both within a short walk from home. It had been in the pipeline for a while, just a matter of getting the stars aligned, and grabbing the chance when it came.
Sharing the warehouse with Harry Diamond is a brave move, his unique style and approach to antiques is very specific, how does this blend in with your stock... does it work?
Yes, it’s great! We have different styles and approaches to dealing, but as a show space it works well. Harry adds an eclectic, exciting, dramatic range of stock. All stock is mixed and it works well as a show space, the feedback so far has been positive!
Are you open to the public, or mainly aimed at the trade?
We are indeed focused on trade, it’s a big space where transporters can get in and out for loading, and we are ideally located with Gatwick Airport, 10 minutes away and the M25, 15 minutes. We are always happy to open for the trade or public by appointment, and can be flexible on times as we are lucky enough to live onsite.
Where does your love for Folk Art and primitive furniture come from?
Although we buy and trade items across many areas, the essence, spirit, innocence and often humour of such pieces is enchanting. The knowledge that at a given moment in time, with the skill, tools and materials available, you have the very best the craftsman – however untrained – could deliver. Be it out of love, necessity or for enjoyment, that item will, without doubt, be the best that it can be. Surely that is what we are all striving for? To be the best we can be with what we have at any given moment.
Barney, you must be the trades ‘Gentle Giant’, such a gentleman! The only thing that’s missing is a fiddle or a banjo, I can see you sitting on a hay bale knocking out a few traditional folk songs. I reckon it could help pull in some customers! Does your love for Folk Art influence the music you listen to?
Wonderful compliment, although I am not convinced all would agree! Sam and I try our upmost to treat all trade and retail customers as we ourselves would like to be treated. I think the fiddle or banjo needs to remain missing! Being fully ensconced in setting up the business, Sam and Radio 2 dictate the music I listen to.
You have a lovely family, with two beautiful children; however, is it a challenge balancing stock hunting, photography and opening the warehouse, with the school run, after school activities and feeding time at the zoo?
I am not sure any parent, in any field finds the balancing act easy! We certainly don’t! But we enjoy running the business as a family, the hours are long but we can be super flexible in many aspects of our work, so always make up for lost time. Isla and Rig seeing our enjoyment and ethic in what we do, is a source of great pleasure for us, and they sometimes join us on the less strenuous buying trips.
I know you travel all over looking for your stock. Have you ever found anything special or exciting in the most unexpected place?
Without doubt the most exceptional find in the most unexpected place was Sam, on New Years Eve 2009, in a small pub in East London!
I urge everyone, trade or public to go and visit the warehouse, it’s an incredible space that not many people know about. There’s a huge variety of stock to view and there’s always a deal to be done. The warehouse is one of those places you’ll kick yourself for not visiting before! – Kieran Mathewson