The Gifted Few is an online store that offers a range of contemporary design-led products alongside carefully-selected vintage pieces, and they've been on our radar for a while now. We thought it would be nice to find out a little bit more about the store and about the creative treasure-hunters behind it...
R&E: So tell us, who’s behind The Gifted Few? Where are you from and what where you working on before?
Hi! We are Aaron Andrews and Sarah Ritchie and we are both business and life partners.
Aaron: Before starting The Gifted Few in 2013 I worked as the Managing Director of an arts social enterprise, as a Shop Manager for a vintage furniture shop and as a Social Media Manager.
Sarah: Since leaving school I worked for my Dad’s DIY supply business, Cyclomarket. I now hold the position of Financial Director there and divide my time between The Gifted Few and Cyclomarket.
R&E: What inspired you to start “The Gifted Few”?
Sarah & Aaron: We share a passion for both interior design and antiques so when we started discussing how we could find more satisfaction from work, (creating) a business selling vintage and contemporary homeware seemed the natural choice.
R&E: How would you describe your personal style?
Sarah & Aaron: Contemporary with a dash of time lord.
R&E: Who or what influences your style?
Sarah & Aaron: We are influenced by classic furniture design of the 20th century (Charles Eames, Verner Panton, Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl) as well as the British interpretation of the Danish modern style (Gplan, Ercol etc). We are also hugely influenced by our family’s background in industry.
The vintage industrial pieces we source come from all over Europe but we are particularly proud of the British items that we sell.
Aaron: My grandparents met on a production line at the Land Rover factory in the early 1940s and the lighting at this meeting would have been the style and period of the lamps that we salvage and give life to today.
R&E: How do you go about collecting the vintage pieces for your shop?
Sarah & Aaron: We are lucky to have a contact in Europe who travels across the whole of the continent and finds some amazing pieces for us.
We also have a few choice contacts in the UK. For example we recently bought a collection of Benjamin enamel lamps that were found in the cellar of a UK heritage mill site. They had been buried under 3 inches of dust since the early 60s. We only managed to get a hundred or so but we know that there are loads more at the same site. Fingers crossed that they will come our way.
R&E: What’s the trickiest piece you’ve had to renew?
Aaron: The hardest part as far as restoring anything is the learning curve. When we started out we knew what we wanted to sell and managed to source some great pieces but getting them to a sellable standard was another thing entirely. There have been some mistakes along the way but I am now very confident in my skills. There is always something new to learn and a new item to work with.
R&E: What is your current favourite piece and why?
Sarah & Aaron: That’s a hard question to answer, as we both love everything we sell. In terms of the vintage items, one of our current favourites is the WW2 artillery spirit levels. They would have been used to sight a large gun but we don’t think they ever saw any action as they are still in the original packaging. We are selling them as quirky industrial style light pulls for your bathroom and people are really into this idea. They just add a nice story and make a great talking point.
R&E: What are your favourite eras and why?
Sarah & Aaron: We love late 19th century Arts and Crafts for its natural shapes and beautiful workmanship, Art Deco for its modern lines and sexy curves and early 20th century soviet graphic design for its avant-garde use of photos and typography. We also like mid-century modern just because it’s so effortlessly cool and industrial design from all eras because of our shared industrial heritage… We could go on but we think you get the idea of how diverse our taste is.
R&E: How do you balance the mix of vintage and contemporary style?
Sarah: In reality, while we love vintage and antiques this isn’t really practical for a lot of products. For example you wouldn’t really buy a vintage wooden spoon or antique bed linen. In truth no one but the most hardcore purest just dresses his or her home in antiques so we try to reflect this with what we do.
With our contemporary products we try to always make sure that they are high quality, have an artisanal aspect to them and promote good quality new design. For example we work with a company called Flock that manufacture fabrics and soft furnishings. They use newly graduated students designs and 20% of everything sold goes straight to the designer.
We also work with a small company based in Shropshire, Netherton Foundry, that makes traditional cast iron cookware. They use the same techniques that have been used for centuries but still make really modern and useable cookware.
R&E: What’s the most exciting part of working on TGF, what gets you up in the morning?
Sarah & Aaron: The fact that we are doing what we want to do and carving our own destiny is pretty key for us. Also speaking to our customers who love what we do and the products that we sell. We get so much positive feedback, which is always good.
R&E: How about music, do you have a studio soundtrack?
Sarah & Aaron: We both have quite different music tastes so when we are at work we tend to listen to 6 Music as this caters for us both.
R&E: Looking to the future, what’s next for you guys?
Sarah & Aaron: We want to expand the antiques side of the business, employ some staff, work with lots of new and up and coming designers, and hopefully get more recognition for all our hard work.
As Charles Eames said in the quote that inspired our name ‘I don’t believe in this “gifted few” concept, just in people doing things they are really interested in doing. They have a way of getting good at whatever it is.’
R&E: Finally, what is your favourite R/E piece and why?
Sarah & Aaron: The Fairford Compact Peacoat, just because it’s so timeless.
R&E: Thanks for your time!