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London's foremost antique's dealer Owen Pacey on 30 Years restoring fireplaces

28th Oct 2020

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Bursting with exuberant antique fireplaces, chandeliers and mirrors, Renaissance London is known in the design world as 'the Aladdin's Cave of architectural salvage'. After 30 years of the opulent showroom and bespoke fireplace service, Founder Owen Pacey has built quite the reputation as one of the foremost experts in fine architectural pieces. Amassing an impressive black book of clients, from interior designers to hoteliers and celebrities alike, Renaissance London pieces have graced the home of the likes of Mick Jagger, George Michael, Orlando Bloom, Gilbert & George, Soho House and The Arts Club to name a few. We caught up with Owen about how stripping pine doors turned into three decades as London's best architectural salvager.

Congratulation on 30 successful years! What has been the highlight for you since you started Renaissance London?

Thank you! The highlight for me has been the people I’ve met. I was recently thinking how lucky I am to be doing something where I get to meet such a wide range of interesting people (even if I am sometimes clueless when a celebrity comes into the showroom!).

Let’s go back to the beginning. Please could you tell us about how Renaissance London was born?

My route into dealing in fireplaces started off with doors. I ended up getting a job with this old guy who was stripping pine doors. This was big in the eighties, pine was everywhere. I took a real shine to the work. We had a big water tank which was filled with caustic and the doors would be stacked up in the tank. We’d have to really push them down into the tank, one time I even fell in and had to get hosed down pretty quickly! After that stage, we would take a jet hose and blast away all the sludge. The doors would then emerge and they looked lovely after a wax. I realised we didn’t just have to strip the doors, we could also restore them. It was quite a magical process and we then started to do it with cast iron fireplaces too. Clients would walk in and just say ‘wow.’ It gave me a sense of achievement, creating something that someone would cherish and enjoy.

Your showroom is often described as an Aladdin’s Cave and you the master of salvaging. Why is salvaging so important to you?

We have been salvaging antiques for 30 years now, it’s something that I have always loved to do. They have such character and a history which is irreplaceable, and of course it has the added benefit of being sustainable.

How do you go about sourcing pieces?

We're fortunate in London because there are treasure troves everywhere you look filled with eclectic pieces that tell a story. What makes these places so special is the people working in them, who have travelled all around the world sourcing every single piece. Italy and Portugal are also favourite places of mine to source pieces. They have some really interesting designers and as such some incredibly unique pieces.

If you had to pick a few key pieces from your showroom to restyle their home for winter, which would you choose and why?

A fireplace is a real focal point, it brings people together. They are lovely community pieces, which makes them a great addition to your home for winter. It's hard to pick one distinctive fireplace in my collection, each model is one of a kind. One set does stay in my mind though, which is the giant travertine fireplaces that came from an Italian monastery. This was many years ago when a huge earthquake struck. I happened to be in southern Italy at the time and ended up bartering with this very old Italian monk for them. The monastery itself, the negotiation with the monk… it was a surreal exchange! The fireplaces are both currently in my own home.

What exciting projects are you currently working on or have coming up?

We have a lot of new projects we are currently working on, particularly in listed buildings. One of our projects is installing an antique Italian fireplace into a modern kitchen space, I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished project.