Homegirl London pays homage to Uniche Interior Furnishings. This online retailer is a family run business that was born out of a passion for creating the perfect home. The owners are Mark Bentham and Laura Lane who hold a strong belief that “Our home is a stage around which our lives unfold. How we set that stage is an extension of who we are.” They believe “style is individual, not ordinary. If your rooms are for living in, sofas are for sprawling on, battered is best and old is beautiful.” So it’s no surprise when I tell you that they sell vintage inspired pieces which have the lived in look. Life before Uniche was spent undertaking large scale restoration projects on period country properties and although they tackled all areas of improvements, the most satisfying was certainly the final dressing – bringing carefully chosen furniture, lighting and accessories together. So Uniche was born out of the desire to move away from the ordinary and furnish homes with truly unique pieces that dare to be different. They sell a fabulous range of furniture, lighting and accessories. I caught up with the couple to ask a few questions …
Q: How did you meet?
A: We met originally at a beer festival! It was in our then home town of Ledbury, Herefordshire and being a small market town in hop growing territory it’s always quite a lively event. I was in a relationship at the time and Laura moved away shortly after, so things didn’t have a chance to take off. It was only when we met again, at the same beer festival ten years to the day later that we got together!
Q: What’s it like working together?
A: Blissful! … Obviously!!! No, Laura and I have a very close relationship both privately and business wise. We’ve barely spent a day apart since we’ve been together and have a habit of reading each other’s thoughts and feelings very accurately. Laura’s very artistic and I have quite a practical side so between the two of us, we can cover most angles.
Q: How do you relax and unwind when you’re away from the business?
A: We both love to travel but at the moment we’re committed to the growth of the business so long holidays are a rarity. Instead we make the most of our weekends. We have a vintage VW camper which we use a lot. We are very fortunate in that we live in a beautiful part of the world so we don’t have to travel far to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Our perfect campsites are very basic, a remote meadow, by a river amongst the hills somewhere. Wales is within very easy reach for us as well, so more often than not we head west into the mountains! Our son Dillan loves the outdoor life too, he has in a tiny vintage caravan that we tow behind the camper – it’s his favourite thing in the world and it also means that we can have a lie in while he’s safely in there playing with his toys. I’ve yet to find a better way to relax than cooking over the camp fire and watching the evening sun lower behind the trees!
Q: What are the benefits of running your own company?
A: Definitely the sense of achievement, but also the simple pleasure of people liking the things that we sell. It really qualifies our passion for what we’re doing. Countering the sense of responsibility that comes by being your own boss, is the sense of freedom that you can have when it comes to direction. We source the items ourselves because we like them and not just because of underlying profit margins, this means that we can make braver decisions than as buyers for a larger company. For that reason we have a few ‘different’ items that tend to stand out.
Q: What are the downsides of running your own company?
A: We both have difficulty in switching off. Once Dillan has gone to bed it’s all too easy to find yourself back in the office at home until the small hours doing things that could and should be done tomorrow.
Q: Tell me more about how you source your products.
A: Most of the items we import directly, many made to our specifications and so are unique to ourselves. This means going to parts of the world that we would have otherwise overlooked and seeing these places ‘backstage’ and not just as a tourist. This in turn can lead to inspiration. Our street vendors console table is a prime example of that.
Q: Why do you focus on vintage products?
A: There’s a reassuring simplicity about most things vintage. Because of this simplicity, vintage and vintage inspired pieces often fit in effortlessly with other styles, you don’t have to rethink your entire space. It’s also generally pretty robust stuff. The pieces we took inspiration from have stood the test of time both in use and in style. And the best thing … The more use it has, the better it looks!
Q: Do you have any of your pieces at home?
A: Yes … An increasing amount! We’ve had to become very strict with ourselves because it’s so easy for things to ‘find’ their way into our home. The most prominent piece is the factory day bed. We have one in our kitchen; it’s such an amazing piece of furniture and probably our favourite item from the collection. It just so happened that we had space along one wall and it filled the gap perfectly. To be honest even if it didn’t, we’d have made it fit, we could live without a fridge!
Q: Do you have any interesting business plans / projects for the remainder of this year?
A: We supplied a large number of items for a forthcoming Sky Living TV series produced by Rihanna and co-hosted by Rhianna, Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud and designer Henry Holland. It’s a fashion based show involving a number of famous names from the music and fashion worlds. To have our furniture selected to dress the sets in such a high profile production is very exciting!
Q: What are your best-selling three products?
A: The Vintage Style Draftsman’s Chair, The French Cafe Chairs and ‘Life is Beauty Full’ Cushions.
Check out their stylish website where you’ll find the most amazing pieces to buy www.unicheinteriorfurnishings.co.uk. Below are some of the products available, the lead image at the top of this feature is the Factory Day Bed which costs £1,950. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Uniche Interior Furnishings. Special thanks to Mark Bentham and Laura Lane.