Alexander Tcharny Antiques

297 Lillie roaD

“I think the first thing I bought at auction were boxes and boxes of hand painted Christmas tree ornaments. I sold them at a fair and did well enough to know I'd found what I wanted to do. It was an auspicious start, but a long way from where I am today.” - Alexander Tcharny

Born in the South West of England, Alexander Tcharney has worked variously as a cataloguer, auctioneer and expat antiquarian book seller, before setting up his eponymous gallery on the Lillie Road. Tcharny specialises in early 20th century lighting and furniture mixed with more contemporary objects and works of art. With an emphasis on clean lines and timeless design, Tcharny sources from across the UK, Europe and beyond to bring his customers unique items for their homes. Also, with his friend and business partner, sculptor and artist Tom Howell, under the pseudonym Howell & Knight, the pair buy and sell tribal and folk art, industrial furniture, lighting and mirrors online, as well as creating a range of plaster lamps influenced from a wide range of different sources. 

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Alexander Tcharny: After finishing a bachelor of arts degree at university I returned home and started working for my godfather at his commercial auctioneers. I think the first thing I bought at auction were boxes and boxes of hand painted Christmas tree ornaments. I sold them at a fair and did well enough to know I'd found what I wanted to do. It was an auspicious start, but a long way from where I am today.       

If you had to limit your shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, where would you choose?

This is such a difficult question to answer. Although anything can turn up anywhere and you can be constantly surprised by what you unearth in the strangest (or mundane) of places, there are obvious destinations most dealers gravitate to to buy. One place I'd personally love to return to is “the thieves market” in Mumbai. It’s a district in the North East of the city that buys, sells and recycles everything imaginable. Among the scrap cars, rag merchants and exotic spices are dealers selling all manner of antique and vintage items. It goes without saying that there's a lot of old brass, wood carvings and miniature paintings, but also lighting, colonial furniture and mid-century design. It’s the kind of place you'd find something for everyone, and I came back with my luggage bursting at the seams. For anyone who hasn't been to India, go! It’ll change your outlook on life in so many ways.

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What was the last thing you bought and loved? 

Tom and I bought a scratch built model of the Titanic from a woman who’s grandfather made it shortly after the ship sank in 1912. What sets it apart is its patina, it looks as if it’s been to the bottom of the Atlantic and back. I’ve always loved scratch built models for the simple fact that they're one off pieces, made by real people and often using the simplest of tools. In that respect they follow the ancient traditions of folk and tribal art, in that each piece is made not for commercial or financial gain, but for the makers pleasure.

What are your favourite websites? 

Decorative Collective and The Horde are great sites for purchasing stock, and a source of inspiration for what’s trending in the world of antiques and interiors. Every now and then you'll see collections of objects no one else had previously thought to group together and it prompts you to see things from a whole new perspective. Finally, I'm very fortunate to share my shop with decorative arts dealers Streett Marburg and Charlotte Casadejus, who’ve been in the trade for over 30 years. They’ve taught me that eclectic and often very different objects can work together in the right situation. Their website is a masterclass in mixing periods and styles to the best possible effect.

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An object you would never part with? 

Gwen Pilard of Quindry had an oil painting for sale on her stand at the Decorative Fair. It was quite a lot of money at the time and so I decided if it sold it wasn't meant to be. Fortunately, for me, it didn't and I felt compelled to purchase it. The painting, L'inquisiteur (1980) by Spanish/French artist Louis Feror, is of an orange robot, or monster, standing against a stormy background. It’s one of those portraits where eyes follow you around the room in a spooky sort of way.

What advice would you give a collector?

I think almost any good dealer would give this one piece of advice to any collector: buy the best you can afford! It’s natural as a collector (and dealer) to want to expand as fast as possible and build a real collection of items to showcase. In any area of collecting, be it art or porcelain, boxes or buttons, there are cheap and cheerful examples to be had as well as rare and sought after pieces. While there is intrinsically nothing wrong with either, the seasoned collector will always tell you that once a cheap collection has been acquired, the urge to have better and better examples takes hold. Often buying lots of items cheaply can be a false economy as most collectors will admit they get more pleasure from one item of exceptional quality then they do from a hundred lesser examples. 

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What’s next?

Recently we've been getting into making plaster lamps. Both finding or creating interesting shapes for lamps is not as straightforward as it might appear. We came across a guy in the US who's father made factory moulds, each one painstakingly cut, carved and sanded by hand. They’re so beautiful they deserve to be re-purposed; we've used some to create brutalist, abstract lighting, and others we're saving to present purely as decorative objects.

Benjamin Weaver