Wednesday, 13 July 2011

East meets West - Trading Boundaries

If you haven't heard of them then you should!

And yes i did think of keeping them to myself, just my little secret!

I decided against it so let me tell you about this hidden gem. Trading Boundaries is Michael Clifford and Tracy Thomson's baby, or rather a grown up 15 year old. Far from resting on their laurels it's been year on year incremental growth and diversification from on a core product of ethnic furniture from India and the Far East.

From what G.M. Kristan Fawcus told me their vision is far reaching and as yet to be fully realised. This is a business (that feels like a big family) that reinvests and involves its staff and clientele in many aspects of decision making. It's become a day/evening out for a large number of Sussex folk.

But let me start from the beginning, Michael's Grandparents were missionaries in India so he visited them quite often and so a love for the country started. Michael tells me that one day seeing two men carrying some tables - which he fell in love immediately - he suddenly had an idea and so that's how it started.

In 1996 Michael ended up sending his first container back to England and started selling furniture sourced in the far east from a converted barn in Dormansland, Surrey where people would buy and carry their purchases home; the furniture had to be small as a result. By then Tracy had joined the business and so a great partnership begins.

In 1998 the business partners saw and fell in love with stunning grade two listed building named the Sheffield Park, near Fletching. They decided it was to be their new base so as the saying goes "they begged, stole and borrowed" and put every penny into transforming the then pub into a unique furniture showroom and I am sure today they feel proud of their achievement.

The building dates back to the 1800's and was originally a busy coaching inn, situated on the main thoroughfare between London and the County Town of Lewes. The outer buildings in the courtyard were used as stables which now have been converted into shops.

Not only had the building been a coaching house, it had also served as a pub, a dairy farm and in the 1970's and 1980's as a very trendy night club.

Little did they know, then, that they hadn't just acquired the property but all that came with it too, and by that I mean the ghosts! The locals have told them that there are two currently residing in the building - albeit they think there are more! But don't worry they are a friendly bunch and the ghosts too.

One of the spirits is believed to be that of "Mary", an old lady who used to be a maid. Now and then they find a small table on top of a bed and other items in strange places. I think Mary does that when she is cleaning the floor and forgets to put it back, that's old age for you; either that or she has got a sense of humour!

So now that you have the buildings history let me tell about what they sell. Due to a plethora of contacts in India, China and Indonesia Michael & Tracy handpick every piece, so the showroom is mostly filled with this ethnic furniture and a smaller quantity of contemporary ranges coming from Europe. Michael & Tracy are trendsetters and cleverly manage to anticipate public tastes.

Because they go straight to the source - be it artisan or factory - they manage to sell their furniture at a fraction of what it would cost you in London. What I like is if you are looking for a particular piece then just tell them what you need and they will do their best to source it.

For me, this came in handy when I was creating a fusion of "east meets west" for a client I managed to get just what the client wanted.

Trading Boundaries is looking to work with other interior designers. If you want a piece for your house or client I'd recommend you go and take a look.

Their Chinese pieces are just wonderful and what I love about them is that the etching on them tells a story, so not only you get an amazing piece of furniture but you get your own piece of history.

There is an exotic feel about it and when you go into Trading Boundaries, is almost like steeping back in time in old Asia. The shop itself combined with the friendliness of the staff transforms your visit into an amazing experience and that is exactly what Michael & Tracy have tried to achieve.

Have you been to Trading Boundaries? Then do let me know what you most liked!

Pictures via Trading Boundaries and my own.

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