What the owners of 79 Shacklewell are doing better than most of the interior-selling shops we often see popping up around the flat-white guzzling hubs of capital cities, is that they are delivering their own unique twist on the current ubiquity of mid-century design. The store was founded by three friends: husband and wife team Carla and Milo Cordell and Jermaine Gallacher, who together form a magpie-like troupe adept at spotting objets d’art. When stepping inside their store on Shacklewell Lane in Dalston, it certainly does not appear like anything you’ve quite seen before on the streets of East London: “Before this, I had a small furniture shop in Soho where I sold things I collected and Milo and Carla had just moved back from New York,” says Gallacher over a cup of tea, whilst the Cordells’ dog Hank makes himself at home on my lap. Carla continues: “Basically, Jermaine and I had always wanted to work together creatively but we didn’t really know which platform felt best. So then, as Jermaine says, Milo and I moved back to London and had a space in our house that we were keen to transform into something special.” And the rest, evidently, is history.
One of the most refreshing things about the store is the distinct lack of pretention poured over the furniture and objects the trio are selling. “I suppose, they’re just things that we like! I don’t really think there’s anything deeper than that. I don’t know how to intellectualise it,” says Gallacher. Milo and Carla nod in agreement: “Exactly. I think we literally just find things that we like and worry about it afterwards. But then I think, the three of us are in sync with what we like too. We’re really drawn to colours and unusual shapes. We don’t like boring furniture!”
Subsequently, ‘boring’ is not a term that you could ever use to describe 79 Shacklewell’s wares, with a plethora of beautiful and unusual interiors hand selected by Gallacher and the Cordells. Their skilful visual merchandising also ensures that one’s eye can’t help but wander to the sculptural frosted glass display bowls sitting atop a black modernist drinks cabinet (the latter looking like one of the missing pieces from a Kubrick set), or above your head to the chandelier studded with blood red candles. Then there are the Trompe L’oeil mirrors and a plastic chair in the shape of a child’s outstretched hand, clearly crafted by someone looking to emulate the re-invigorated surrealist sensibilities of the 1980s.
There are distinct Italianate influences in the pieces on offer at the store, particularly from Sottsass and The Memphis Group, evidenced in the ceramics artfully arranged on shelves. And it makes sense, for the trio source most of their objects from Europe: “we go to Italy, France, and the Netherlands to look for things to sell on. There are a lot of antiques from international sellers dotted around England as well, so we do a lot of scouting in the UK too. But mostly, the stuff that we tend to go for is from Italian sellers,” says Gallacher.
The lack of self-importance from the three owners extends to their aim for growing a solid customer base: “not everything we buy has a big name attached to it. Actually, we tend to go for the opposite of big names, and some of the best pieces we have found are clearly made by people looking at whatever was contemporary or futuristic back in the 70s or 80s, and they’re simply reinterpreting some of the most notable interior designers,” says Gallacher.
Carla continues, “I find that you can often go into a furniture shop or an antique shop and it can be a daunting experience. There’s a real feeling of ‘I don’t know anything about interior design’, so then you don’t ask about anything and leave the premises immediately. And I think that’s what is different about us as well, it’s not one of those alienating places.” And as I make my exit from 79 Shacklewell, mentally calling first dibs on half of the ceramic and glass items I saw in there, I can’t help but agree.
Pieces from 79 Shacklewell are availiable to buy in store at 79 Shacklewell Lane, London, E8 2EB or online.