I’d like you to recommend yourself

1 December 2014
Ben Pentreath

This is a bit of a trip down memory lane.


If blogs had existed when I lived in New York, getting on for 12 to 15 years ago now, this is the desk I’d have been sitting at, writing. I think I’ve still got nearly everything on that desk. The postcards are in a box. The print of strawberries hangs in the little guest bedroom at the Old Parsonage. The 19th century letter types are on the wall of our kitchen in London.  The desk itself is now my Mum’s hobby desk at home on the Isle of Wight, or at least it was the last time I looked (it might have finally fallen to bits, I’m not quite sure).

And for readers of my book, of course, you’ll already know that little photo that my Mum and Dad took of me when I was 3 years old. It’s the author portrait in English Decoration.

Here’s another snap.


I should hunt out some other photos of my old flat on King Street – these were the only ones I could find in a hurry this evening; but it puts a little smile to see the books on my side table back then – James Ravilious: An English Eye (which we still sell in the shop, one of the best books I’ve ever bought, of one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen), and there is Edwin Lutyens Country Houses, and then, of course, The World of Interiors. Not much has really changed, then.

Well that was then, and this is now. When I look back on my 30 year old self, I see everything that you find in my 43 year old self, but I guess I’m just a lot greyer and sleep less well these days. Not that I slept very well in New York I seem to recall. What’s funny is thinking of your dreams and what comes true and what doesn’t. Well… regular readers of the blog will know how very happy I am at the moment.  After a decade of what feels like slightly grinding work, it’s amazing to find that you wake up one day and realise there was someone worth building things for.

But when I look back at 27 or 30-year old me, as well, I think of a guy who was just starting out on life’s big adventure. And now I’m looking for those people too. Partly, of course, we’re always on the look out for fantastic new people to join our growing team in the office, but this is a different blog this evening.

If you’re young, and you’ve just started out in the world of architecture or decoration, setting up on your own in practice, and you think you’ve got a bit of sympathy to some of the things I go on about all the time, would you please write to me?  Send me a few bits and pieces about your work, and what you’ve been up to. Which might just be a snap of your desk or your coffee table, who knows.

Because I want to find, now, the me of back then. The young guys and girls who can make an evening meeting, or who don’t mind getting up early on a weekend to go and visit a new client. The people whose day rate doesn’t make a prospective client freak out before they’ve finished reading the first email. And who are prepared to work hard for clients who know they’re taking on new talent and that one or two mistakes will probably happen along the way – but also know that they will get 100% effort and attention from someone very special.

I want people like my great friend Johnny Holland was back when he was in his mid 20s just setting up on his own. Now Jane & Johnny have an incredibly successful practice in Notting Hill doing all sorts of beautiful houses. 25 years ago, Johnny was doing up ex-council flats. His moment of genius? Walking around Ikea one day he spotted marble chopping boards on sale for £1. A client’s bathroom was promptly wall-to-wall beautiful marble for half the price of a boring white tile. That’s what I’m talking about.

Every week, in the office, I get nice enquiries from people wanting help with their houses in some way or another. Some are large, some might just be for a room. Some we’re able to take on for whatever reason (you seem like lovely people and your house is a 15 minute drive from the Old Parsonage is, incidentally, a very good start these days); some, sadly, we’re not. And it’s a real shame because I reckon some of them would probably be wonderful but the timing wasn’t quite right.

And for those jobs that we’re not able to help with, I want to find a new generation of great young talent who can. Who knows – the interiors job that for us might not quite work might, for you, be the break-out job that sets you on the map.

Would you get in touch?

Finally… on another note entirely… for those able to make it, Bridie, Max (in his Kissing Booth) and I are really looking forward to seeing as many can make it to the shop on Rugby Street on Thursday evening. It’s Christmas shopping evening on Lambs Conduit and Rugby Street.  Charlie and I have been busy putting up the Christmas decorations and getting everything ready. In the shop as well as at home. And just to get you in the mood, look what I got home to this evening (well if you follow instagram you will already know).


Woooohoo!   Christmas never started so early in Ben-land before. See you then. We can’t wait!(Oh. did you hear? we’ve got a lot of crackers to sell).



6 comments on this post

Lovely to meet you and Bridie and Charlie at the shop on Thursday! Such a treat to finally see the shop (and y’all) in person!

Hello Ben,

I’ve discovered your shop recently and have been following you on Twitter. I started my interior design business last year and had some clients on and off. Exactly what you’re saying in your post it applies to me. I work crazy hours, around my kids school runs and clubs. I blog everyday to document my journey – to experiment with my designs, ideas and to give inspiration. I give lots of free advice to my clients just to polish my skills and improve from my mistakes. I’m covering my costs, sometimes barely. I’m struggling but the main thing is that I’m helping people to solve their problems. That’s my mission. I want to do good. I want show people how they can improve their lives through design. Apart from that, I’m also sharing my business experiences and when I learn something, I want to pass it on to others so maybe their journey is little bit easier than mine.

Anyway. I thought I reply to your post because I can relate to it.

If I were to turn the clock back too many years to me aged 24 arriving back in London with my degree in history of art and with work experience at Christie’s Park Avenue and Bonham’s Knightsbridge this would be the job I would go for. What a lovely opportunity for someone.
Good luck looking!


Hello Ben

You have just written the blog I desperately wanted to see for a long time! Actually you are a bit late because I have already handed in my portfolio… You might want to have a look at Zoe’s desk tomorrow – It’s the black A4 with the spiral binding 🙂

I have followed your blog for a long time and I always like it so much and especially the parsonage down in dorset. In fact I liked that lovely old house so much that I took a photograph of it in 2001 wenn I was on a bike trip down the south cost, just before starting out as a student in architecture. I dare say I spotted it before you 🙂

After four frankly disappointing years of modernist architecture at university I decided to become an autodidact an learn for myself what university had failed to teach me.
That was eight years ago…

Now I am sitting on my sofa looking at my map of a survey of London. The one with the blazer red frames remember? You liked it on Instagram… and I ask myself “might that be the picture Ben is looking for? You find a few more on my Instagram – not of a beautiful NY apartment but of a small flat in Basel.

Kind regards

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