You could describe my life as BC and AC – “before Charlotte” and “after Charlotte”’ – says Will Fisher with a laugh. He and his wife – the aforementioned Charlotte – own and run , in London’s Pimlico Road. Dealing in antiques and immaculately reproduced eighteenth- and nineteenth-century chimneypieces, lights, and garden ornaments, they have, between the two of them, done much to bring that much sought-after – but rarely achieved – English country-house look to the mainstream aesthetic.
But to take Will at his word and assume that before Charlotte his life was without event would be far from the truth. A man of immense charm, with an obsessive eye for detail, Will first developed an interest in antiques at the age of 10, when he befriended the son of the antiques dealer Warner Dailey. ‘We lived in Blackheath and Warner’s house was, to me, the most extraordinary house in the world,’ he recalls. ‘It was early Georgian, had a huge cantilevered stone staircase and wonderful mosaic floors, and it was furnished in that great British way of mixing junk with really serious antiques. He had a phenomenal eye and incredible style, and I suppose he fuelled my taste for interiors.’
Warner became a second father to Will; each summer, with the car piled high with antiques and the boys squeezed into the back, they would tour the dealers, buying and selling, always arriving home with an empty car. ‘In those days, there was a constant flow of pieces; we would be jumping in and out of the car and even dragging things out of skips,’ says Will.
With such experience behind him, Will joined Christie’s for a time before spending a year in Manchester reading history of art. Academia, however, was not for him. ‘At the end of the year, I had to be introduced to one class, since I had never once attended a lecture,’ he says. He left with what he refers to as a ‘BA Honours one third’. Back in London, he decided against rejoining Christie’s and worked for various dealers before deciding to go it alone. He bought a red Mercedes van, christened it ‘The Van Rouge’ and on his first day out bought a chimneypiece, selling it to LASSCO for an £80 profit.
His reputation for the unique and beautiful increased and he was back in his element reliving the Warner Dailey days, but such pieces were becoming rarer. Several years later, he anchored himself in Core One, a group of independent dealers just off the King’s Road, joining forces with Sean Cream, whose premises there included a restoration workshop.
‘I fell into reproduction almost by accident,’ he explains. ‘The uniqueness of a piece would mean that once it had been sold, it might be 50 years before another came along. Sean and I decided to make facsimiles while we had the piece in our hands. There was no plan; it was just the desire to make an accurate copy of a unique piece that we felt we would not see again.’
From the King’s Road, he moved to the Pimlico Road and started to have some pieces made in China, as well as at a sister company based in Wandsworth. All restoration of chimneypieces and lanterns is now done at this workshop by a dedicated and specialist team of craftsmen.
By 2003, the business was doing well but it was run in a pretty haphazard manner. ‘There were bits of paper everywhere and no follow-through with orders,’ Will admits. Then, on a visit to New York, he was invited to a dinner at Balthazar with family friends, and there he met Charlotte. ‘It was one of those moments when time stood still,’ he remembers.
Charlotte, a ceramicist by training, had worked with Bonhams before going to New York to work with Bennison Fabrics. Three years on, she was keen to return home. ‘I told Will that he needed me to run his business without knowing what it was he actually did,’ she laughs.
It was an inspired move on all counts. Under Charlotte, a new system was introduced, and the collection of beautifully made replicas of chimneypieces, lights and furniture began to grow. ‘Charlotte is the missing side of me – from both the organisational and the creative perspectives,’ explains Will. ‘The catalogue is entirely Charlotte’s making and nothing goes by without her approval. We debate everything – we are probably complete bores – but it is the first time I have worked with someone with whom I share exactly the same aesthetic judgment.’
When it comes to their home, however, he will admit to being a bit of a despot. ‘I try democracy and then I have a tantrum.’ They bought their eighteenth-century house in south-east London six years ago, when Charlotte was pregnant with their daughter Eliza. Since then they have had a son, Monty, and have completely rebuilt the house – although, as Charlotte points out, ‘With Will’s fastidious eye, it will always be a work in progress.’ She cites, as an example of Will’s fastidiousness, the fact that he employed one man to tool each kitchen flag individually by hand to the same size and depth, a process that took months. Old wooden floors have been relaid everywhere, cornicing religiously reproduced, and, naturally, chimneypieces installed throughout.
A magnificent restored flight of eighteenth-century stone stairs – ‘found in a yard somewhere’ – lead up from the kitchen out into what must surely rate as one of London’s most romantic gardens. Its old brick walls, climbing roses, lawns and stone paths are overlooked by the spire of the local church, and behind a pair of wrought-iron gates is Will’s pride and joy: an Italianate carp pond, home to some of the largest fish you may see outside an aquarium.
Today, under the combined eyes of Will and Charlotte, Jamb has expanded to include numerous lights, chimneypieces, fire grates, marble urns and furniture as stock pieces. In the Pimlico showroom, mouth-wateringly beautiful and unique pieces stand alongside reproductions that are difficult to tell from the originals, as well as animal sculptures from the Wiltshire studio of Stephen Coade. In addition, the American designer Michael S Smith has chosen Jamb as the London base for his luxurious and subtle range of fabrics. Outside the footprint of Pimlico, Will is currently collaborating with Sebastian Wrong of Danish company Hay, pooling design and manufacturing facilities for a new range of Jamb lighting.
Between them, Will and Charlotte have created a company that draws on the designs of previous centuries yet is a highly successful source for today’s interiors. ‘My rule of thumb is to visualise myself at the end of my life, in a large hole with everything that I have bought being thrown in after me,’ says Will. ‘I ask myself if I would be glad to see it all again, and I can genuinely – or almost always – say that that is the case.’ Maybe that is where the success of this unique and very British company lies.
Jamb: ; 020 7730 2122