Antique furniture is hard to find and most times you’re duped into buying furniture that’s not worth your money and troubles.
But worry no more the amazing people at The White Elephant Trading Co. got you covered. They have delightful pieces that fill your heart with so much joy. I got to talk to Chris Payne and this is what he had to say.
1) What is the White Elephant trading company and how did it all begin?
White Elephant imports and antique & vintage furniture & accessories from Europe and lovingly restores them here in Nairobi.
As an interior designer of 10 years I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of any unique / antique pieces of furniture available on the market. The only shop in Nairobi selling “antiques” was Amazing Bazaar of Odds and Ends and all their furniture comes from India. I couldn’t see anything European available in the local market and so began buying up odd pieces of furniture from countryside auction houses in the UK for our projects. Through our network of skilled craftsmen in Nairobi we were able to completely restore pieces that were worn out and unwanted. Once here we’re able to sand, polish,repair, re-stuff & re-upholster these beautiful old pieces making them new again.
We finally decided to bring in a container of furniture and have a sale at my home here in Karen. We sold out in 4 hours. So we had another, then another….and finally we decided to start up White Elephant as an on line store in July last year. We decided to be on-line because it’s so much easier for our customers to follow what is newly out of the workshop. Our collection constantly changes – and we never stop uploading new pieces. Once it’s sold -that’s it! We’re unlikely ever to find the same thing twice. Having all of this on-line is so much easier than having a shop. Clients can easily reserve pieces on the website and come over to look at the piece in person when it’s convenient.
F&B: You are passionate about antique furniture. Kindly tell us more about it .
An old piece of furniture has history. It’s been touched by hands over (sometimes) hundreds of years and this gives them a completely different energy to newly made furniture. In addition to this, the craftsmanship of these pieces is beautiful – as are the lovely woods made to manufacture them – English pine, oak, elm, walnut, mahogany, & cherry to name a few.
We also strongly believe that giving this furniture new life – to last say another 100 years – is helping to save the planet. Our resources are dwindling and up-cycling furniture is helping, in a small way, to save our environment. It takes 16 x the carbon emissions to create a new chest of drawers (for instance) than to buy an vintage one.
There is such a HUGE variety of antique furniture out there! Every time we go on a sourcing trip we find new and amazing pieces. As a designer this is a complete joy – to be endlessly surprised as to what I will find. Then my great challenge is how to re-love it. Paint it? Distress it? Just take it back to it’s original wood? Upholster it in velvet, cotton, linen, vintage West African Ewe, Asoke, Nupe or Turkish Embroidered Suzani, Hungarian sack cloth, Egyptian silk….the list is endless and each and every piece speaks to me in a different way.
F&B: You hosted the special collection exhibition on the 28-29th last month. What was the purpose of that?
To showcase our furniture to a new market. The company is young and we need to try and take our product to different areas of Nairobi for people to experience first hand what we do.
F&B: How was it received?
Fantastic. Everyone who came really loved what we do – and were pleasantly surprised by how reasonable our furniture is.
F&B: Parting shot?
When buying we try and create collections that have huge variety both in terms of style and price. From something as small as a candlestick to grand dining room tables we really hope that there’s something for everyone!
F&B: There you have it guys, Antique furniture is for everyone, you just have to find what speaks to you.