The first thing you notice on meeting Allan Bellamy is his beaming smile, and the sense that he generally finds life rather good fun. The second is his fanatical enthusiasm for Art Deco; with all its sleek, polished beauty and elegant curves, and accents of black lacquer and chrome.
But it doesn’t stop at furniture; a glass cabinet holds myriad vintage goodies: Sunburst mirrors, cigarette lighters, embellished cocktail glasses, Clarice Cliff ceramics and dancing bronze statuettes all jostle for space.
Allan admits he is hooked on buying; “I just can’t help myself” he shrugs happily,and says his house is full to bursting point, despite his partner begging him to stop. His insatiable appetite also has another downside: “Given that I’m reasonably successful, I’m far more hard up than I should be” he laughs.
As well as furniture, Allan has a superb collection of Deco lighting; much of which originally adorned hotel foyers and cocktail bars and often collaborates with interior designers on hotel refurbishments when they want vintage fittings.
Allan had no background in antiques, he left home as a young lad to work in a brewery in Winchester and then got a job at The Guildhall which held regular antiques fairs. The city was full of antiques shops and Allan started buying and selling colourful 1930‘s ceramic-ware – plentiful and affordable at the time – to fund his growing interest in Art Deco furniture . He was soon running the fairs at The Guildhall, having meanwhile acquired an antiques shop on the south coast with partner, so life was fairly hectic.
Besides his collection here and two other shops outside London, Allan also has a website, www.gazelles.co.uk and finds people are increasingly happy to buy online – particularly if they have met Allan at one of the many fairs he attends. “They can feel comfortable they are getting the genuine article and also, if they don’t like it they know I will buy it back from them” he explains.
And his best buy to date? Allan recalls a dealer acquaintance mentioning a figure he was selling, which Allan thought sounded interesting and said he would look at. Some years later, Allan had forgotten the conversation, when the dealer suddenly turned up at his shop, with the figure, asking £200 for it. When he saw it, Allan felt a tremor of excitement as he suspected it could be valuable. He took it to Christies who pronounced it to be a genuine Chiparis statue, and it sold for £4,500. That must have made his day? “Yes, I bought a new car” he grins.
If Allan had any spare time, he’d spend it tending the magnificent garden which came with the 1920‘s house he and his partner share: “It was already landscaped, and has 24 ponds, all running into each other. We made one of them deeper, so we could fill it with Koi” he explains. But right now – he’s too busy buying and selling, to spare any time for the garden. Before I leave, I ask Allan if he has a photograph of himself for this piece and he grins again: “Yes, I’ve got one taken 20 years ago – you can have that” he chuckles.