Clare Norton and Sharon Parham, founders of new interiors showroom Alchemy in Bruton, seem to share the gift of being in the right place at the right time. Alchemy opened last summer, a few weeks after the hotly anticipated launch of contemporary gallery Hauser & Wirth Somerset, which put Bruton firmly under the social microscope.
Housed in a former garage at the bottom of town Alchemy is a bright white space serving up a perfectly pitched collection of antiques and contemporary homeware.
Clare, formerly of antiques warehouse Talisman in Gilllingham, says: “In the last 12 months Bruton has really got on the map, it’s a very exciting place to be. There’s a great mix of people, the more traditional customers who have lived here for ever and then a new crowd coming in from London.’
Alchemy combines classic antiques from 17th - 20th century with modern-day pieces to suit its broad customer base.
‘Essentially we just buy what we love and so far it seems to be working,’ says Clare.
She and Sharon travel across the UK meeting up with antiques dealers, scouring fairs, flea markets and auctions to find an eclectic mix of lighting, furniture, vases and outdoor pieces which are all beautifully curated so that the showroom feels more like a very stylish home.
On the day I visit a dealer has come from London with a vanload including something Clare decides she can’t live without – a 19th century commode.
Wandering around this stunning new space, there is much to fall in love with and often at prices which seem surprisingly affordable.
Right by the entrance a dining table is beautifully laid with Georgian glassware. There’s a glass chandelier here – just £250 – and a pair of tall, dull silver candlesticks £125 each. And this is what I most love about buying antiques - yes there's the seriously high end, £10,000 plus pieces for bankers/oliagarchs - but there are also wonderful, quirky finds that are much cheaper than shopping at Conran and means you're buying something with a history that is also completely unique.
There’s a huge 1930s walnut boardroom table which would be amazing in a dining room (£5000) surrounded by some very shabby chic 18th century leather dining chairs.
‘People are buying lots of brown furniture again which is great news,’ Clare says.
I love a 19th century chaise longue which has been upholstered in a contemporary grey tweed, a collection of framed world maps from 1870 and a chunky French painted serving table. The stock changes frequently, so it's the kind of place you'll want to keep checking up on. So, alongside a brand new world class gallery and the cutting edge restaurant At the Chapel, here's yet another reason to visit Bruton. We'll be coming back very soon.