Achive Articles: Floral Street

Leave behind Leicester Square, cross St Martin’s Lane and before too many steps you’ll be in Floral Street, Covent Garden.
The flowers left long ago, but standing tall is an old warehouse where the walls are hung with dashingly colorful rugs, and stylish furniture is continually carried in and out.

This is the London home of Coexistence. Its owners, Ross Bull and Mary Wiggin, who live in Somerset, opened the first Coexistence in Argyle Street, Bath, and now commute between the two decorator shops.

Mary handles the decorating and buys the furniture, and Ross, an economist and statistician, plans the overall direction of the company. He’s doing nicely thank you, mostly selling beautiful Italian products, which are becoming increasingly sculptural and brightly colored. But he regrets that his fellow countrymen aren’t more imaginative about furniture – not only would he like to see them creating good, modern designs but he’d like to see them spending more money buying them.

He considers that the reason for this odd state of affairs is that wood is, by tradition, the material used by English craftsmen (they still make superb reproduction furniture) but plastic is the material for the future. Also, to make top quality modern furniture also requires a large financial investment, which is not always easily available.

Good English designers – unless they go into fabric and wallpaper design, where considerably less investment is required to market a product and there is plenty of activity and confidence in the industry – drift overseas.

Many of the top designers in America and Italy are English. Eventually Ross would like to produce his own furniture, and he’s fighting his frustration by filling his showroom with some of the best European products.

He’s also doing his bit to introduce design graduates to the manufacturers. From time to time the top floor at Floral Street is devoted to exhibitions of students’ creations, to which Ross invites manufacturers, as well as the public, to view.

On the decorating side, Mary Wiggin opts for a bold, timeless style. She is definitely not one for the pretty look or tiny flower prints. She likes simple lines, plain materials, and would rather have a rug on the wall than wallpaper.

As the name Coexistence suggests, her style is to combine old with new, Oriental with European, the clean lines of Castelli furniture with elaborately patterned Afghanistan rugs. Mary loves the Italians’ bold use of plain color and the rich shades on French fabrics, and she tries to be selective with everything that goes into the shop; great Italian umbrellas are cheek by jowl with Eileen Gray tables and everywhere there are the sculptured forms of OMK, Ingo Maurer and Flos lights, and the earthiness of superbly carved wooden bowls.

Her style of decorating has a thoughtful permanence, with dashes of rich color. Her concern is for function and a style that won’t date, and she sees her job as giving clients the basic elements in a room and leaving it to them to add the personality, which only comes with time.

“It takes years to create atmosphere,” Mary said.

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