Owen Pacey
Owen Pacey, founder of antique fireplaces and architectural salvage specialist Renaissance London in Shoreditch.

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1 How did you get your start?

My route into dealing in fireplaces started off with doors. I got a job with an old guy who was stripping pine doors. This was big in the eighties – pine was everywhere. I took a real shine to the work. We had a big water tank which was filled with caustic.

I realised we didn’t just have to strip the doors, we could also restore them. It was quite a magical process and we started to do it with cast-iron fireplaces too. Clients would walk in and just say ‘wow.’ It gave me a sense of achievement, creating something that someone would cherish and enjoy.

2 What is your area of focus?

At Renaissance London, we’ve built a unique reputation as one of the foremost dealers, restorers and experts in antique fireplaces, specialising in Victorian and Georgian marble fireplaces, French and Italian stone fireplaces and other fine architectural pieces in east London.

All our stock is carefully sourced from around Europe – anything from the 16th century to the present day, Queen Anne to Victorian, fireplaces, chandeliers, one-off pieces bespoke or reproduction.

3 What challenges are facing the trade in the coming months?

I think freedom of travel is certainly an issue that we will be facing over the coming months. Pre-Covid I would travel all over Europe searching for unique and interesting fireplaces, reclaimed lighting and architectural salvage. I used to take a trip abroad once a month, usually for three days.

The travelling element of our business has come to a halt because of Covid and this is something we’ve truly missed as we’re inspired by our global unique finds.

4 What is one great discovery you’ve made?

It’s hard to pick one distinctive fireplace in my collection; each model is one of a kind.

One set does stay in my mind though. I’d have to say the giant travertine fireplaces that came from an Italian monastery.

This was many years ago when a huge earthquake struck. I happened to be in southern Italy at the time and ended up bartering with this very old Italian monk for them. The monastery itself, the negotiation with the monk… it was a surreal exchange. The fireplaces are both currently in my own home. I’ve enjoyed them for years but I’m planning to sell the surrounds ahead of a big home renovation this year.

5 One lesson you would like to pass on to others in the trade either now or in the future?

Always look for the beauty and potential in pieces that look worn and unloved. Restoration is a wonderful thing.

We’re always looking for new people to take part in our apprentice schemes to share our passion for restoration. It’s a real opportunity to learn a skill, a career path to understand the beauty of restoration and to show how we can repurpose items and bring pieces back to life.


If you would like to be featured in 5 Questions, please contact gabrielberner@antiquestradegazette.com