Founder of PIECES and Editor at Porter Magazine

30/ How To Curate A Collection of Forever Pieces With Olive Wakefield

For this very special ‘How To’ feature we have invited self-proclaimed ‘chronic collector’, antiques curator and arts and culture writer, Olive Wakefield, to give us her tips and tricks to building a collection of unique forever pieces.

Founder of the eclectic interiors platform, PIECES, Olive is an expert at picking up pre-loved pieces and giving them a new lease of life. Her passion and curiosity for finding and learning more about second-hand and sustainable sourcing has meant she has curated a fascinating collection of items, including original artworks.

 
 

I fell in love with second-hand shopping as a young girl. My mum has an incredible eye for vintage and filled the house with antiques and curiosities picked up on her travels. We would spend hours sifting through dresses from the ‘20s and ‘30s in her favourite shop Past Caring in Holt, Norfolk. When we moved to Primrose Hill in 1999, I would slip off to Camden each weekend to people-watch. It was there I discovered the amazing vintage dealers in the Stables market. I can still smell the leather jackets and musty tea dresses. My first vintage purchase was a pale blue Wedgwood trinket dish which I still have.

 
 

INVEST IN SOMETHING UNIQUE
 

For me, both buying pre-loved pieces and shopping from independent makers are similar principles. It is about investing in something unique, produced sustainably - and that has a story behind it. There is something so edifying about owning a piece of history or a future classic. My website and mailout PIECES was born of an appreciation of all things one-off, old and new. It’s a place to discover artists and makers and also find something pre-loved for your home.

 
 
 
 SERENDIPITY AND HARD GRAFT

Finding the perfect vintage piece is a curious concoction of serendipity and hard graft. Sometimes it seems like the piece finds you; other times it requires scrolling into an internet abyss or trudging round markets at dawn. I have an abundance of Google alerts and eBay searches set and I try to sift through all of them. You never know what’s waiting for you.


Victorian doilies framed in the hallway.
 

AVOID IMPULSE PURCHASES
 

When it comes to building a collection - be it art, furniture, or objects - I try to avoid impulse buys. They are the items I tire of first. Auctions are a good way to test your commitment to a piece; a long-game requiring patience and strategy. I always try to look for versatile pieces. If it works in more than one space, you can rehome it in a different room and never get bored. Lastly, I would avoid investing too heavily in trends. Social media can have a homogenising effect on personal style. You won’t go wrong if you follow your instincts.

 
 

 FIND A CONNECTION TO A PIECE
 

Nostalgia is what inspires most of my purchases. I’m drawn to pieces that bring back personal memories. It could be an object that reminds me of my favourite hotel or something a loved one had on display years ago. There is a vendor at one of my favourite flea markets, Melrose Trading Post in L.A., who I call the memory catcher because he has collected decades worth of discarded vintage family photographs. I always buy a handful when I’m there and it feels like I am resuscitating fragments of a life forgotten. You’ll see on my Instagram, I spend hours trawling the internet for vintage photographs. I’m particularly obsessed with weddings, birthdays, and proms.


Vintage photographs and clothes hanging in Olive’s daughter’s room. Drawings by PE artist Frances Costelloe.
 
 
 

WHAT ART MEANS TO ME
 

Much like music, art can have a subliminal effect on a person. It carries so many memories, desires, and hopes- some buried, some conscious. I started my interview series Desert Island Pieces to hear my guests explore the memories associated with their favourite artworks. I was lucky enough to have Georgia [Spray] as a guest. She chose a Lucian Freud painting which reminded her of her time working for the famous art dealer Ivor Braka. Linda Rodin chose a piece by the iconic Gösta Peterson who was her mentor and great friend.  

 
 
 

Art is so deeply personal; I don’t believe it’s possible to have bad taste in art. Some of my biggest influences include Julian Trevelyan, Francesca Woodman, Craigie Aitchison, Lorena Lohr, David Hockney, Aubrey Levinthal and even the album artwork from my favourite bands, like the Smashing Pumpkins. If I could own any three pieces of art it would be Sylvia Sleigh’s portrait of Enid IrvingStella Vine’s, “Holy Water cannot help you now” and Julian Schnabel’s beautifully haunting painting of his daughter Stella, which is the cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album, “By the Way”.

 

Framed first edition copy of J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey in the library.
 

The rarest piece I own is a Mary Fedden painting from 2006 which I came across by accident at auction. My most sentimental items are the framed Victorian doilies my mum gave me; my first edition copy of Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (one of my favourite books which my husband tracked down and framed for me) and the Faye Wei Wei painting that hangs above my bed. It watches over us as we sleep.


Faye Wei Wei painting in the bedroom. Shrine shelf by Beatrice Minns.


 SEARCH BY MOVEMENT/STYLE

I get really excited when I find any pieces by the Memphis Group such as Peter Shire, Ettore Sottsass, and Nathalie du Pasquier. I love the humour behind their creations; the colours and shapes are bonkers and never fail to put a smile on my face.


 

 
BE ECLECTIC
 

When it comes to displaying my favourite pieces, I try not to be too precious about sticking to eras or design periods. I love to see mid-century mixed with Victoriana or chintz styled with Scandi. I put my favourite pieces in unexpected places, like the bathroom. What could be more indulgent than gazing at your favourite painting as you brush your teeth? I am also constantly moving things from room to room so it feels like a totally different space. When it comes to pre-loved items, each piece has lived so many lives before it has reached you. You are just adding another chapter to its story before it is passed on... and that, for me, is the beauty of vintage. 

 

FOLLOW OLIVE
@pieceslondon_
@olivesw
www.pieces-london.co.uk



Olive 's curation

  • Joaquina Sitoe
    Joaquina Sitoe | Mafalda Vasconcelos | Oil on Canvas | Partnership Editions

    Malfada’s portraits are exquisite. I’m fascinated by the stories she tells through her subjects; of a culture under threat and the desire to protect and preserve their history. Each piece is so powerful.

    Regular price
    £500.00
    Sale price
    £500.00
    Unit price
    per 
  • Poolside Sold
    Poolside | Cecilia Reeve | Original Artwork | Partnership Editions

    The air of melancholy and longing in Cecelia’s paintings is beautifully bittersweet, like the feeling you have on the last day of your summer holiday. I love this woman staring into an empty pool which is both comforting and ominous at the same time. There is something quite Hockney about her incredible work.

    Vendor
    Cecilia Reeve
    Regular price
    Sold
    Sale price
    £450.00
    Unit price
    per 
  • Red Cape Sold
    Red Cape | Rebecca Sammon | Original Artwork | Partnership Editions

    I was thrilled to see Rebecca join the PE roster. I’ve been a fan for a while. She was my first ever interview guest on PIECES. I keep coming back to her mythical creatures and vibrant landscapes; romantic, tragic and eerie all at once. I’m desperate to own a piece by her.

    Regular price
    Sold
    Sale price
    £450.00
    Unit price
    per 
  • Baby and woman Sold
    Baby and woman | Frances Costelloe | Original Artwork | Partnership Editions

    Frances’ figures are so elegant with their wise and contemplative expressions. They remind me of Matisse’s faces drawn in ink. I was lucky enough to sit for her a while ago and chat to her as she drew me. We’ve been friends ever since.

    Regular price
    Sold
    Sale price
    £320.00
    Unit price
    per 
  • Jewelled Moon
    Jewelled Moon | Fee Greening | Original Artwork | Partnership Editions

    I commissioned Fee to create my logo for PIECES and the process was pure pleasure from start to finish. Her brain is magnificent. All her references- from medieval art to pop culture icons- bring me such joy. Her moon motifs, in particular, are a favourite of mine.

    Vendor
    Fee Greening
    Regular price
    £720.00
    Sale price
    £720.00
    Unit price
    per 

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