Mid-century design is a massive trend at the moment - you can’t open a lifestyle magazine without an Eames chair or G Plan sideboard featuring. Here one Co Antrim couple explain why they decided to use their Nordic nous and turn their passion for all things retro-modern into a flourishing business
Their Ballyclare home pays homage to a time when furniture was unpretentious, clean-lined and useful, often made from plain natural materials and, most importantly, built to last; pieces that provide emotional comfort and enrich daily living.
The camera-shy husband and wife team, (they prefer the furniture to be the stars of the show), share their enviably uber cool abode with a menagerie of animals, two Daschunds, three Chihuahuas, a delightful miniature toy poodle, three birds and three rescue hens.
‘‘This eclectic mix of animals keep us sane and also give us the flexibility to throw everyone into the kennels and head off to Los Angeles on a furniture hunting expo at the drop of a hat,’’ says John.
The Bettys Lounge story began about three years when the couple started to share online some of the items they were buying to feed their hunger for mid-century furniture and homewares.
‘‘At that time it was difficult to purchase items locally and we found ourselves sourcing items direct from Denmark and further afield.’’ says John.
Bettys Lounge operates on a very low-cost, savvy business model.
John explains: ‘‘Bettys lounge is a 100 per cent online social media business. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr are our only outlets,’’ says John.
‘‘We have no website, don’t do advertising. have minimal exterior storage, so we basically have zero overheads which allows us the freedom of a no pressure situation and we can pass these savings on to people who see, like and purchase our items. So technically we do not need to make the sale, we are often buying items of historical importance which we are quite happy to keep.’’
Zara-Jane’s grandmother Betty Ditty was the inspiration for the quirky name of the business as it was she who passed on her eye for mid century style to Zara-Jane.
‘‘She was a lady with impeccable taste and style, from her dress sense to home interiors,’’ says John.
‘‘I was a late starter to mid century style but a fast learner,’’ he adds.
The couple have a fantastic eye for stunning pieces.
‘‘We have an inherent deep love, knowledge and passion for the things we buy,’’ says John.
‘‘First and foremost we buy items that seamlessly blend into our home and surroundings so we can enjoy and love until someone would like to have them in their own home, so when we are buying we are buying for ourselves first.’’
Despite being drawn to an item’s aesthetic, rather than value, the pair have nonetheless made some shrewd purchases over the years.
John says: ‘‘We source stock in Los Angeles, southern California, including Palm Springs, which in our opinion is mid-century mecca, Denmark, and all over Europe and Ireland, where we recently unearthed a rather special 1960s Les Arcs dining set designed by French architect and designer, Charlotte Perriand, considered to be one of the most influential designers of the Modern Movement.
‘‘Perriand was mentored by Le Corbusier - the two were commissioned to design Les Arcs ski resort, the chairs being the work of Perriand. This is one of the items which we can’t quite part with, unless of course we stumble upon another set which if sold could retail for around £6,000!’’
Bettys Lounge recently teamed up with a local business Blue hairdressing in Belfast, using the premises to run a monthly pop up shop on the first Sunday of every month.
‘‘The response to these shows has been fantastic, and is a nice way for us to meet our audience, friends, and people who like and share our pictures and posts,’’ says John.
Mid-century modernism is one of the most lusted-after interior styles of recent years, casting its long shadow across everything from Apple’s retro-futurism to Ikea’s chic designs for all.
Says John: ‘‘The appetite in Ireland for mid century and Danish furniture splits down the middle, the people who want the look on a budget, ie well designed mass produced quality items that are readily available, and people who want the look but want the pedigree, they want to be able to have something that shares their living room space, an item of rarity that is also displayed in the Danish Museum of Art and Design in Copenhagen. They now want names like Arne Jacobsen, Peter Hvidt , Kai Kristiansen, Paul Cadiovus and the likes - the Aston Martins and Louboutins of furniture design. We enjoy catering to both worlds.’’
And as for the future, the pair’s aim is clear.
‘‘Bettys Lounge main goal for the future is to keep having fun first and foremost, sourcing and buying unique items that we can enjoy in our home for a while until we no longer have space for it and it finds another home, travelling the world and enjoying everything life has to offer.’’