ART HOUSE
Cheshire Life|September 2020
Holly Johnson admires the Arts & Crafts style so much she completely redesigned her 1970s’ Allostock home, from the outside in
Kate Houghton
Holly Johnson is an internationally renowned antiques dealer and interior designer, with clients across the globe, from Palm Springs to Prestbury, and including such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, Woody Allen, Marco Pierre White and Lord Bamford. Not to mention scores of interior designers who know her as just the person to find the very piece they need, or indeed furnish a whole house.

Having grown up in Hale, Holly moved to Ollerton with her parents in her teens, before heading to Manchester to study history of art. Her love of the subject landed her a role at Christie’s Auction House in London, a position that delivered much in the way of learning, but little in the way of income.

“It was a great start for me,” Holly says, “but I couldn’t afford to stay there. I moved back to Cheshire and found a job at Phillips, now Bonhams, in Chester. My family knew David Dickinson, long before he found fame on TV, and I then worked with him for two years. It was here that I really learned the trade. We travelled the country buying and selling, and he had a shop in Manchester too. After two years, in my mid-20s, I decided to set up for myself.

“I did the big fairs in London, and then overseas too, specialising in 18th and 19th century furniture, especially Gillows of Lancaster, Lamb of Manchester, and Holland & Sons – pieces they made for the Great Exhibitions of the 19th century. I used to spend lots of time in libraries and museums, researching each piece. The good thing about a lot of the Great Exhibition pieces is that it was all quite well recorded, you have these big catalogues you can go through.”

Holly’s husband, Ben Aardwerk, was born into the antiques trade, with his family in the Netherlands having dealt in gold, jewellery, snuff boxes and other delightful ephemera of times past for four generations. They met at the Art and Antiques Fair at Olympia, but had travelled the same circuit for years without once meeting before.

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