The Finer Things
Natalie Anglesey chats with Ingrid Nilson, the Director of the annual Art Antiques fair held at the Mere Golf Resort and Spa in February 2019.
If you’ve visited The Mere during the annual Art Antiques Cheshire fair, no doubt you’ll have enjoyed the delightful room-settings full of beautiful antique furniture, contemporary prints and jewellery? Well here, at The Cheshire Magazine, we’re able to give you a unique peep behind the scenes, thanks to Director Ingrid Nilson.
“If you’re looking for an unusual gift which may well become a family heirloom, these fairs provide an ideal opportunity to find the unusual,” Ingrid tells me. You may well spot her gliding around the room without being aware of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. But, just like a swan, busy paddling below the surface, there’s a great deal of pre-planning the public does not see.
“I’m not alone,” Ingrid explains. “I have a stalwart team who supports me and we pride ourselves that no-one will notice the hard work involved behind the scenes. We want visitors to simply come and enjoy the experience! We hear much talk about watching our spending, yet the restaurants around Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Knutsford are always busy. I admit antiques are not necessities and they are a luxury but if you can afford to spend, you can buy something full of history to pass down through the family.”
If, like me, you associate antiques with brown furniture, considered out of fashion for so long, Ingrid also informs me that trend is actually changing. “I’m not just saying that because I’m in the business of selling antiques,” she laughs. “Just as fashion changes in clothes, so designers are veering away from the sterile hotel suite look and the new trend is to cleverly marry old furniture with contemporary art, which we’ve seen for some time now, or indeed vice versa. There are so many rich oak chests and old linen presses which fit perfectly well into modern interiors.”
But where does the jewellery come in? “Well this time, as well as beautiful contemporary designs, we are also marking this special year for the Suffragette Movement, because Manchester was a central hub of that movement. So we also have lots of antique, suffragette jewellery on display.”
Ingrid points out something we’ve all witnessed on the high street. “Our shopping methods have changed dramatically over the years and many of us now do the bulk of our shopping on the internet. However, our fairs provide a very different, intimate experience. There’s something to be said for handling a piece of jewellery that’s decades old. Or spotting a terracotta, Chinese horse that would fit perfectly on a desk or into a more modern setting.”
Swedish born Ingrid was brought up in Finland where her father was a university lecturer and an artist. After taking an Art History degree at Uppsala University in 1982, she married Åke Nilson the same year. Ingrid and her husband, a specialist in IT (Design), decided to make this country their home and moved to London. There she applied for a job and, out of 300 applicants, was successful and joined the Stephanie Hoppen Gallery in Knightsbridge.
“I learnt so much from Stephanie, the mother of famous designer Kelly Hoppen,” Ingrid reflects. “But after five years I decided to branch out on my own and exhibit decorative, antique prints at fairs. I then expanded and have been staging antiques and fine art fairs since 2004 when I launched an annual event at the Cheltenham Racecourse. In 2008, I branched out again with smaller, high-quality fairs often held at luxury hotels, and occasionally stately homes.“
Now Ingrid’s company is a leading UK organiser in boutique-sized quality fairs. “In fact at one time my fairs were so successful, I was organising roughly seven major fairs a year but had little time for quality of life. Now I hope I have the life /work balance right by crystallising our efforts into three exclusive annual events”.
“They are The Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art fair at The London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, the Art Antiques Cheshire fair at The Mere Golf Resort & Spa, and The Petworth Park Antiques & Fine Art fair which was launched in 2015 at the invitation of the National Trust at Petworth House. In addition to The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited’s own fairs, last year I was asked to manage and relaunch The Northern Antiques fair, Harrogate’s most prestigious antiques fair which was established in 1951.”
Ingrid’s little black book is bulging with a wealth of contacts built up over the years. “In Cheshire, I’m regularly in touch with Mike and Margaret Melody in Chester and Alec and Nick from Church Street Antiques in Altrincham- as we’ve worked together happily over the years.”
With Ingrid’s reputation for a commitment to the highest standards, it means the majority of the exhibitors return to her fairs year after year having forged lasting relationships with their clients who eagerly return to see the latest treasures on offer. Most of the participating dealers are members of the BADA or LAPADA, the UK’s leading art and antiques dealer associations.
And what about Ingrid’s own home- is it full of antiques? She laughingly replies:” It’s the same eclectic mix most families have of hand me down furniture from parents and grandparents, even, I admit, something from Ikea when it first opened here and of course my father’s art is on the walls.”
Ingrid and her husband eventually decided to relocate to the country and now live in a small village on the Kent/Sussex border. “Now my husband doesn’t have to spend hours on the tube- he just strolls down the garden to his office and after a busy fair I get quality time at home to plan the next one, potter in the garden or visit the family in Sweden.”
So after all these years living in England does Ingrid considered herself Swedish or British? She laughs. “We are obviously Swedish but we are still in love with this country. We initially came here for a few years and, like my husband and I, we’ve been together here for nearly forty years and consider this home. The other day I discovered a sticker on a vegetable which I have now stuck up in our kitchen and which I think sums us up. It reads – British Swede!”
Fairs for 2019
The Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair
Thursday 10 – Sunday 13 January 2019, The London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6JP
Art Antiques Cheshire
Friday 22 – Sunday 24 February 2019, The Mere Golf Resort & Spa, near Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6LJ
The Petworth Park Antiques & Fine Art Fair
Friday 10 – Sunday 12 May 2019, Petworth House and Park, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 0QY
The Northern Antiques Fair
Thursday 3 – Sunday 6 October 2019, Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2SY
The Mere Golf Resort & Spa, Chester Road, Mere, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 6LJ
Next Fair Friday 22 – Sunday 24 February 2019
Opening Times : Friday 11.00–18.00 | Saturday 10.30–18.00 | Sunday 10.30–17.00