Treasure hunter and furniture restorer Rob Cain also has a talent for interior design. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Laura Mate.
Anyone who has visited Rob Cain’s Antiques, Curio and Salvage Barn, near Harrogate, will know that it’s a wondrous riot with every inch, from the ceiling down, covered with the treasures he has found. Huge industrial lanterns and gorgeous chandeliers hang from the ceiling looking down on a Tuk-tuk parked next to huge carved doors from Rajasthan, Dutch dressers and French armoires. Shelves are stacked with vintage bowls, there are stools made from bicycles and huge Turkish buckets repurposed as planters for olive trees, while banquet-size tables groan with door plates, trinkets and various unidentifiable items.
No wonder art directors love using this place for photo shoots.
The salvage, furniture, art, fabrics and curious objects come from his travels here in Britain, further afield in Europe and even more far flung in Asia.
He loves the globe trotting but it can be tiring, which is why his new home and garden are so important to him.
The former farmhouse offers a retreat and has a calm and welcoming feel. It’s rented but Rob has wasted no time in making it his own.
He replaced the kitchen, adding new units and reclaimed oak surfaces. He has also painted over the old wallpaper with Farrow and Ball’s Skimming Stone. It is an excellent backdrop for his vast gallery of pictures, which includes a collection of Vanity Fair Spy caricatures.
One of his favourite paintings is in the dining room. It is of a pretty raven-haired girl against a blue backdrop.
“I was buying some items from a former post lady in a village nearby and I spotted it there. I asked who it was of and she said it was her when she was a girl. I told her that if she let me buy it I would never sell it. She agreed and I love it. The story behind the picture makes it even more special,” he says.
All the rooms feature stock from his barn, including pieces that he has restored or upcycled. He is very handy thanks to his father, John Cain, a renowned French polisher.
Rob left school and did an eight-year apprenticeship with his dad before they traded together as The English Polisher.
He is still adept at high-end furniture restoration and shares his skills via YouTube tutorials but most of his time is now spent on his Antiques, Curio and Salvage Barn
He began selling years ago, buying vintage brown furniture from auctions and making it appealing to homeowners and interior designers. He also started sourcing unusual items.
While he still buys in Britain, he was keen to find something different and exciting, which is why he began sourcing abroad. Hungary is one of his favourite hunting grounds and he has a great contact in Holland who shares his taste in decorative salvage. His latest finds are from India, including the Tuk-tuk, which he is hoping to restore.
“If I can get it road legal I’ll use it for driving round town.” he says.
“They are everywhere in India. It is an amazing place and the people are incredibly inventive, especially when it comes to recycling just about everything,” he says.
It’s where he got the hand-carved serving bowls in his dining room. The chairs were used by workers in an Indian factory and the side table is an old water pump, which he upcycled.
The sitting room has an English gentleman’s club feel, though the enormous mirror behind the leather chair is a door from Jodhpur. Rob replaced the panels with mirrors. The coffee table is a trolley cart from a Dutch factory. Country-style curtains bought from a sale at Nidd Hall soften the look.
Up in the main bedroom, a French walnut bed takes centre stage while the walls are decorated with old, foxed mirrors and vintage shelves.
At the moment, ”raw and rustic” is fashionable but that will change, which keeps Rob’s job interesting.
“I’ve always been a searcher not a follower and I am always looking for next thing,” he says. “So far I’ve managed to find it and that gives me a massive buzz. It’s why I’m so addicted to what I do
The Antiques, Curio and Salvage Barn is open Wednesday to Sunday and is at Four Lane Ends Farm, Burley Bank Road, Harrogate, theenglishpolisher.co.uk. Laura Mate is a photographer, stylist and art director, who recently returned to her Yorkshire roots after spending 10 years in Paris shooting for magazines, such as Elle Decoration and promoting brands from Givenchy to small independents www.lauramate.com