These family-run businesses are all very different, but what they have in common is a shared interest and passion for what they do
Words: Jonathan Whiley
Mona and Jenny
Chelsea Textiles began in 1990 when Mona Perlhagen identified a demand for recreations of antique embroidered fabrics and cushions.
“We started out with needlepoint cushions from China and, at that time, the price to buy even a shred of 18th century needlework was prohibitive as well as rare,” says Mona, who was a fashion buyer at Bloomingdale’s before moving to London. Today, the material archive is extensive but, at the beginning, sourcing the master craftsmen to produce these pieces was a job in itself.
“It was very difficult and we had to invest in serious antique petit point documents for them to get the idea and the pieces had to
be even more faded and distressed than we actually wanted, as they always made them a bit brighter than the document,” says Mona.
The company, which specialises in handcrafted wooden furniture, has worked with leading interior decorators and boutique hotel groups, including Firmdale Hotels and the Red Carnation group, which includes Rubens at the Palace.
Mona relishes being in Belgravia and loves the fact that her daughter, Jenny Simpson, is part of the company, having joined as chief designer after studying history of art and interior design. “It was the best thing ever; she has worked for Chelsea one way or another since a child, but joined full time 17 years ago,” says Mona. “I don’t think anyone cares as much about a business as much as you do when it’s your own – it brings out a passion.”
Jenny, who is currently finishing her degree in Fine Art, is passionate about taking the company in exciting new directions. “In the past, we have been very niche in what we make,” she says. “We are now working on building a much more rounded collection of fabrics and furnishings to suit different styles, tastes and budgets. My mother and I only make things that we would use ourselves, so it’s quite useful to be coming at it from two different points of view.”
Valentina and Juliana
Colombian sisters Valentina and Juliana have brought the taste of their country to Belgravia with Morena. What started as a desire to import freshly roasted Colombian coffee, has become an all-day dining restaurant with Latin American dishes, cocktails and, of course, coffee. Based in Eccleston Yards, they hope to showcase the best that their culture has to offer. Growing up in the capital, Bogota, the sisters have been surrounded by coffee-growing regions, with the most famous area being Eje Cafetero.
They spent months looking for the right farmers, who were all able to export coffee from Colombia to London. “What makes Colombian coffee so different apart from its flavour profile; is how the picking process takes place,” says Valetina. “This is unique as is all done manually. There are no big machines involved trying to pick up the coffee beans; it’s carefully done by the farmers. It’s a process that involves patience, love but, most importantly, every family that grows coffee beans has got a beautiful story behind it.”
Eccleston Yards was a dream destination for a business like Morena, which sources all its ingredients from top suppliers, from Kent eggs to Brazilian acai. “From the first moment we visited Eccleston Yards, we fell in love with the atmosphere, the space and, even though many will argue it’s a bit hidden, we liked how you were transported from the busy streets of London to a quirky, relaxed square in the heart of Belgravia.”
What’s more, being a family business makes the job even more satisfying. “It is fun and we enjoy every minute of it – Morena definitely brought us closer,” says Valentina.
“We, of course, disagree on ideas but, at the end of the day, we always know that we are sisters and it is a special bond we have.”
10-11 Eccleston Yards, morenalondon.com
Hilary and Rose
Since setting up shop on the King’s Road in 1986, Hilary Batstone Antiques has been something of an institution in the British decorative industry. After more than 20 years in Holbein Place, the 18th to 20th century antique store moved to Bourne Street, its current location, in 2019. Hilary, who lives “a matter of four steps” from her shop with poodle, Eric, is also a short walk from her daughter, Rose Uniacke, one of the country’s leading interior designers.
Rose, dubbed ‘the queen of serene’, runs her own beautiful showroom on Pimlico Road and has an esteemed client list, having previously designed for the likes of the Beckhams.
While known for her contemporary, luxury design, Rose also specialises in elegant antiques, having trained as a furniture restorer, gilder and specialist in paint and lacquer before turning to antiques and interior design. “We share an interest in antiques and Rose, in fact, helped me in the beginning, until one day she said, ‘mum would you mind if I opened my own shop?’. It’s been lovely
to see her business grow – I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Hilary’s aesthetic eye has clearly been passed down and mother and daughter collaborate regularly; recently Hilary unveiled a 19th-century English armchair and 19th-century slipper chair, both upholstered in Rose Uniacke linen.
“Being a mother is a privilege and a responsibility, which is usually rewarding. For a time, Rose lived in the south of France and, on one occasion when I visited, I arrived at the airport and couldn’t see her anywhere. I finally spotted this boy in the distance looking at me, and suddenly I realised it was actually Rose, but with a shaved head! “Rose has always been brave like that.”