A London legend whose intuitive eye delighted interior designers and customers alike: Karen Howes remembers the talent, and colorful home, of the late antique dealer, Gretchen Anderson, owner of The Lacquer Chest.



Gretchen Anderson's home in Kensington © Simon Upton / Interior Archive / Sara Mathers


The distant rumble of traffic could be heard from Kensington High Street, combined with the joyful sounds of children playing in the grounds of a school close by. The chimes from St Mary Abbots Church resonated as I sat in the small courtyard garden in front of Gretchen Andersen’s colorful, treasure-filled house.

The late, great antique dealer - who died earlier this month - had lived there for more than 65 years, in a tiny cul-de-sac of classical London terraced houses, a short walk from The Lacquer Chest, the renowned antiques shop she founded on Kensington Church Street. I was both excited and intrigued to meet someone who had lived in the same city, and in the same house, for such a long time.


Gretchen lived in the colorful London terrace for over 65 years © Simon Upton / Interior Archive / Sara Mathers 


As I sat waiting for the answer to the doorbell, I wondered how it must feel to have experienced London over so many decades. Gretchen, together with her husband Vivian, took over the shop from her mother-in-law in the late 1950s, a time when interiors magazines were still in their infancy and interior design a world based on a gentleman’s handshake and not the industry it was destined to become.

With an intuitive eye, Gretchen recognised that there was no point in competing with the established antiques shops of the day. Instead, she pleased herself and bought and sold furniture, decorative objects and artefacts that she fell in love with, the unpredictability of her purchases ensuring that her customers never knew what they might find in the shop – so they kept returning!

We sat in the kitchen – her favourite room in the house. Gretchen's interior was a time capsule, reflecting her decades of ownership, personal taste and unusual style. She talked about the changes in the street, the comings and goings of the neighbours, and above all how London had become her home.

With a twinkle in her eye, Gretchen described the variety of her clients, from designers and celebrities to other dealers and people simply dropping in off the street, her character assessments, both positive and insightful, delivered with unerring recollection and a smile on her face.

The Lacquer Chest - Gretchen Andersen’s legacy - continues in the safe hands of close friend Ewan Ramsay-Wilson, daughter Emily and granddaughter Nancy.


In memory of Gretchen Anderson (1929-2024); © Simon Upton / Interior Archive / Sara Mathers

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