23 Jan 2024

Passion for mid-century furniture now a thirving business

From Afternoons, 1:35 pm on 23 January 2024

Auckland couple, Grant Difford and his wife Amy, have started Plots & Pickles, a vintage and up-cycled furniture store. Difford finds used items in need of a little bit of love, and refurbishes them.

Art Deco oak cabinet

Art Deco oak cabinet Photo: plotsandpickles.com

Older pieces of furniture are finding new uses as apartment living becomes more prevalent in New Zealand, he tells Jesse Mulligan.

“Now, when people are living in apartments, or they're living in a smaller dwelling, they're buying mid-century pieces, because they're slightly thinner, have smaller drawers.

“So, there's this strange kind of pattern of a way we used to live in certain terms coming back, and that's kind of interesting, because people are choosing a 50-year-old piece to go into a brand-new apartment, and I think that's really cool.”

Difford says it was a nervous wait for the first piece he bought for the business to sell.

“I went out one day and spent 25 bucks, and my wife and my daughter came home and I said, I've got this idea, you get the usual roll of the eyes, as I'm used to over the last 20 years.

“And I just felt like there was something there. And we just started, and built a little website in Shopify and 10 days later, we got our first sale, which was the longest 10 days of my entire life.”

Within a few months furniture became the main part of their business, he says.

“It's no longer a side hustle, it's something that we are in all day, every day, and it's a wonderful thing.”

An antiques dealer in the UK, Drew Pritchard, was his inspiration, he says.

“I simply followed his mantra of buy what you love. Buy something that you would have in your own home. And as his number one fan, I really study his principles of buying and he's been in the game 20 years. So, he knows some stuff.”

Difford seeks things that are made; “really well by people who have got far more talent than I have.”

“I just buy things that I love, and the premise is that other people hopefully will love them too.”

People’s appetite for older items reflects, he believes, a yearning for simpler times.

“Often when people come into the store you hear these stories, mum had one of those, and I remember those and I think it comes back to maybe when things were a bit simpler.

“Maybe when we were kids, 40-50 years ago when these pieces were made. I think we're looking for something a bit more innocent, something less consumerist, something more meaningful, and I think that's where the stories come from.

“And as you can imagine, that makes for an amazing business to work with.”

The business name was inspired by the make and mend culture after World War II, he says.

“You'd make your own food, you'd have a plot, and you'd pickle things and there was this sort of artisan sense of meaning in creating food, and I love the idea of it.

“So, we have a jar, and we have a spade and a fork. And I just felt that was a time where things were made properly, there was kind of an appreciation of things, and you see it in the pieces.”