When George Sims started to collect mid-century furniture many years ago, he began with the basics: good wood. ‘Back then, I wasn’t familiar with the top names,’ he admits. ‘Instead, I looked out for solid, well-made pieces in teak or rosewood. I was drawn to the timber rather than the designers.’


As time went on, George became far better informed about the nuanced features of furniture from certain designers, countries and eras. But, he maintains, focusing on quality rather than getting hung up on provenance gave him the best possible introduction to furniture design. ‘Above all, most people love mid-century furniture because it is beautifully made and it endures,’ George says. Hannah, a creative director, shares his outlook. ‘Having worked in fashion, I’ve learned to buy what I love, rather than being swayed by labels,’ she adds.

You only have to glance around George and Hannah’s east London home to see how their down-to-earth approach has paid off. Yes, their collection now includes pieces by ‘star’ names, such as Børge Mogensen and Walter Wirtz, but items by unknown or unnamed designers have equal prominence. Take their pared-back 1950s pine daybed in the home office, by an unknown British maker. ‘It was part of a farmhouse sale at an auction in Harrogate and the pine had been varnished a bright, shiny orange,’ says George. ‘But, once we stripped it back, you could see its simple beauty.’

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Then there’s the shapely chrome chair that takes pride of place in the living room. ‘It’s definitely 1970s and British, but that’s all we know,’ says Hannah. ‘A friend spotted it in a shop in Leicester and we had it reupholstered in green velvet. It’s one of those chairs that’s so comfy, it’s an effort to get out of it!’ With hindsight, George recognises that his early approach did have its drawbacks: ‘Now I’m more informed, I realise that we let some really excellent pieces go. But there’s no point in getting hung up on the ones that got away,’ he smiles.

The couple now run a shop in Walthamstow: Everything But The Dog. The name was Hannah’s idea and refers to the fact that their hound, Billy, is the only thing in the shop that isn’t for sale. Their business approach is a reflection of their style at home, combining the cream of mid-century design with contemporary pieces. But before they could put their stamp on the house, it needed a lot of renovation. The couple lived in one room upstairs and gradually worked their way through the space.

The biggest structural changes were adding a side return extension. Now the kitchen side wall in shadow-gap cedar continues into the garden for inside-outside continuity. ‘We wanted a Scandi-cabin vibe, but in red-toned cedar to add warmth,’ explains George. Underfoot, polished concrete adds a modern surface, while vintage Turkish kilims, 1970s artworks and 1980s music promo posters add shots of colour to the timber-rich spaces.

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Hannah and George freely admit that they are indebted to Hannah’s mother, Jenny Wright, for getting them hooked on mid-century furniture. When they began collecting, she took them to auctions in Harrogate and Scotland. Jenny trained as a furniture designer in the 1960s and 70s before becoming an antiques dealer.

‘I grew up in Nottingham, in a house full of old-school antiques such as grandfather clocks and dark oak cabinets,’ explains Hannah. ‘I used to call it ‘clutter’ and yearned for a modern house with cream fitted carpets and brand-new furniture. But now I realise my mum – and our home – were actually really cool.’

These days, George also restores and polishes furniture that they buy. ‘I can do basic things like mending joints and repairing webbing but, for French polishing or reupholstering, I go to the local professionals,’ he says. Since they started collecting, George and Hannah’s tastes have gently shifted towards lighter woods.

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‘Visits to Sweden and Amsterdam have got me interested in designs made in birch, beech and even pine,’ he says. ‘But, whether we are buying for our home or the shop, our guiding principle remains the same – only go for pieces that we both genuinely love and admire.’