The Home opened in 1994 in a rather inaccessible part of the second floor of Salts Mill in Saltaire, Bradford. That section of the magnificent Victorian industrial building had not been used for many years and in January of that year, snow had been blowing through broken windows, paint was peeling from the walls and even the resident pigeons looked miserable. There wasn’t even a proper entrance into the space, no heating and no electricity. Whilst this may sound very unappealing and it certainly looked like the least sensible spot for a retail homewares shop, it never seemed a daunting prospect to Patricia and Robin Silver who made sure that the space was transformed and filled with their personal selection of designs for the home.
Patricia had trained to be a fashion designer, specialising in knitwear and had produced her own collections that were sold through leading fashion design stores around the world. She had also produced designs for retail fashion companies and that is how she had first met Robin. He had studied social anthropology and worked with his brother in Jonathan Silver Clothes Ltd making and selling clothing across England in the 1970s.
When they discussed the idea of opening a “home” store with Robin’s brother, Jonathan, he immediately suggested that it should be located in Salts Mill which he had acquired a few years earlier and in which he had opened the David Hockney gallery. He also enthused that everything for sale in the shop should be of the best quality and the best design. This accorded perfectly with Patricia’s and Robin’s intentions because their aim was to present their choice of quality contemporary designs, many of which were the very things that they had bought for their own home.
To Patricia, it was exciting to put together a collection of everyday homewares. Things that she liked and which had a design integrity. Things like Chinese Food Boxes (the kind of take-away cartons that appear in American detective films) that can still be bought in The Home for as little as 25p or the classic American Diner mug as used by James Dean in the 1950s and which is still going strong today. There’s the stacking china used in a thousand cafés and restaurants across Europe and made by Thomas in Germany but sadly now going out of production after being manufactured for exactly 50 years. Or the “Goodgrips” potato peeler now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern art in New York and today as much an icon of potato peeling as the orange string bound Lancashire peeler.
To Robin, the stories that went with these products were the inspiration. He’d once asked the bar tender at the The Royalton Hotel in New York where the egg shaped glasses that they used had come from. He didn’t know but said he’d find out and true to his word, he gave Robin the supplier’s phone number. When he asked to buy a dozen glasses, the answer was a burst of laughter. She normally supplied pallet loads not a dozen glasses! Had it not been for the fact that she was married to an Englishman and was so amused by the impudence of such a small order, there may never have been any of these and a whole range of glasses on sale in The Home.
Today, some items for sale still cost less than a pound whilst other pieces of furniture carry a much higher price tag. All our classic, modernist pieces are produced only by the authentic, licensed manufacturers and there is a strong belief that it is uneconomic to compromise on quality…