Angel Loves Indies… Adventures In Furniture
Adventures in Furniture, 281 Upper St, N1 2TZ
Native New Yorker Kim Corbett has been trading in Islington for more than 20 years. Here, she pulls up a chair to share her passion for furniture and tells us what makes her award-winning business so unique.
Hi Kim, tell us where it all began.
I’m a transplanted New Yorker but London has been my home since 1998. I live a short bike ride from our Islington showroom. Three of us started our business in 2000 when we took over a pine shop on Upper Street. My husband Jason had managed the shop and when the owner was ready to move on we moved in, and evolved into upholstery and premium woods. After my first day I was buzzing. I’d had a brilliant day talking to customers and I was hooked – I’m a shop girl at heart.
What do you offer?
Quite simply we sell furniture that is beautiful and well made. The biggest part of our business strategy is our behind-the-scenes work on raw materials and production processes. We’ve won a number of awards for our work on sustainability including a Guardian Sustainable Business Award for our furniture rating guide. This gives a ‘star’ rating for our furniture, graded on wood source, workshop practices and transportation distances.
In addition to our Islington showroom, we have one in Chiswick and more recently, Tottenham Court Road.
Adventures In Furniture has been going for two decades. What’s your secret?
Good products and good people. As it’s retail there is the need for constant evolution and we are small enough to identify gaps in our market and turn designs around quickly. Customer service has always been a high priority and it’s great that reviews are now part of any sale – we’re really proud of our Feefo reviews. We send them around to the whole team and get a real kick out of how our customers talk about us.
How have furniture trends changed? What’s hot right now?
There are definitely trends in design like the current focus on biophilic design (connecting to the environment), which we love. And shapes with lots of curves and natural materials seem to be very desirable now. But the one thing that never goes out of style is quality – that sounds obvious but it’s really important and something that people appreciate more and more. Making furniture that lasts now has an important environmental dimension too.
Who is your typical customer?
Londoners! A big, diverse group of people living or working near the Angel but also visitors from all over the country who love the independent businesses that thrive in Islington. Our staff speak many languages which is something our customers like.
Why is furniture your passion?
I am very passionate about what we surround ourselves with – I think a person’s individuality should be obvious in their home. I’m really not into fast fashion or constant changes in furniture, but I do like to move stuff around, which drives my family crazy. We try to help our customers find styles and colours they can mix up to reflect their personalities. And we all need furniture because important events in life often happen at home, with friends and family. Good design and functionality can make life easier, better. Performance materials – things like easy clean fabrics without nasty chemicals makes a difference. Tables that extend and last long enough to pass on to children, solid timber, natural fabrics – these are long lasting materials. Durability and longevity are important.
Have you ever made your own furniture?
No, but I have designed some of our furniture. I’m not a professional product designer but I hear so often what people want and I work with our makers to come up with designs that reflect this. Most of the furniture we sell is made just for us in workshops in Europe.
What makes your business unique?
I hope people pick up our personality and independence of spirit! And our furniture rating guide is pretty special – it provides transparency to customers. We also try to keep improving our environmental responsibility. For example we’re really pleased to see our new electric vans criss-crossing Islington.
But what makes us really special is our team. When you come in you are helped, not sold to. We have a team of around 20 who all feel as passionately as we do about quality in product and service. We try to put the human touch back into the process. We have a lot of repeat business and we have customers who spread the word so we expand in a natural way.
What does the future hold for Adventures In Furniture?
More ways of looking at how we can reduce landfill – we launched a trial of a sofa re-use concept last month that will be the basis of how we sell products with a view to full lifecycle use in the future. More immediately we have our big summer sale starting this month (July) with discounts across all furniture collections!
What’s it like working in Angel?
We love Angel! It’s a neighbourhood with a lot of independent businesses, something that’s important for a sense of connection. I like that you can walk down the street and see a diverse, cross-generational community. There are lots of little green spaces and it feels like there’s always more to discover. Both my kids were born in Islington. Thank you Islington for decades of support. We try to do you proud!
Tell us something people might not know about you.
I like painting portraits. Not very good ones but it’s calming.
And finally, what is your…
Favourite tipple? Tommy’s margarita.
Go-to snack? Ottolenghi spicy breadsticks.
Perfect Sunday? Bus to St Paul’s, walk over the bridge to Tate Modern and Papo’s Bagels on the way home.
Best adventure? Adventures In Furniture of course!
+++ Are you an independent business in Angel and would like to feature here? Drop Sarah an email at email@example.com.