A shared passion for similar types of contemporary interior products led Peter Ross (pictured left) and Gary Brown to strike out on their own, first with a website in 2014, before opening their own shop in Cheam Village in the autumn of the following year.
“We never planned to have a shop,” Ross explains, “but the original unit we operated out of, offered to us by a friend, was earmarked for another project so we had to relocate somewhere.”
Their Cheam Village home allows the pair to run the online operation from the back office and they also have a showroom to display items of furniture, figuring, quite rightly one suspects, that “customers like to see and touch things rather than see an image on screen.”
Ross and Brown met while working in the commercial interior design industry, “We worked together at Design-id in Kent where Gary was a director and l was the oldest office intern, learning CAD and developing schemes for pub refurbishments,” Ross recalls with a smile. “We would spend a lot of time specifying products for various projects and we thought it would be good to source some new products of our own and offer a product library and website for other industry professionals.”
This then evolved into a retail-orientated website where the purchasing policy was if they both liked it, it made the cut. “We seemed to have a lot in common; we used to share ideas and developed a good understanding about new products in architecture and design.”
Ross is modest when it comes to a particular vision for the brand, “l don’t want to sound prescriptive, it’s all just individual taste, right?” he says. “For me, it’s about balancing the simplicity or order of modernist Scandinavian design with the randomness of personal effects, heirlooms: rural or industrial pieces, something with a story, with provenance. It all generally reflects your values.”
He says that there needs to be some key pieces that anchor everything. “Products can look great but it’s also how they make you feel. Without consciously contriving it, you create a space that makes you feel a certain way, usually relaxed, informal, comfortable and safe. It all has to work together to be very workable, useful and practical.”
The focus of Ross & Brown’s offer wasn’t initially so Scandinavian. “We first started visiting suppliers who offered more industrial products because that was a commercial area we were more familiar with, but it appeared the industry was overwhelmed with too much shabby chic. So we investigated some of the new Nordic brands trying to get exposure in the UK before the whole Scandi vibe became mainstream again. We decided that this was a look we would help reintroduce to a new audience.”
A trip to Copenhagen proved particularly fruitful with the pair visiting various suppliers in and around the Danish capital, some of them well-established mid-century brands, others newer entrants to the market such as Hay, Muuto and Normann Copenhagen. “We love clean lines, muted palettes and natural materials.” he explains.
Inspiration-wise, they tend to swerve the bigger design shows like Maison et Objet in Paris, in favour of smaller ones such as North Modern in Herning in Denmark. “We are always on the lookout for interesting new things, whether that’s online, on social media or even shopping in another town or country.”
The shop’s customer base is, says Ross, “discerning” adding, “They appreciate the design and quality. We sell to a wide demographic: young couples setting up home and we also have a lot of older customers who have seen trends come and go but appreciate good design.”
Ross & Brown are on the side of paying a little more for good quality, well-made products, “A Normann Copenhagen Lounge chair will be happily inherited by future generations,” says Ross by way of example. Best sellers include Harto Side tables, Icelandic Sheepskins and Skandinavisk scented candles. “Also our Danish suppliers do scrutinise and evaluate their own carbon footprint.”
Ross is keen to stress that stylistically the door is always open, “We’re reluctant to call ourselves exclusively Scandi because home interior trends evolve and and new themes will turn up. We have always stocked other brands from the UK, France & the Netherlands. It’s not about the geography, it’s the design.”
Ross & Brown
23 Station Way, Cheam, Sutton, SM3 8SD