Talking to Charlie Porter
When Charlie Porter got a job as Decoration Stylist at House & Garden magazine, it was the perfect role for her, as it played into her personal fascination with all the unique and unusual bits and pieces that help to set off a home. It was that fascination which led her to found her own online antiques and vintage shop Tat, initially as a side-line to her day job, and in the last year, as a full-time occupation since she left House & Garden. At Tat you’ll find an eclectic mix of artworks, ceramics, lights, glassware, rugs, objets d’art and anything else that’s caught Charlie’s eye on her rummages around the country. The Tat site is also home to Tête-à-Tat, online chats with people who interest her, and Knock Knock, where she takes a look round the décor of homes that have attracted her attention. You can find more of that sort of thing on her never-less-than-fascinating Tat Instagram feed.
We imposed on Charlie’s time to see whether we could find out more about what makes Tat tick.
How did you find your way to becoming a stylist?
Through Gabby Deeming, she took me on to be her and Ruth Sleightholme’s assistant and then, after a year or so I got to do my own shoots. I am not a natural stylist, but getting the opportunity to do it – that was very special.
How would you define your own sense of aesthetics?
I don’t have a clue. It changes all the time. I love lots of styles. Some would be very hard for me to achieve as I am a spendthrift and love to buy things.
Has working for Home & Garden helped you hone what you do and don’t like stylistically?
Yes – how could it not? You are confronted by so many different designers, and interiors, you can’t help but have their styles impressed upon you. I went in loving Robert Kime, which I still do, but your eyes are opened to smaller names who are perhaps a little more modern, or completely wacky designers who are out there pushing the envelope. It was so exciting being there when someone discovered a maker or you saw a really fantastic house laid out – it only added to my love of the industry.
What was the catalyst for starting Tat?
I started Tat because I was made redundant from my job at Kids Company (before House & Garden). It was a particularly sad time for me and it stayed with me for a while. I felt very helpless – we walked in one day after a torrent of bad press and we were unemployed by the end of the day trying to cash in our pensions. So, when I started at House & Garden I knew I wanted something of my own, that no-one could take from me. Tat emerged very quickly but I didn’t tell anyone at H&G about if for a year or so. It was nice to keep it private but also – those guys, they know interiors – I wanted it to look good before they saw it.
How do you choose what to stock at Tat?
I buy what I like. It can be anything from the 90s to the 18th Century. I am more finishing touches than furniture – more because I don’t have the storage and there are other dealers doing such a good job that I think I would just embarrass myself.
Do you have any favourite items at the moment?
This is my favourite item – never been bought and I just think it’s beyond beautiful.
Have you always been a collector?
No – I have always been a bargain hunter, but not necessarily a collector. I have always loved car boots and junk shops. I think of Tat as a virtual junk shop.
Do you have ambitions to move from an online store to a physical shop?
No. I am not keen on having a store. I like the freedom I get from having an online shop. What I am doing is moving Tat into a space of its own, this means that although you won’t be able to just walk in, you can come around by appointment. Hopefully, I will have moved by spring.
Have sales picked up during the various recent lockdowns?
Peaks and some serious troughs. It’s been unsettling at times, but I have been incredibly lucky, so I can’t complain.
Where do you discover the interiors featured on Tat’s Instagram and in your Knock Knock articles?
Through a hideous amount of time spent on the internet. For Knock Knocks they were different. I asked my friends, who very kindly obliged and only now have I been venturing out of that circle. Knock Knock is quite tricky as you are asking someone to be photographer and writer, while also asking them to open up their homes to you. I do get a little nervous asking. So far, I have had such warm and wonderful responses.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am a ball of contradictions. In terms of Tat I am someone who cares deeply about the interiors industry and see Tat as a vehicle to get names out there who are perhaps too modest to shout about themselves.
What does the future hold for you and for Tat?
A lot of hard work. I had such funny ideas that owning one’s business and providing your own income would somehow be a lot easier than it is. I would like to hire a few people here and there. Keep selling Tat and hopefully keep pushing on with the blog.
If you had a completely free day in London (post-Covid) where would be your favourite places to go?
I think about this a lot. So I walk through Hyde Park and go to the Wolseley for breakfast and then go to see whatever is on at the Royal Academy. Then I would like to go for lunch at Duck Soup which my friend introduced to me in September. Like we did in September I would like to have lunch there and then stay there drinking carafes of wine while watching the great, wonderful people of Soho pass you by. Then roll home tipsy and full. Although I know I should see more culture, I have missed getting pissed with my friends more than anything.
Do you have a favourite London kitchen, bathroom and sitting room interiors? Plus, a favourite home working set-up that you’ve seen since working from home has become the norm.
I spend my life falling in love with rooms. I don’t play favourites. But to pick some out – my lovely friend Emma Grant has created something really special with her flat in Primrose Hill. Every corner is drop-dead gorgeous.
Jasper Conran’s bathroom is so perfectly executed. I haven’t seen any superb working-from-home set-ups, but if I were to pick somewhere I would enjoy working from home it would be Terry Ellis’ Kitchen.
We love the look of your flat and all the natural light from the windows. How did you find it, and do you have a favourite corner?
I had no part to play in the acquisition of this flat, it is my boyfriend’s. It is lovely, but it is not my style at all. My favourite space is our sitting room/kitchen. Purely as you said, because of the amazing light you get in there.
And, purely as Breed’s director is currently working in Gloucestershire for lockdown, are there any beautiful interiors that have stood out for you in this area?
In Gloucestershire there are lots of things to see. One thing I think has been a bit of excitement to the area is Cutter Brooks. I so enjoy visiting. Then I would have to say get yourself to the National Trust houses round there, I love Chastleton. For gardens Painswick Rococo and Kiftsgate – even for someone like me who knows nothing of gardens, both of these made a huge impression on me.
Image Cutter Brooks