Belle Epoque……………..

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Who are you? I am Suzie Ball, owner of Belle Epoque in York Street, Broadstairs  – a boutique shop specialising in antique and vintage hand painted French furniture, architectural and decorative antiques, textiles, quirky finds and bespoke upholstery.  I offer a sourcing, upholstery and painting service.  I am an interior designer, stylist and house couturier.  I am a passionate collector, creative writer and photographer and act as a consultant on many artistic projects.   

Why Broadstairs?  I knew many people in Broadstairs who welcomed the prospect of being able to purchase unique pieces for their home in an inspiring and uplifting environment.  Quality pieces with authenticity, integrity and a sense of history or designed and created for them with imagination and flair.  

How do you define style?  A person who has the instinctive ability to throw together, with perfected casualness, disparate objet d’art/furniture/clothes with great aplomb/panache … Style has nothing to do with money and designer labels – you certainly can’t buy it – you either have it or you don’t.   

If you were an animal what would you be?  A pampered pedigree pussy.

If you could go back and live in another era from a design point of view, when, where & why?  The 1770’s – during the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the Dauphin and Dauphine of France.  I am mesmerised by the beauty and opulence of the interiors and the incredible vision and skill of the craftspeople who executed them and the stunning textiles used to dress them and their stylish occupants…  sumptuous silks, exquisite embroidery, divine damasks, passementaire, lace and corsetry.    

Object of Desire?  A Ceylon et cie chinoiserie day bed which I’d off-set with piles of silk tasselled cushions and hand painted chinoiserie wallpaper, and oriental lanterns. I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven! 

Who are your Heroes?  Passionate creative’s and designers, champions of British craft and celebrators of the eccentric.. Vivienne Westwood, Nicholas Haslam; The Bloomsbury set… etc – but also Broadstairs retailers who work tirelessly through the recession with grace and humour “doing their thaing honey”, standing tall and making Broadstairs a better place…Margie at Arrowsmiths an Aladin’s cave of tasteful magpie gifts procured from far flung corners of the earth and displayed with vivacity and imagination… Penny from Broadstairs Antiques who has everything a vintage crafter would need… Graham who owns Festival Café in Oscar Road and Laurance and Michael from Salon Bohemia – both have created wonderfully unique environments where people come, flourish creatively and converse with strangers forging bonds of friendship over oversized cakes and vintage champagne … Jean and Robin from Bridal Gallery who hand sew into the dark hours creating stunning couture gowns which grace their window with ethereal presence … and Fiona from Helter Skelter and her team who work relentlessly to improve Broadstairs and promote it.  These people are passionate and inspiring – and if you could bottle their commitment and enthusiasm you would make a fortune.  

What building would you like to be locked in overnight?  Such a difficult question.  The Palais Garnier with a private production of Madame Butterfly?  The Brighton Pavillion with all my friends and a banquet fit for the Prince Regent himself … or the V&A? … with a large truck on stand-by to spirit away the classical sculptures which I find so incredibly moving and of course the entire historical costume and textile collection….

If you could change one thing about your house what would it be?  A further reception room – it would be wonderful not to have to sit dinner guests amidst mountains of stock, fabric and upholstery equipment – I must be the only one who does Christmas Crackers containing hard hats instead of paper ones!

What do you collect?  Antique: armoires, drawings, paintings, prints, passementaire, silver, taxidermy and textiles.  

What couldn’t you live without?  Love, a photo of my beloved mother and a small pearlised Victorian Christmas card with cutwork that my aunt and uncle gave me when I was a child.  

First Thanet Memory?  My father’s boat building business under the arches at the Royal Harbour and beans on toast at the Eagle Café at the end of the Pier.

What is your Biggest Weakness?  I’m not really materialistic – but I can’t resist a great piece of fabric! Oh ..  or a good pair of high heeled shoes. 

Best Advice you have been given?  Believe in yourself and people will come – water finds it’s own level.

What would you do if you were Mayor for a day?  Knock down Westwood cross and re-instate the independent high street with grants to encourage one off boutiques and quality retailers .. Introduce Thanet currency and bartering to encourage people to buy local … and give grants to those who wish to restore or live in our existing historic buildings rather than new builds …  Well they don’t call me wonder woman for nothing!

What is the most unusual item to come through the shop door?  Undoubtedly a stuffed peacock – which flew out of the door the following day and now resides in Islington!

If you could choose one building in Thanet to perform an interior makeover – what building and why?  The old Casino on Ramsgate sea front.  It’s a stunning building with so much potential and great location.  It would make a fabulous theatre and nightclub – a la Moulin Rouge.

What are your Goals for 2013?  Decorate our house in Ramsgate and offer a good service to all our wonderful clients.

ROUND UP: Whilst Belle Epoque has its home in Broadstairs – much of Suzie’s work takes place at her Victorian home in Ramsgate. The house is testament to Suzie’s love of textiles, evident in every room, beautiful fabrics adorn chairs, windows & beds. The abundant use of Textiles feels decadent & luxurious – rich sumptuous silks, embroidery, and damasks to name a few & let’s not forget leopard print. In Suzie’s own words “every girl should have some”.

SUZIE RECOMENDS: Arrowsmiths, 2 Charlotte St, Town Centre, Broadstairs CT10 1LR.

Broadstairs antiques & curios, 49, Belvedere Rd, Broadstairs , CT10 1PF

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To take part in the Curio contact:

All images ©Jo Willis

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