Graham, co-founder of furniture and interiors emporium, Graham &
Green, has always been surrounded by beautiful objects. Her mother was
an artist, whilst her grandmother, who lived in Cairo between the wars,
and was part of the smart social set, had an eye for interior design
and a knack for doing up houses. Glamorous and beautifully dressed, she
always wore fabulous jewellery, which made a vivid impression on the
young Antonia. Inspired by these early memories, and having handed the running of Graham & Green over to son Jamie, Antonia
now has her own collection of contemporary Indian jewellery which she
sells privately and to selected shops. Luckily for denizens of W4, a
large selection of Antonia’s beautiful pieces
can be found at The Old Cinema, where a surprisingly reasonable sum will
buy a pair of square-cut, ruby drop earrings, or a pretty peridot
Pieces are mainly contemporary although antique or vintage pieces may also be discovered amongst the shelves of treasure. Made mainly in India, and hand-finished by a team of craftsmen, the collection includes gold-plated necklaces, earrings and bracelets, studded and hung with twinkling semi-precious stones from all around the world. Pale, blue-grey Labradorite, rose quartz, amethysts, garnets, carnelians and rubies; are mounted in gold-plated silver and create an exquisite array of colour. Pieces are surprisingly affordable; as Antonia says, these stones, despite their decorative appeal, are often less expensive than people might expect.
Antonia works closely with her artistic team and sometimes designs her own pieces which she enjoys doing; “I like the different colours of the stones and putting them together in unusual combinations”, Antonia says. She has, in general, a particular interest in the creative and mechanical process of how items are made and assembled and how different talents and disciplines can be combined to create beautiful and unique pieces; whether they be furniture, textiles, homewares or jewellery.
Behind Antonia’s mild, quietly-spoken manner, lies a steely determination to succeed. This, and a natural creative flair were to stand her in good stead, as she often found herself battling against the odds. Antonia’s career began working as a translator for cookery writer Elizabeth David, who ran a business selling French crockery and cookware. David was a exacting employer, but Antonia proved herself to be both resourceful and capable and was soon handling much of the running of the business herself - sourcing culinary items from around the world, arranging deliveries, and drawing up supplier agreements; skills she was later to find immensely useful.
After some years running a business selling Mediterranean homeware to the trade, Antonia and her friend, Henrietta Green, founded Graham & Green in the mid-1970’s. Despite the problems women in the 70s faced trying to launch a business - including landlords and banks who would only talk to men - determination and perseverance won through. The pair acquired a shop in Notting Hill and began selling kitchenware and crockery to smart West Londoners. The business expanded, and a second shop opened opposite; specialising in bathroom and bedroom furnishings imported from India. A select range of luxury clothing followed, and the Graham & Green brand, of affordable exoticism became a great success.
Antonia still enjoys regular trips to India where she has a beautiful house in Goa, but her time is her own and she isn’t missing the pace of running a large successful business. It doesn’t stop her from being busy and making plans; “I always thought that once I had more time I might learn to make my own jewellery” she says. And one gets the impression that once Antonia has an idea to do something, it won’t be too long before she does it.