One of the most precious parts of summer is sitting down to delicious fresh food for long lazy meals with friends and family. At Shimu, our stunning tableware collections help to set the scene perfectly and are sure to give you that summertime feeling all year round.
Whether you’re enjoying a barbeque in the garden or sitting down to a meal in a sunny dining room, a beautifully laid dining table can really take your entertaining to a whole new level. Even if the British weather isn’t quite behaving, our beautiful tableware pieces are ideal for creating a lovely summer table. The collection spans from serving boards and platters to cups and mugs, so there are plenty of opportunities to bring our trademark sense of style to your mealtimes.
Some of our most versatile pieces are the Drop ranges from Nkuku. With delicate droplet patterns contrasting against cream ceramic, these pieces are subtle yet striking. Handmade in Vietnam, they are microwave, dishwasher and oven safe, making them perfect for summer dining with the whole family.
For those searching for a more traditional feel, why not take a look at the Ida tableware collection? These charming stoneware pieces are made in Morocco, where they are skillfully hand painted with North African designs in either black or navy. With trays, bowls, cups and jugs available, this beautiful collection is sure to bring that holiday feeling to the dinner table.
The Karuma range is another brilliant option for those looking to bring a fresh look to their dining room. Their distinctive and modern design is first etched into the clay then hand painted in a bright, summery blue. Completely handmade in north Vietnam using traditional methods, these look particularly striking when teamed with Shimu’s wide collection of natural wood products. The contrast of the ceramic and the texture of the wood creates a rustic, natural feel that is perfect for this time of year.
When it comes to tableware, you can treat yourself to a whole set, or mix and match the pieces to create your own unique collections. Of course, we also have a range of tables which are perfect for showing off all your new purchases. From the large, rustic feel of the country table, to the traditional Chinese design of the Qing dining table, there is something to suit every home whatever the weather.
We are currently looking for a Marketing & Customer Services Assistant to join the team at our headquarters near Bradford, West Yorkshire.
This is a great opportunity to kick start a career in marketing in a customer focused environment with a high end furniture and interiors specialist. As part of small but growing team, you will be given a diverse range of responsibilities and some input into shaping your role to your strengths and preferences.
Your role will include managing the company’s social media, website content, CRM database, marketing emails, PR and other activities. You will also deal with external agencies in order to implement aspects of the marketing mix.
You will also be required to deal with customer enquiries and sales in store, by phone and online along with other members of the team.
Ideally you will be educated to degree level with some experience in a marketing role but this is not essential.
You will have strong IT skills in Microsoft Office and social media. Knowledge of Sage 50 and Photoshop an advantage.
You will have a positive attitude with plenty of initiative and good interpersonal skills.
Flexibile hours with full time or part time considered, though you will be required to work some Saturdays. Salary up to £20K depending on experience and hours.
Please apply by email with a CV and covering letter to James Cottrell, email@example.com
As promised, I thought I would share with you a few of my favourite pieces amongst the hundred or so Chinese antiques that I lined up for our next shipments during my recent trip to China. I always enjoy touring the showrooms and warehouses of our suppliers, each one stacked with dozens and dozens of pieces in long aisles. The difficult part is always deciding what not to take, but this time around I’m really pleased with the selection and variety – there is definitely something to suit every taste.
I visited four different companies in and around Beijing, including one I hadn’t come across before (a rarity after 15 years in the job) and another that I hadn’t visited for a few years but which I was pleased to see still has a great choice of good quality pieces. Each one offers a slightly different approach as to how they restore their furniture, ranging in some cases from higher end antiques that retain their original finish and character to pieces that need a lot more repair and are then given a new lease of life with a complete refinish. My preference is always for the more original furniture that has required less restoration – seems I have expensive taste – but there are also some real gems and an added value to some of the more heavily restored cabinets and sideboards if the work is well executed.
I always have a soft spot for the beautiful lacquered and painted furniture of Shanxi province in north central China. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, this is a region that a lot of the best quality antiques originate from, partly due to the techniques used and the skill of the carpenters that ensured the longevity of the furniture and partly as it was an area that survived the ravages of the ‘cultural revolution’ and ‘great leap forward’ backyard steel production better than most.
Along with painted sideboards, Shanxi is well known for its red and black lacquer painted armoires. These are often referred to as wedding cabinets as they were traditionally given as part of a bride’s dowry, although similar cabinets were used more generally for storage. These pieces were once quite common but over recent years It has become difficult to find good quality cabinets, particularly with old paintings.
The one shown here is a really nice example and I’m looking forward to seeing it again in our showroom soon (assuming it doesn’t get snapped up before it arrives). The thick lacquer is in a beautiful, deep red lacquer – the thickness evident around the upper part of the doors where the lacquer has crackled over the years due to movement in the frames and panels below. The paintings have been added using a technique known as ‘miao jin’, with a base layer added first and gold leaf applied over the top. Typically, the gold has largely worn away over time leaving the more stable, darker base underneath. Traces of the original design are still visible – a classic mountainous landscape – but this is now very feint. The hardware here is new, fairly standard for an item of this age, but otherwise the cabinet is in a lovely condition and would look stunning in a modern reception room as an accent piece with warmth and character.
Next is a large, painted sideboard from Mongolia. This dates from the mid 20th century so is not particularly old, but it still has its original paintings – bright, muliti-coloured designs showing birds, flowers and animals – all important symbols to the owner. Mongolian furniture, not particularly abundant to start with, has become rarer in recent times. The cabinets and tables of the region are quite rudimentary in their construction (similar to Tibetan furniture) but often beautifully painted like this one, with a lovely palette of reds, greens and blues. This particular cabinet has undoubtedly been quite heavily restored, possibly with some or all of the drawers added from old fixed panels, doors strengthened with new frames and with a thick, clear varnish added to brighten up the old colours. I hope you will agree though that the result really is stunning, with the carpenters breathing fresh life into an old piece to ensure it lives on for many more years to come.
The same workshop was in the process of restoring another, similar sideboard from Mongolia, also pictured here. This clearly shows the type of restoration that would have been carried out to our one. You can see the much duller, matt finish of the original paintings and the wood that has been used to make new frames to strengthen the door panels. The next stage for this piece will be for it to be refinished with a new lacquer, to deepen the colours and add a similar sheen to ours.
Last of my picks is very different in style again. This is a cabinet selected from another supplier – one that I’ve known and visited many times over the last fifteen years and who always has some wonderful antiques towards the higher end of the market. Like the red lacquer armoire, this piece is also from Shanxi province but is in a very different style. Although it has been cleaned
and repaired, it would have needed little work in terms of replacing frames or panels. It has not been refinished or varnished, instead remaining in a very original condition.
The style, with small, decorative panels and doors set within rounded frames, is distinctive of furniture from Shanxi (although different to the painted furniture of the same area) and the quality of workmanship here is clear to see. The grain of the elm wood on each door is closely matching, and the relief carvings of flowers are beautifully worked and delicately picked out. The geometric pattern on the bottom apron incorporates auspicious Buddhist swastika symbols.
This is perhaps not what we in the west typically picture when we think of Chinese furniture and design, but is a lovely example of the workmanship and skill that went into furniture making in China – in this case over a hundred years ago.
Over the coming weeks we will be adding these and dozens of other antiques onto our website with further details about each item so look out for a lot of new arrivals. We’ll also put up more photos and previews on our Facebook page soon so give our page a ‘like’ if you would like to see these. And of course, if you are interested in the antiques I’ve previewed here or details of other pieces we’ve lined up to ship feel free to get in touch.
Time to catch my breath and reflect on a very busy few days in and around Beijing. With two trips by train and car down to factories in Shandong province further south as well as visits to a few antique showrooms here in the capital, I’ve covered a fair few hundred miles and viewed a similar number of items of furniture since I arrived last Friday. It’s been well worth it though, as I’ve lined up some fantastic antiques and other pieces that we will ship over the coming months to the UK.
The extra mileage travelled is down to the factories having to move out of Beijing as I’ve explained before. I’d not ben to the city since early summer last year and, as we passed by an area that once housed a number of furniture factories along with other industries, it was amazing to see the changes. In place of walled factory complexes are huge, flattened areas of newly planted trees – part of the authorities’ ambitious plans to improve the environment around the capital.
Whilst many small workshops have been forced to close down, others have taken the opportunity to invest in more modern, larger premises, albeit a long way out in either Hebei or Shandong province. One factory I visited yesterday in Shandong must have been built at a huge cost to the two owners. It is a vast improvement on their previous, comparatively small place in Beijing, purpose built, very well equipped, and employing around 100 workers. I can’t imagine the planning and logistics involved in setting up the new plant and relocating, and can only admire the resilience and enterprise shown by this factory and others in adapting to new regulations at short notice.
A huge amount of stock is now on display at the new site, including hundreds of pieces of refinished and repaired Chinese antique furniture as well as reproduction pieces. Plenty more antiques were under cover outside, brought in from the countryside around Shanxi, Gansu and other provinces and awaiting restoration. These will be repaired over the coming weeks, first cleaned and then panels and frames checked and replaced where needed using new joinery. They will then normally be refinished, either keeping the old lacquer underneath, or given a fresh colour.
The factory has a large stock of pieces awaiting repair and, rather than relying on outside parties to source and collect more antiques as is the standard practice, they now employ their own network of agents out in the regions to do this for them. As a result they are confident of being able to continue to source good quality antique furniture for years to come.
I selected 30 or 40 pieces, mostly antique but also including some nicely finished painted reproduction furniture, along with some lovely accessories – baskets, ceramic stools and tassels. We will combine all of these in our next container to ship from Beijing, together with another 40 or so antiques that I’ve chosen from other suppliers during this visit. We’ll be working on these over the coming weeks ready to show on our website so look out for plenty of updates to our ‘new arrivals’ section soon.
I’ll pick out a few of my favourite pieces for another blog post in the coming days. In the meantime, best get ready for the long flight home.
I’m over in China again catching up with the factories that produce our reproduction oriental furniture ranges, choosing more antiques and sourcing the smaller accessories that we will ship with our next container. I arrived in Beijing on Friday night but first off was a quick two day visit to Shanghai to meet up with the team that handle our Classical Chinese furniture and to visit the factory, newly relocated to Anhui province further to the west.
I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post about the huge upheaval that’s taken place in both Beijing and Shanghai in the furniture and other industries. Factories have had to either move out of the two cities at short notice or face closure as the powers that be attempt to tackle pollution.
Many smaller workshops and ateliers in particular did not have the resources to relocate at short notice, so the new regulations unfortunately meant that they were unable to survive. Many of the workshops that I visited ten or twelve years ago have now disappeared altogether.
The factory that we have used over recent years for our own furniture was based on the outskirts of Shanghai but also had larger premises already established in Xuancheng, a region in the Southeast of Anhui. They were therefore luckier than most in that they were able to relocate the work carried out in Shanghai without too much disruption. The majority of the cutters, carpenters, painters and finishers have also moved, which means that the same team is essentially still in place.
Xuancheng is around 4 hours by car from Shanghai so it’s possible to get there and back in a day with time for a few hours at the factory. As I discovered though it’s a long day when you factor in jet lag from the previous day’s arrival! The journey there was interesting as the huge metropolis of Shanghai gradually receded into a less dense, flatter landscape and then into a greener, hillier space. We’re not talking rolling green hills and countryside – Anhui is still densely populated – but it is noticeably more open and breathable than the larger city.
The factory itself is quite large and spacious, employing around 50 workers including the cooks and other staff who help run the complex. It’s well equipped, with separate, spacious buildings for the carpentry, drying, finishing and other parts of the furniture production process.
With one container due to arrive with us in the UK next week, we won’t be shipping from this factory again for a little while, but the carpenters had already completed the wood work for much of our next order, so I was able to check and discuss what they had carried out so far. It was also good to get a full tour of the premises and to view the various parts of the production process being carried out.
Along with our own furniture the factory also produces pieces for the Chinese domestic market, including some very nice ‘hongmu’ (rosewood) furniture and beautifully figured pieces made from ‘Phoebe’ wood – a material that has been highly prized for centuries with a beautiful, golden sheen.
The factory owner also has a few prized Chinese antiques and other high end items of furniture on display outside his office. The antiques are all in their original, unrestored state and one or two are particularly special. A cabinet in red lacquer from Shanxi province showed the original paintings still in excellent condition – the gold ‘miao jin’ decoration still intact in places over the beautifully executed darker paintings of figures from legend.
Tomorrow I’ll have the first of two more long trips out of Beijing, this time South by train and car to Shandong province to check out both antiques and reproduction furniture with another supplier that relocated recently, before more antique sourcing in Beijing itself over my final couple of days. I’ll let you know what I find.
Classical Chinese furniture has a timeless appeal that never goes out of style. Steeped in tradition and admired for its elegance and beauty, these time-honoured pieces instantly evoke feelings of peace and calm.
Shimu’s signature range of traditional Chinese furniture is handcrafted from reclaimed elm and includes reproductions from China’s golden age, as well as contemporary designs inspired by the same period. From larger sideboards and cabinets to bedside units and blanket trunks, there is a huge range of products to choose from, meaning any room in the home can benefit from a hint of ageless Chinese style.
One of the most fascinating things about Chinese furniture is the tradition and history behind it. Many of our classical pieces have a story which will fascinate your guests and add an extra dimension to their beauty.
The two pieces above are fantastic examples of this. The Square Daybed Table in Warm Elm (above left) is based on the original design of Chinese daybeds, reduced in size to fit into today’s modern homes. Daybeds were used in Chinese homes as seating during the day and for sleeping on at night. They were often made with solid wooden frames but with either rattan or woven top panels to add comfort.
The beautiful, intricate design of the Black Lacquer Altar Table (above right) make it a standout piece from the range. Again, this has been made smaller and more practical for modern western homes, but still retains the beautiful style and elegant decorative elements of the original pieces. Chinese altar tables were not only used for holding offerings to ancestors, but also as more general surfaces to display flowers, vases or other prized possessions.
For the more romantic amongst you, take a look at these classic Chinese wedding cabinets. Traditionally, these large cabinets or armoires were presented as part of a bride’s wedding dowry. The contents of the cabinet – fabrics, clothes and silks, also formed part of the dowry. Just like these stunning reproductions, the cabinets were usually in either red or black lacquer and decorated with large, circular brass plates.
Last but certainly not least, our collection of Apothecary chests are not to be missed, combining stunning traditional design with practicality for the modern home. Multi drawer medicine chests were used by apothecaries and pharmacists throughout China to store the herbs and other remedies used in their profession. The larger ones were referred to as ‘hundred eye chests’ due to the multitude of drawers. Ours are on a smaller scale but with larger sized drawers – perfect either for a CD collection or to store everything from socks and underwear to jewellery or toiletries.
All of these treasures and more can be found within Shimu’s classical Chinese collection. Our knowledgeable team are always on hand to help you fully appreciate the centuries of tradition and the story behind every piece so feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.
It’s the start of the Chinese New Year this Friday 16th February. Known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, it’s the biggest celebration of the Chinese calendar and is all about families coming together and wishing each other peace and prosperity.
The dates for Chinese New Year differ each year as it is based on the lunar calendar, however it normally falls between 21st January and 20th February. The Chinese New Year has been associated with the Chinese Zodiac since the Spring Autumn Period (771 to 476 BC) during the Zhou dynasty.
A zodiac animal on the lunar-solar Chinese calendar is represented annually. People are said to have similar personality traits to the animal named after the year they were born. The Chinese Zodiac runs on a cycle of 12 years, with each year denoting one of the 12 animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. This year it’s the turn of the Dog: you’re a Dog if you were born in 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 or 2018.
According to Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is also associated with one of the five elements (Gold, Water, Wood, Earth, and Fire). 2018 is an Earth Dog year, and 2019 will be an Earth Pig year. Each zodiac sign has five types and each element with a given sign recurs every 60 years.
Some famous Earth Dogs are Madonna and Michael Jackson.
The Dog’s personality
Dogs are loyal and honest, amiable and kind, cautious and prudent. They have a strong sense of loyalty and sincerity and will do everything for the person they consider most important.
As Dogs are not good at communication, it can be difficult for them to convey their thoughts to others. Therefore, Dogs can often leave others with the impression that they have a stubborn personality.
Born with a good nature, Dogs do not tend to be criminals or seek dishonest gains! They simply seek a quiet life and a good family and are always ready to help others.
Overall, Dogs enjoy good health as they tend to be happy most of the time. They enjoy sports and an outdoor lifestyle so are resilient to illnesses, rarely succumbing to coughs and colds.
Best careers for Dogs
Due to their loyal personality, Dogs are seen as valuable employees. They work hard and put their heart and soul into their tasks. They are easy going and kind, and always ready to alleviate the workload of others, which makes them very popular with their colleagues.
Recommended careers for Dogs include police officer, scientist, counsellor, interior designer, professor, politician, priest, nurse, clerk and judge.
The luckiest things for Dogs
Lucky numbers: 3, 4, 9, and numbers containing them (like 34 and 49)
Lucky days: the 7th and 28th of every Chinese lunar month
Lucky colours: red, green, and purple
Lucky flowers: rose, cymbidium orchids
Lucky directions: east, south and northeast
Lucky months: the 6th, 10th, and 12th Chinese lunar months
Unlucky things for Dogs
Unlucky colours: blue, white, gold
Unlucky numbers: 1, 6, and 7
Unlucky direction: southeast
Unlucky months: the 5th and 8th Chinese lunar months
Chinese New Year falls on 16th February this year and there’s lots going on to celebrate it locally, nationally and internationally.
First, we look at Yorkshire, where Shimu has its showroom and HQ. At Leeds Town Hall on Monday 5th February, the Chinese Community School hosts the Chinese New Year Celebration: Rhythm of China, to celebrate the Year of the Dog. There will be music performed by the Chinese Traditional Music Orchestra which consists of talented young people originating from Guang Zhou, China. Local artists along with youth music groups will also be performing using traditional instruments.
During the half term school holidays, from Tuesday 13th until Friday 16th February, Leeds City Museum will be celebrating the New Year with crafts and activities inspired by the Chinese Zodiac. The activities are 10am until 12pm and 1 until 3pm and you can just drop in. On Tuesday 13th Februarythere will be a special day at the museum: Dogs and Lion Dancing. This looks set to be a great day for dog lovers and those who love finding out about animals at the museum!
On Sunday 18th February, the Leeds Chinese Community Association will transform Leeds Town Hall with dancing, music, calligraphy, tai chi and kung fu to celebrate the Year of the Dog. There’ll also be stalls with food, crafts and face painting.
Festivities in the large Chinese community in central London take place across the West End, from Shaftesbury Avenue in the north down to Trafalgar Square.
There are lively activities and foodie treats in Chinatown, Leicester Square offers family-friendly entertainment and, while Trafalgar Square hosts the main stage performances, more stages can be found on Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road.
In Manchester, events will take place throughout the city from Friday February 16th to Sunday February 18th. The celebrations conclude on Sunday 18th February with the stunning dragon parade, accompanied by traditional lion dancing, martial arts displays, food stalls, a fun fair with over 20 rides on Charlotte Street, and a huge fireworks display at 6pm.
Happy New Year to all Shimu‘s customers, wherever you choose to celebrate it!
We’re delighted to announce that Shimu is the proud winner of a ‘Best of Houzz 2018′ award. The awards are voted for by the Houzz community, and we won in the Customer Service category.
Houzz is the leading platform for home renovation and design. “The Houzz community selected a phenomenal group of Best of Houzz 2018 award winners, so this year’s recipients should be very proud,” said Marcus Hartwall, Managing Director of Houzz UK and Ireland. “Best of Houzz winners represent some of the most talented and customer-focused professionals in our industry, and we are extremely pleased to give them both this recognition and a platform on which to showcase their expertise.”
The ‘Best Of Houzz’ is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Shimu won for Customer Service, where honours are based on several factors, including the number and quality of recent client reviews.
Shimu receives a “Best Of Houzz 2018” badge – a sign of our commitment to excellence. The badge helps homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in different locations on Houzz.
“We’re so pleased to award Best of Houzz 2018 to this incredible group of talented and customer-focused professionals, including Shimu,” added Marcus. “Each of these businesses was singled out for recognition by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts for helping to turn their home improvement dreams into reality.”
When it comes to carrying out cleaning or minor repairs, it’s essential to carry out the process with knowledge and care. But exactly how do you look after oriental furniture? We’ve outlined some helpful tips that may just make things easier when it comes it Chinese furniture care and maintenance.
Start simple with some dusting
One of the easiest things to do, but something that should not be overlooked, is to ensure you dust your Chinese furniture at least once a week. This will help to protect its finish and prevent dirt and dust from building up. When dusting, use a soft, dry cloth, or a slightly damp one for stubborn stains, to gently polish the surface. However, avoid using too much water as this can damage the finish. Always avoid abrasive cleaning products or chemicals.
Consider occasional waxing
Although frequent waxing is not necessary, you may wish to gently wax your furniture every few months or so. Ensure that only a high quality natural beeswax is used and never choose the cheaper ‘spray-on’ wax versions as this could change the colour of a lacquered finish. Gently polish in the beeswax using a soft dry cloth and buff until a sheen emerges.
Be careful of scratching
As the lacquer used on our Chinese Classical range is only light (so as to emphasise the natural wood grain), care must be taken to avoid scratching the surface. Don’t place lighting or ornaments straight onto the surface unless they have a layer of padding underneath. You can use decorative runners or textiles, or simply fit a soft layer of felt to the base. This will avoid scratches and scuffs and keep your prize Oriental pieces in mint condition.
Think about the positioning of the piece
As with all solid wood furniture, care needs to be taken to avoid dramatic temperature changes and direct sunlight. Exposure to the sun’s fierce rays can lead to drying out and shrinking of the wood. It will also mean the colour could bleach and fade. You should also avoid placing your oriental furniture near heat sources such as radiators or fires.
if you have any questions about the care of your antique or handcrafted Oriental furniture, please don’t hesitate to contact us for advice.
Restoring Oriental and antique furniture
Of course, any antique piece purchased from Shimu will already have been lavished with attention to restore it back to pristine condition! However, if you have a junk shop find or an unloved piece that’s been in your family for generations, you might be interested in our blog post of last year on Restoring and Revamping Antique Furniture. In many cases, you can bring an old piece of furniture back to life with minimal effort. Just be confident of what you are working on and its potential value before you begin.