Celebrity favourite PureWhiteLines is a treasure trove of eccentric, one-off pieces, ranging from antique furniture from far-flung places and statement lighting to taxidermy from Scandinavian zoos and sculptures from Parma.
PureWhiteLines has supplied cool stuff to a whole host of amazing homes, from butterfly domes to Aquaman's Jason Momoa to Derren Brown's collection of treasures in his home. PureWhiteLines' founder Matt Goss tells us Derren Brown's house is “unlike anything you've ever seen”, brimming with interesting paintings, sculptures and taxidermy.
But the ultimate showcase for these curious finds and acquisitions, aside from the shop and warehouse of course, is founder Matt Goss's own home in London. His striking, gothic interiors have featured both in our magazine and here online, lined with vintage furniture, cool neon lighting, sputnik chandeliers, skulls and skeletons.
Sourcing items like these is a cool job in itself, and Matt Goss travels extensively to sift through markets, fairs and exhibitions around Europe, sending back containers of the most unique things he can find. When we caught up with him recently on video chat, he was sipping a cocktail on a beach in Portugal – a work trip, of course. Talk about a dream job.
“Even if you don’t always find gems, the food and wine plus the excitement of the hunt make for one of the best parts of the job,” Matt tells us. “Last summer I took the full pure white lines team out to Italy as a reward for a great quarter and they experienced one of the biggest fairs in Europe in Tuscany – I think everyone came back a few kg’s heavier from that trip and great for the team to experience.” Jealous, us?
But it's inspiring to learn that he made the jump into interiors with little experience – and from a completely different career – a brave move that paid off.
When I Googled Matt Goss originally, I confused him for the musician. “What triggered your interest in interiors and the move from the music industry?” I asked him. The interiors owner was good humoured about it, answering “Too much money, too many beautiful groupies, and too many free drugs...it was terrible industry – so pleased I'm out”, before explaining he was actually working as an economics teacher and a rugby coach until he was 26, when he decided to follow his passion in interiors instead.
He was living and working in Australia at the time, and started doing a bit of furniture restoration. He really enjoyed it so decided to move back to the UK and set up shop in a shipping container restoring and selling his finds. “Things grew quickly from there and I had a couple of successful shops before the business moved to London, where we now have 3 sites and a website that is constantly updated with new finds.”
A quick scroll through the website and I've already got a dozen tabs open – I can see how hunting for treasures can become addictive.
Going into the antiques and interiors industry a little blind, and as an overnight business owner, he learned everything on the job and had to pick things up pretty quickly. “As a business owner, there's an infinite curve of stuff to learn – not to mention changing interiors trends and changing consumer tastes,” he explains. One such example is lockdown. With their shops closed they had to quickly expand their website and online offering overnight to cater to all the people suddenly shopping from their sofas. The quick reaction paid off: now 80 - 90% of the shop's business comes from online, with dozens of pieces selling every day.
In terms of what sells best, this changes with people's changing tastes, and Matt responds very much to what people want, and what's popular. For example, taxidermy went through a phase of being quite trendy, but now they only sell about 20% as much as they used to, as people's tastes are changing. “Back years ago I remember the days when everyone wanted a pair of antlers on the wall but I think times are changing and we don’t really do the everyday stuff now,” says Matt.
Taxidermy is a controversial topic – but all of the taxidermy they deal with comes from ethical sources – mostly from zoos where they have died of natural causes. These days Pure white lines only has bigger show pieces which Matt is careful to know exactly where each one originated from. “Any items we have in we make sure we liaise with the wildlife unit in the Met police – who are actually very pro active and a useful source when you need to check about anything taxidermy wise.”
Currently popular are Matt's butterfly domes which he makes by hand himself, after sourcing the domes from antique markets. They've sold like hot cakes and were so popular that even actor Jason Momoa got wind of them and reached out to place an order for a pair. “It’s down to word of mouth, but they're fantastic decorative pieces and the colours work so well with a lot of the dark furniture we sell. The butterflies we offer are all set in Victorian domes we source at the markets across France,” says Matt.
The brand is also well known for their statement lighting – including some really huge Murano glass pieces – which they showcase in Mare Street Market in east London as it has 18 foot tall ceilings. “I’m excited to see the enormous chandelier we have recently made for Soho works in NY, it’s the biggest so far!” Matt exclaims. “We’ve also started making our own lighting selection of lanterns and now we have over 60 different options available inspired by our antique finds.”
Other favourites include the notoriously expensive original wooden Lay figures, which Matt snaps up in markets in France and Parma.
When you're constantly finding and buying treasures, surely it must be hard to have to let some of them go? We asked him if he has or had any favourite pieces. “I never regret selling anything as there are always more items to be uncovered and bought. That’s why buying and selling antiques is such a fun job. Own it, love it but sell it, if you forget the last part it’s easy to become a hoarder rather than a dealer. My current favourite items are a collection of 18th and 19th century artists lay figures. From small ones through to ones nearly big as me. They are incredibly rare and very sought-after objects. Even if my friends do take the piss out of me that I “own several wooden dolls” so good fun for everyone!” he jokes.
Any particular home decor item that's underrated? Decorative plaster pieces, he answers. “I absolutely love them. They can totally make a room and can be reasonably bought and easily moved (unlike marble). They simply look fantastic in the right setting. We released our “plastered” collection in 2019. This collection includes some of my favourite antique plaster finds which I’ve recast.”
Although Matt Goss is the founder and at the helm, he's in good company too; on his team is Juliet who used to work at Barlow & Barlow, Helen who worked at Soho House, and Elissa who joined from Tyson Lighting London. Their next move is to add a full interior design service and styling to UK buyers, and to also expand with a shop in Australia. The first international shop will open in Sydney in 2021, for which he will source a brand new collection of treasures from that corner of the world.
“So starting afresh in a new and exciting country – just a little wiser this time round!” Watch this space.