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How LCT Home is bringing a touch of the tropics to interiors around the world

Clinton Sturdey and Lucy Tonge discovered a love for nature-inspired vintage furniture and lighting with a tropical flair when decorating their own home in a seaside English town – and they now share that passion with clients worldwide through LCT Home.

When Clinton Sturdey and Lucy Tonge met in 2015, little did they realise that it was a meeting that would redefine their lives both personally and professionally. Within months of meeting, the couple bought a Victorian townhouse overlooking a park in Hastings, a popular seaside town on the southeast coast of England. They struggled, however, to find pieces that spoke to them in the UK. So, they bought a van and drove to France to explore the country’s antique markets and brocantes – a decision that would eventually lead to the founding of their flourishing vintage dealership, LCT Home.

A 1950’s Italian faux bamboo tole floor lamp featuring metal bamboo stems and green palm leaves atop a turned timber base. The lamp is pictured with a 19th-century French Napoleon lll armchair upholstered in LCT Interiors Tropics Fan Palm fabric.

“In France, we started finding and buying things we really loved without adhering to any particular style,” recalls Sturdey. “Most of it was nature-inspired and obviously handcrafted – that’s very important to us. Naturally eclectic and Maximalist is the best way to describe it.” 

The couple’s home is now an exemplary showcase of this unique style. Here, an 18th-century Venetian mirror sits alongside a 19th-century starburst and a towering gilt pineapple floor lamp. A bronze and agate butterfly sculpture crafted by world-renowned sculptor Isabelle Faure adorns another wall, and in the living room an eight-foot-tall bronze palm tree lamp by Maison Jansen takes pride of place. “We get emotionally attached to these pieces as you can see the love that went into making them and sense their history,” says Sturdey.

Many of the pieces LCT Home supplies to their clients have a touch of whimsy, such as this unusual floor lamp by acclaimed Mexican artist and sculptor Mario Lopez Torres. The enormous metal frame and chuspata woven design stands at over 1.8 metres tall and features a large perched monkey with trademark brass face and wirework fingers and toes.

When the couple had visitors to their new home, they spent more time talking about the furniture and lighting than they did about what was happening in their lives. It quickly dawned on them that they could carry on travelling around Europe, uncovering similar pieces to supply to others who shared their aesthetic taste. And, with that realisation, they launched online vintage retailer LCT Home – named after the initials for Lucy, Clinton, and Teddy Moonpie, their cat – in 2016. 

In the early days, the couple kept their day jobs – Sturdey as an events organiser and Tonge as a handbag designer – and spent weekends and holidays searching out new pieces in Europe. The burgeoning business kept growing, however, and they soon decided to turn their passion for finding beautiful, handcrafted vintage pieces into a full-time pursuit. In 2017, they rented a storage warehouse and handed in their notice. “Since then, we’ve continued to grow and evolve in a very organic way,” says Sturdey. “It’s a bit of a cliche, but if you love doing something, it never feels like work.”

Today, LCT Home is still run solely by Sturdey and Tonge – and they don’t see this changing any time in the future, preferring to remain hands-on with every part of the business. Recently, for example, Sturdey made a 14-hour round trip to deliver a fragile light himself to ensure it arrived in the condition it was sold in. “It only takes one person with different values to affect everything you have built over the years,” he explains. “Keeping it just the two of us ensures the ethos and quality we built the company on is never compromised.”

In addition, they have remained an online business, an approach that not only allows LCT Home to reach a global audience – ”from San Francisco to Seoul and everywhere in between” – but also means the couple has the time to dedicate to what they describe as “adult treasure hunts”. “That’s the fun and addictive part of the business,” says Sturdey. 

On these treasure hunts, there are a few designers whose work the pair are always on the lookout for. They seek out pieces by Maison Jansen, a Paris-based studio founded in 1880 by Dutch-born Jean-Henri Jansen and celebrated for the fabulously proportioned, hand-crafted brass palm tree lights it produced throughout the 1960s and 70s; and butterfly light sculptures in brass, agate, and other semi-precious stones by Isabelle Faure. While the couple stock furniture, gardenware, mirrors, and decorative art, their love for and focus on sculptural lighting that evokes the natural world is a signature of their offering.

An ornate statement gilt and crystal palm tree floor lamp, handmade in Italy in the 1970s, is reminiscent of the Maison Jansen pieces the couple love.

“The best feeling in the world is when you have no idea what you’re about to find and you just stumble across a piece,” says Sturdey. “We once did an 18-hour round trip deep into France and came back with just one piece – but that piece was so good that we didn’t stop smiling all the way back. It’s a lovely way to make a living because you never know what you’re going to find. It’s brilliant, exciting, and nerve-wracking.”

The most memorable find for the couple was when they received a call from an English dealer living near Nice, who invited them to see his collection. They made the trip not knowing what to expect, yet discovered what is possibly the finest collection of Isabelle Faure work in Europe. “He had so many pieces, he was just stepping over them – there was even a nine-foot-tall, 15-foot-long dragon that lit up,” exclaims Sturdey. “I’ll never see something like that again – it was a privilege.”

About 60% of the time, however, they return from trips empty-handed, unwilling to compromise on the style and quality they have built their brand on. “We believe you have to be true to what you do,” says Sturdey. “There’s no point in diluting it and the key is to keep that quality high at all costs. That’s how our business thrives and what people expect of us.”

Perhaps the biggest evolution of the business since it was founded is the addition of LCT Interiors, a collection of textiles, wallpapers, and cushions designed in-house by Tonge to complement the vintage pieces they sell. The collection features strong tropical imagery – think toucans, tigers, and palm fronds – and is manufactured ethically in the UK or USA using recycled and sustainable materials.

The LCT Interiors collection reflects the couple’s love of tropical imagery and gilded details.

As for the future, Sturdey and Tonge plan to keep doing what they do so well – uncovering the vintage pieces that speak to them and sharing them with the world. “We aren’t 18th-century dealers or mid-century dealers – we are just dealers in aesthetically pleasing, really well made pieces of art,” says Sturdey. “For us, the most rewarding thing is our belief in ourselves and the pieces we find being reinforced by our clients time and time again. There’s no greater compliment really. The best feeling comes from people loving what we do.”

Read more: Furniture | Lighting | Interiors | Vintage | Antiques I Design | Dealers | Interior Designers