Buying Once and Buying Well: Meet Monument Store

Bouclé – Cream in Monument Store’s Studio.

London-based Monument Store is the brainchild of creatives Leah Forsyth-Steel and Victoria Spicer. The duo originally met in New Zealand through the gallery Leah used to run, where Victoria and her partner purchased a few pieces over time. The two women connected over their mutual respect for collecting and later reconnected in London and became fast friends. Leah had wanted to launch Monument for several years, and at the beginning of 2020 she decided to put her idea out into the world. “It seemed only natural to ask Victoria to be involved, with her skill, artistry and eye for good design. Lucky for me, she wouldn’t accept anything less than a partnership and here we are.”

We spoke with founder Leah about their approach to curation, advice for sourcing vintage pieces and the key ingredients for a great interior.

Bouclé – Cream in Monument Store’s Studio.

Was there anyone in your life, or a specific experience that sparked your interest in design?

L: For me, it started with collecting. I grew up with parents who would collect, source and seek out antiques back in New Zealand. It was something that we did as a family. It was deeply ingrained in all of us. I never thought about it in terms of design, until I ramped up collecting for myself. I was always absorbing, researching and seeking things out that spoke to me.

As two founders, do you both have a specific focus, or do you work collaboratively on all elements of the business?

L: It’s been a really interesting learning process. Nothing is set in stone, as the business needs to respond to our lives. That was a non-negotiable when we set the business up. I have a child and Victoria has just had a baby. We both needed to learn all elements of the business, to allow each of us to run things when the other is called away. But we also have different areas of expertise and we gravitate towards certain facets of the business. Victoria focuses on the product itself. She has an incredibly rich knowledge and understanding of materials and knows how to revive things, so these special pieces can live on. Whilst my experience working in brand strategy sees me focusing on how we show up, and how we engage with the community.

Why did you decide to collaborate on Monument Store?

L: When we became friends, there were a lot of dinners and conversations around each other’s latest acquisitions. We were both inspired by each other’s collecting and aesthetic. At the beginning of 2020 I was on maternity leave and I felt I needed a project to give me a sense of momentum. I had wanted to do Monument for several years, so I decided to put it out into the world as an experiment. It seemed only natural to ask Victoria to be involved, with her skill, artistry and eye for good design. Lucky for me, she wouldn’t accept anything less than a partnership and here we are.

Could you tell us a bit more about your approach to curating and collecting for Monument Store?

L: Our approach is really instinctive. The first question we ask is: Would we have this in our home? From there, it’s more about our Monument buying principles of form, material and gravitas. We don’t have rules about specific design periods or designers. It’s based on our ever evolving personal aesthetic.

Bouclé – Silver paired with a Steltman chair and an abstract painting by Peggy Postma.

Bouclé – Black/White paired with a Pratfall chair by Philippe Starck for Driade, a Gli Scacchi
step piece by Mario Bellini and a Satellite planter by Willy Guhl for Eternit.

Does your approach change when you collect and source for Monument Store vs. for private clients?

L: We have a definite rhythm when sourcing for Monument. We have our tried and tested sources. We operate on a collection basis and we have relatively set timeframes around this. It allows us to build something each time, looking at the balance of objects and materials as a whole. Sourcing for a client is based on their brief, their home, their vision.

Is there a specific designer or design piece that has made an impression on you?

L: There are so many. Throughout the research and acquisition process, you certainly fall in (and sometimes out) of love with designers and designs. We’ve said this a lot, but we’re both really passionate about Kazuhide Takahama. His pieces with Simon Gavina saw traditional Japanese lacquer technique produced in large scale manufacturing. Even 40 or 50 years on, these pieces remain as vivid as when they were first produced.

Are there any particular developments in the world of design that you think have affected the way we interact with design and interiors?

L: We don’t put a lot of focus on contemporary product design and development, but there has been a definite shift in the consciousness of your home as a further way to express yourself. With everyone staying at home in 2020 and 2021, interiors took centre stage. It resulted in a huge boom in the sales of homewares. There’s also the undertone of conscious consumerism which has resulted in a large new audience looking to ‘vintage’ homewares.

Bouclé – White.

Details of our Bouclé – Black/White at the Monument Store studio.

Bouclé – Brown paired with a Saori lamp by Kazuhide Takahama and a Baleri Italia ribbed card screen.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to source vintage and curated pieces?

L: We’re both strong believers in buying once and buying well. Research, build a vision for your home and what atmosphere you want to create that suits you – not the IG feed – and then invest. With the vintage market, you need to move swiftly and confidently. Special pieces sell fast.

For you, what are the key ingredients to a great interior?

L: A considered collection of objects and furniture, built over time, that express the personality of the people who live there. Then lighting and rugs. They can be statements unto themselves or understated, but they will ultimately be the two binding elements for each space that make or break the atmosphere.

Photography by Thea Caroline Sneve Løvstad