Becky Hoh-Hale is the founder of A Most Curious Party, a vintage china and prop hire service that can bring a retro glam wow-factor to every occasion, from weddings and anniversaries to birthdays and baby showers. A former interiors journalist and stylist, Becky set up her own business after successfully seeking out vintage china for her own wedding. She now runs A Most Curious Kids Fair and A Most Curious Wedding Fair throughout the UK, showcasing beautifully created, style-conscious products from more than 60 independent designers.
How did you come up with the idea of hiring vintage props and china?
I collected the crockery for my own vintage-themed wedding back in 2008. It wasn’t so common at the time – I spoke to a few caterers who actually refused to have their food served on ‘old stuff’, asking why I wanted my wedding to look like a country fête. Clearly, I just needed to find different caterers. I thought it would be cool to help others have vintage crockery at their event.
Where’s the best place to look for vintage china? It’s getting tricker, as most people can see the charms of vintage china now, so the days of being able to pick up a lovely Victorian tea set for under a fiver are getting few and far between. You need to seek out charity shops, auctions and car boot sales in little towns where the vintage trend hasn’t taken over.
Any tips for spotting collectable pieces? I don’t really have a lot of knowledge on what is collectable, I just look for ones I think are pretty. I quite like Midwinter pieces, which do turn up in charity shops every so often. I love any tea cups which also have a design or colour inside the cup.
What original ideas have you seen for vintage Christmas entertaining? I’ve done a few parties where the cocktails are served in teapots and tea cups which is always a huge hit. Especially G&T parties. In my own house at Christmas, I love mid-century glassware and giving everyone a different shape or coloured vintage glass looks lovely on the table and everyone feels unique. The bowl shaped champagne glasses from this era also feel so much more glamorous than the flute ones if you can find them. I also like to get into theme a bit and wear something sort of 1950s housewife, with a full flouncy ‘new look’ style skirt, an apron and everything. Even if you’re bit tipsy and burning the vegetables you’ll feel like you’re doing a good job of being an old school domestic goddess.
How can people create a vintage Christmas look on a small budget? Dot smaller pieces such as antique christmas cards or postcards amongst your actual Christmas cards, or vintage Christmas cake decorations – they’re very cheap but these little touches have that effect of making us thing back of Christmas’s gone by. Using natural objects has quite a vintage feel as this is what people used to do, such as boughs of holly, ivy and other evergreen foliage just hanging in bunches or draped around mantelpieces or pictures, and along the centre of the table. They have so much impact and always smell good too – go and raid the garden!
What’s your favourite era of design and why? I’m torn between victoriana and midcentury modern. I love taxidermy, curiosities, all the stories I loved when I was little were set in this time.
Now I am a bit more of a grown up I love midcentury modern interior pieces and clothes; it just oozes style, especially coming from an interior design journalist background where midcentury modern is King! I love the clothes too, recently this has been fueled by Mad Men. I love the simple outlines and functional feel of 1950s and 1960s furniture and lighting, as well as the patterns and designs of the fabrics and ceramics.
I have learnt that to be too strict and purist about recreating a certain era in your clothes or home is really quite restricting and boring, and not nearly as much fun as mixing up all the bits you like from the past.
Are there any tricks or extra touches that create the wow-factor? I love it when flowers appear in unusual vessels, that can be really simple like in a jam jar, or something with more oomph like in the horn of a gramophone. Cakes should be at different heights, so improvise with ways of getting cakes stands up higher.
Cakes and flowers displayed in an ostentatious or interesting way to make them a the prominent feature is a must to make people go – ooooooo!
Are there any trends or wildly popular themes emerging at the moment? Everyone is going crazy for the Frida Kahlo aesthetic right now; so hot mexican colours, big blooms and just exploring more warm, rich, inviting looks full of punchy, zingy colours. Its a little more relaxed and bohemian, tribal even, which is coming from fashion – it seems people are over chintz and pretty pastels that make you feel you have to be all prim and proper.
The Downton effect is undeniable as well; 1920s glam is massive! I’ve seen a demand for flapper style dresses, finger waved hair, champagne and pearls for their parties.
What soft of theme and decorations are you planning for Christmas or New Year this year? I’m feeling the Scandinavian aesthetic at the moment! So lots of white, paper-cut objects, with graphic shapes but a punch of bright colours here and there. I love the paper decorations from Petra Boase so I’ll be incorporating those for a bit of zing and light heartedness.
Going with the Mexican feel I also love religious and catholic iconography, I have a gold framed picture of the Santa Maria coming to Bethlehem on a Donkey which I usually pull out of the attic and cover with fairy lights in a rather kitsch way!
A Most Curious Kids Fair will be at London’s York Hall on Sunday 2 December