The antique and 20th-century design haven that is Foster & Gane…

and an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Val Foster’s own home where bespoke cabinetry compliments exceptional one-off pieces.

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Val and Ed at the Foster & Gane showroom, just off the M40 near Thame in Oxfordshire.

Mother and son team Val and Ed Foster curate an ever-changing collection of interesting and unusual antiques and 20th-century design.

Val was a writer and broadcaster before she succumbed to a lifelong passion for antiques and interiors and set up Foster & Gane in 2010. Within 12 months she was exhibiting at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea Park and selling to interior designers, antiques dealers and private clients from around the world.

Ed has a Master’s from Sotheby’s Institute and cut his teeth in antiques and interiors with Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler in Mayfair and Rose Uniacke on the Pimlico Road. So, Val was especially delighted when he joined the company four years later. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength.

"We buy only what we love," says Val. "Consequently, whatever the age or style of each piece, there’s a shared eye and a common thread of thoughtful design, careful craftsmanship and rarity."

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The unassuming F&G showroom was formally an 18th-century coaching house and gives little clue to the hidden gem that’s revealed when you step inside. Foster & Gane topped April 2024’s Livingetc guide to occasional chair purchasing by designer Christian Bense, in which he shares his little black book of independent merchants. "The easiest way to start introducing antiques into your home is via an accent chair and Foster & Gane is the first place I look," says Bense.

Val’s home, further into Oxfordshire, is another heavenly treasure trove. The property, a Grade II-listed lodge house, was part of a grand country estate, designed by internationally renowned architect Edwin Lutyens. Having undergone a full refurbishment, it has been the recipient of an elegant collection of bespoke Barr Kitchens and Barr Joinery cabinetry, designed by Val (in collaboration with our studio team) and made in our Field Farm workshop.

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In the kitchen, traditional cabinetry has a slimline Shaker profile. Detailing includes solid oak open breadboard storage and drawer boxes, with individually specified drawer inserts made to house particular items. A narrow bullnosed shelf, supported by handmade solid wood brackets, offers cup hooks and an antique brass utensils rail. Worktops, made from honed Arabescato Corchia marble and finished with an ogee edge profile, transition into a shaped upstand.

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Tongue and groove panelling and wall-hung units are hand-painted in White Lead, set against Buff walls, both by Edward Bulmer. The base cabinets are hand-painted in Moor, a unique dark green from Rose Uniacke’s stunning range of natural, mineral-based paints. A living finish brass tap set by Quooker and burnished brass knobs and grills from Armac Martin echo the crosshead brass controls of a Lacanche classic range. The cabinetry is beautifully flanked by an Artisans of Devizes chequerboard floor and a Ribchester fluted piecrust sink by Shaws of Darwen.

On the descent to the basement, one enters the wine room, which is adorned with handmade porcelain Spanish tiles impactfully painted in the dark rich earthy brown colour of Rose Uniacke’s Hickory. Cabinetry includes a shoe rack and a small bespoke bench seat, as well as a floor-to-ceiling wall of in-frame Shakercabinetry, presenting three large doors. One conceals a full-height hanging rail, another, adjustable larder shelving, and the third, a secret door, which pushes open to reveal the much lighter second space beyond.

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The ‘middle room’ is colour-drenched in Edward Bulmer’s Lute and designed to be a tranquil refuge for exercise and meditation. Here an adjustable shelving unit with two drawers below sits against simple Shaker panelling.

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Hidden away at the far end of the basement is a study. On one face, storage cabinets detailed with vertical fluting and a quadrant beading to the doors sit below library shelving. A worktop with a bullnose edge profile projects to form and desk/dresser top. In this room, the ceiling and walls are painted in Rose Uniacke’s Sand Dune with Rosewood back panels. Here, antique bronze handles by Corston adorn the cabinetry, with antique bronze picture lights from Vaughan Designs.

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We thank Val for trusting us with these crucial elements of her home, and Ed, for a glorious insight into the exceptional world of Foster & Gane.
www.fosterandgane.com

The next Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair is 7-12 May in Battersea Park. You can contact Ed or Val at info@fosterandgane.com for complimentary tickets.
www.decorativefair.com