During my 50-year career in the art world, I have cultivated a sharp eye for what is "in vogue" in the art, furniture, and sculpture scene. My passion for art took root at the prestigious auction house in New Bond Street, Sotheby's, where I treated my position as a university education and absorbed knowledge like a sponge.
After leaving Sotheby's in the late '70s, I started selling glass vases from the 1890s through the 1930s at a booth in London's West End, Grays Antiques Market. Luck struck, (as did hard work!) and I eventually ended up with a booth ten times the size of my original space.
I then transitioned to dealing from a vast warehouse in North London, where I sensed that the Art Deco period from the 1930s was becoming outdated. As such, I set my sights on vintage design from the 1950s to the 2000s, which led me to open two of the largest commercial decorative art galleries in Europe in 2006. Located in London's fashionable Marylebone, our flagship stores, Decoratum, showcased a stunning collection of vintage furniture and lighting spanning from the '50s to the 2000s.
Despite the success, the art market rapidly shifted to online sales in 2016, prompting us to close our galleries and return to trading from our enormous 16,000 ft.² (1500 m²) offices in North London. We maintain a global client base that includes interior designers, their clients, and a host of high-profile celebrities who opt to remain anonymous.
With my love for the excitement and challenges that come with the art world, I continue to trade internationally, looking forward to what the future holds for the industry.
In 1988 I was sitting in my non-air conditioned office wondering what it would cost me to have an air conditioning system installed. In those far off days it was a fortune and I thought how wonderful it'd be if there was a company who could rent me a portable air conditioner for the summer to put me and my staff out of our misery. Portable air conditioners were not in plentiful supply in Northern Europe and the few that were being sold were being marketed in the sunnier climes of Southern Europe. I researched the market and decided to invest big time. My wife said "buy five", my staff said "buy ten" so I bought three-hundred to get the ball-rolling! Great proverb by Jeff Salmon, "NEVER, but NEVER dip your toe in the water" and "ALWAYS jump in the deep-end if you can't swim.....You'll soon learn if you really have the desire to live!"
Our supplier (a huge American corporation that invented air conditioning as we know it) told us that our idea to open a rental company specialising in Portable Air Conditioners was doomed to failure even though I had just give them an order for £126K, a blinkin' lot of money now and even more 22 years ago!
I didn't have a name for the company so asked my 6 year old son to help. He was reading a book about the alphabet and was on "C" for Cucumber and suggested in a high pitched voice "CucumberMan". 23 years later CucumberMan is probably the largest specialist company dealing in Portable Air Conditioning in the United Kingdom. 10 years ago the company also entered the Fixed Installation Market which is flourishing.
CucumberMan became a household name in London and the South East through summer radio campaigns that had a massive cult following with Jeff Salmon writing the words and lyrics and even singing and rapping! Check out this links and pump up the volume!
Salmon has for many years had a keen interest in renewable energy and established a company in 2022 with a specialised focus on air source heat pumps. The company will be dedicated to promoting sustainable energy solution in association with Daikin, Japan, As part of this mission, the company has taken the innovative step of establishing one of the only schools in the UK to teach plumbers how to install heat pump technology.
This initiative aims to address a knowledge gap in the plumbing industry, where plumbers often only have experience with gas boiler installations. By providing training on the installation of heat pump technology, the company seeks to support the wider adoption of this environmentally-friendly energy source.
When I left Sotheby's in the late 1970s I immediately started dealing in the art world. After a couple of years I sent a very large consignment of goods to be sold at auction in New York, but when they arrived they were totally damaged through bad shipping and bad handling. I was advised to employ independent loss adjusters / loss assessors to act for me, so as to ensure that my claim was met in full. Unfortunately, the company I used were not particularly 'on the ball' and I decided to go alone and negotiate the claim myself. I was very successful and decided to start negotiating insurance claims on behalf of other claimants irrespective of their profession including domestic claims. Salmon Assessors is now probably the best known name in the loss adjusting/loss assessing industry. If you've got an insurance claim, give us a ring.
Ten years or so ago I was checking out an exhibition in New Orleans and chanced upon the most amazing wheelchair ramp I had ever seen. The ramp could hold a tonne in weight but could also easily be rolled-up and stored. I saw this as a wonderful product for the disabled and Roll-a-Ramp is now one of the best selling wheelchair ramps worldwide.
Specialising in vintage furniture and retro furniture Decoratum is Europe’s largest commercial gallery. Our huge stock comprises of original vintage furniture and lighting from the 1950s, 1960s and even the 1970s and 1980s which are becoming increasingly sought after by collectors. We also have a great range of limited edition or unique contemporary design pieces from some of today’s most gifted designers. Our galleries are often compared with museums, although unlike most museums, our vintage furniture is changed at least once a month so each visit will provide a new experience to enjoy classic vintage design.
While many of our sales go to interior designers both in the United Kingdom and Internationally, we are more than happy to sell to private collectors and would-be collectors. Whether you are looking to furnish an entire home from our range of mid 20th century original vintage seating, tables, chairs, storage, lighting rugs or mirrors or are simply looking for a signature vintage or retro piece to complement your existing contemporary furniture or design, we are sure you will find a great vintage design at Decoratum that will fulfil your requirements.
We are also happy to rent our vintage and contemporary furniture for film or photographic shoots so please contact us for all of your retro furniture rental needs for a realistic 50s or 60s shoot.
Everyone at Decoratum shares a love of vintage furniture design and we promise that our enthusiasm will rub off on to you. We look forward to seeing you soon in our galleries.
During this period I discovered my chameleon-like talent for starting new businesses and nearly every one of those businesses are successfully trading today. They include my first love Decoratum, (www.decoratum.com) which includes the two best 20th Century Furniture and Design Galleries (and the largest!) in London. That's not just my opinion, we have just been voted one of the Guardian's top 10 'favourite shops' in the West half of London (View Article).
Also check out www.hisexcellency.co.uk especially if you're a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan. We own the full rights to this opera and are considering selling it!
The Sotheby Years
I worked at Sotheby’s, the Auction House through much of the 1970’s and apparently showed ‘aptitude’ (and attitude) and quickly made my way up from a filling clerk to become, in my opinion, the best valuation expert that Sotheby’s never knew they had. I was wheeling and dealing during my employment and a senior director asked me to make an important decision ... either stay and stop dealing or leave! I left and became the first dealer in the United Kingdom dealing exclusively with 20th Century Decorative glass.
In the early 1980’s there was a major recession and business fell off dramatically and I had to use all of my resourcefulness to decide what else I could do to earn some dosh while the recession was biting. I decided to try window- cleaning, proffering my services to the well-heeled houses of Hampstead and Highgate. I hated heights so I employed Australians who were in the United Kingdom for their gap-year to help clean all windows above the ground floor! I was sincerely the worst window cleaner in the United Kingdom but I certainly knew how to charge. My marketing was superb (it always has been!) and every morning at 4am I was distributing leaflets around the area extolling the services of ‘Mr Jeffries, Window Cleaner Supreme”. At one point we had 1500 houses on our books. This really was too much ‘like hard work’ and I closed the business after a couple of years but for 15 to 20 years later I was still getting telephone calls from potential customers who swore that a leaflet had just been put through their door that day, when, in fact, the leaflets probably got stuck into a drawer 15/20 years earlier. I had to make the continual excuse that Mr Jeffries had fallen off his ladder and died...
The Teenage Years
My first job was with a company called Multitone who were the inventors of bleepers (the forerunners of today’s mobile phones). I was bored silly and was earning the princely sum of £11 a week. My friends all appeared to be earning anywhere between £17 to £21 a week or doing the “knowledge” to become taxi drivers. It was at this point that I wanted to earn as much as my friends and saw an advertisement in the evening papers for a File Clerk with a minimum of 3 A-Levels and 8 O-Levels to work at Sotheby’s.
I went for the interview not having a clue what Sotheby’s was and told them the good news that if they wanted to have the world’s greatest File Clerk then I was their man ... the bad news was that I only had one O-Level. I never heard from them for 3 weeks and then they did me a big favour and took me onboard three weeks later. I knew at this stage that I had to ‘learn and learn’ and train my voice the best I could with a plum in my mouth because everybody else spoke proper-like. Even Lady Muck’s pet poodle barked “Bow Wow” with a posh accent like!
The Early Years
I knew very early on, after I failed my 11-Plus, that academic life was not for me and from the age of 8 I recollect my first ‘trading years’. I used to go to a couple of ponds with a very large straw basket tied with string with which I used to catch newts and sells them to friends at a Shilling (today’s equivalent about £1.50) each. However, every so often I caught a crested newt which I was able to charge the princely sum of One & Sixpence.
Even at this early age I was scouting around schools trying to find anything to buy and sell and by the age of 15 I was more than ready to enter the world of big business. However, my parents wanted me to become an estate agent which was what every boy with a big mouth was getting into, but I knew that this was not for me.
Check out the cool photo below of me in that great rock combo of 1966, the DBM’s. The initials stood for David, Barry, Martin and Salmon! That’s me second left. Where are the other band members now?... Not on telly like wot I am!
In The Beginning
I was born in 1953 and for the first six years of my life we lived above my parents’ shop in East Ham (East London) and then moved to the sunnier climes of South Woodford (North East London) where I spent my formative years. My parents had a couple of childrenswear shops and worked enormously hard and, it has to be said, are probably responsible for my work ethic today.
At junior school in East Ham I always recollect being amongst the top 5 in my class and, every two weeks, we used to have a classroom test and however we performed in that test was where we had to sit! For example, whoever came first in that weeks test sat at the left-hand side of the class and it snaked around all the way to the other side of the class where whomever got bottom marks would sit. When the family moved to the more salubrious area of South Woodford, it became more than obvious as to how the educational system differed in only a few miles. In those days we were ‘streamed’ and there was an A, B & C stream classes. My parents were told that I would be put into the ‘B’ stream but my mother insisted that I was put into the ‘A’ stream. This was a bad call not least because I was always pretty much bottom of that class which did nothing for my self-esteem and certainly I would have been far better placed as a good performer in the ‘B’ stream.
Here’s a few snaps which can be copied quite freely and distributed amongst your mates with no copyright payment to me!