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Alastair Hendy

© Alastair Hendy

Alastair Hendy the man behind the new/old Home Store

Alastair Hendy likes old. He has restyled, refurbished a Tudor house into a home  and a Georgian building into a spanking new, creaky very brown, old fashioned Home Store. As Hendy was preparing to open his immaculately styled Old Town Hastings Tudor house for Christmas HOT reporter, Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went to find out more about the man behind the shop and his styled parallel universe.

With your Tudor and Georgian House and all the detail and precision in recreating the feel of it, do you sometimes feel you were born in the wrong century?

Front room at Tudor House

© Alastair Hendy

No, I like the present. I think living in the past would be hell without the comfort of modern utilities. I’m a bit like a butterfly I can flit from one time, one place to another. Here, I have the dark, crooked, creaky house. In London I live in an open plan, light filled warehouse space and I like that too. I think there is a tendency and yearning in unsettled times and recession for people to look back and romanticise the past and  I understand that  but I don’t want to live in it.

 You seem to be a man of many hats so what is your  background? And what do you call yourself or does it depend on how you get up in the morning?
Well it is a bit like that.  I am a food and travel writer, photographer, store keeper, cook and stylist. After Art School my one proper job was Day Manager at Habitat where I was in charge of the shop and window display. Since then I rather fell into food which was possible then. However, I do think that if you have real ability, a belief in yourself and work hard it is possible to do what you really want to do.

I always loved cooking which I ostensibly learned from my mother and Marguerite Patten’s  Every Day Cookbook in Colour – which, by the way is still in print. I was runner up in the BBC Good Food Magazine Italian Cook of the Year competition judged by Antonio Carluccio. I worked for a while at his Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden and then things took off from there.  I now do all the things I really enjoy – styling and cookery.

How long have you been connected with the area or are you a Down From London-er?
My grandparents used to live in a house just outside Hastings which my sister and I still own. Since my father was in the army, I was sent off to boarding school in Sussex and would spend weekends and holidays with them. I sort of fell out of love with Hastings in my teens London was much more attractive. And I kind of rediscovered it again.

© Alastair Hendy

The shop is an eclectic mix of old fashioned new and old, have you always been a collector?
My mother used to collect antiques, filling the house up with too much stuff, much to my father’s annoyance.  But my first collection was cacti. I had about 2,000. When they had outgrown my bedroom and all the windowsills my parents, got fed up with them and gave me a greenhouse.

My mother was always encouraging me in my creativity. My father was rather grumpy. I think he wanted to be creative but was never allowed to be and I think he resented it.

In my teens I used to go to antique fairs and junk shops and I found, as long as one had a good eye, you could sell the stuff later at a profit where I had a part share in a stall in Camden Passage, Islington. At that time I was collecting art deco and my whole bedrooms was art deco heaven.

bathroomin tudor house

© Alastair Hendy

Do you live in your Tudor House?
It’s more of a winter house than a summer one. It is dark but with fires and candles it can be made very cosy. I do like sleeping there – I even enjoy using the outdoor shower. This is  not spartan Tudor living, it is plumbed in with hot and cold water and I like the contrast of cold and hot. It is a good way to wake up!

When creating the house and the shop is it creating a whole experience? One of your shop window displays had an Edward Scissorhands feel to it. Do myths and fairy tales loom large in your life?
I do like myths and fairy tales and I love telling a story. I like things not to be too obvious. I want people to stop and think and be slightly bemused – like the scissors or black feather dusters and candles display. From inside the shop we can see people talking – “it’s a tailors” or “it must be a funeral parlour” and it makes me smile – particularly how literal people are. I think odd and imaginative window displays add a bit of magic to the shopping experience.

What is it that you like about Hastings?
It’s a strange place. I like the mix of fishing boats, net huts, junk shops.  I like the dressing up for Jack on the Green, Bonfire Night. Hastings-ites don’t seem to need any excuse to dress up. The other night I came across some pre-Raphaelite-looking characters dressed in white – what was that about? All of that feeds into the energy and creativity of the community. Hastings tends to attract like minded-people. They don’t always get on and sometimes fallout and I like all that.

So what is happening in the Old Town house this Christmas?
There will be log fires, candles, traditional decorations, spiced wine. And children can hear my adaptation of  a fairy story, The Elves & The Baker read buy the fireside.

135 All Saints Street, Hastings Old Town, Sussex  TN34 3BG will be open Saturdays & Sundays throughout December 11am–5.30pm, and then every day from Monday 17-24 December. Entry: £5 per adult £3 per child. One copy of The Elves & The Baker will be given to each family.



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Posted 19:56 Tuesday, Dec 4, 2012 In: Hastings People

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