Deep in Deptford there’s an Aladdin’s Cave of curios, from old Joplings-branded scrubbing brushes to a boar’s head.
Memorabilia from the long-gone Sunderland Royal Infirmary, tankards, vintage bicycles, old barbers’ chairs and more – all have caught the keen eye of Arthur Carter.
A former painting and decorating lecturer at Sunderland College, he set up Mr Carter’s Emporium in Shaw Buildings.
In recent times the former furniture factory has become something of a culture hub, housing Arthur’s shop, a photography studio, a textile business and recording studios, with a classic car place next door.
Arthur says it’s part of a wave of home-grown cultural activity taking place in the city.
“We don’t get any passing trade here, we’re a bit of a hidden gem,” he said.
“But it’s great that things like this are springing up. There’s so much going on in the city with Cultural Spring and the Tall Ships Race coming here.”
Not only does Arthur sell all manner of memorabilia and antiques, he draws upon his four decades in the decorating industry to upcycle furniture.
Though the Emporium is only open at weekends, most of his trade is online, where his talents have caught the eye of the famous Pinewood studios, who’ve used his items for props.
He says the increase in demand is indicative of people’s growing desire for unusual pieces, rather than standard furniture.
“Old barbers’ chairs in particular are huge at the moment.
“Yuppy types in London like to have them in their gaming rooms and they’ll pay up to £1,000 for them. They fly out,” he explained.
“And Game of Thrones fans are always looking for taxidermy like wolves’ heads. We only sell old vintage ones though.”
As well as sourcing goods locally, Arthur travels to antique markets on the continent for high quality furniture which he can give a new lease of life.
As well as restoring furniture, he also transforms household and industrial items, whether it be turning a badminton racquet into a clock or scales into a lamp.
“I’ve always collected and had an interest in bikes, classic cars and watches,” he explained. “Decorating was always my trade.
“I worked for A. Hector Grabham decorators for many years and also for the National Trust, restoring items.
“The Emporium combines my trade with my passion for collecting.”
Arthur’s handiwork in découpage (decorating items with paper) can be seen in city businesses including the tabletops in Fausto Coffee in Roker and Relish the Thought in Sunniside.
He said: “Shabby chic and vintage has really taken off in recent years, even though all those antique programmes have really pushed the prices up.
“People want those items nobody else has.”
He added: “It’s amazing what people throw out. But it’s so satisfying to find something covered in grime, transform it and see it in use in someone’s home.”