Behind the scenes with MSPA Client – Alex MacArthur
We’re delighted to be working with Alex MacArthur, antique dealer and interior designer based in Brighton.
Back in the early ‘80s, Alex worked as a furniture restorer’s assistant on fine museum-quality pieces. This was before she discovered the concept of decorative antiques and realised that being a dealer “didn’t have to mean buying and selling stuffy antiques with an intrinsic value”. Alex has been dealing for 24 years – locally and internationally – and is passionate about what she does.
She has a strong masculine taste with a twist, only buying what she loves. This includes statement pieces and collections, from 17th century ecclesiastical to 1980s bling! She loves putting things from all periods together, often out of context for effect, and making them work.
Her home is both installation gallery and showroom. Alex’s clients range from private customers to interior designers and other dealers buy from her too. She has something for everyone and every budget, from good value pieces to more specialist and expensive items.
Alex MacArthur sees what she does as an expression of herself. She describes her work as challenging and stimulating, which leaves her feeling creatively satisfied. Here’s what she had to say when we interviewed her:
What’s a typical working day for you?
There isn’t a typical day. Business tasks can range from picking things up from restorers and upholsterers, answering phone/email enquiries, styling the house for customers and photo shoots, meeting with clients, taking photographs to put on my website or to send to people, going on buying trips and doing the banking, to catching up on boring paperwork. Plus I need to walk the dogs! Every day is different but it’s always extremely busy.
What do you love about your work/business?
Most of it, apart from the mundane paperwork! I enjoy travelling, meeting new people and networking. I love being able to express myself through what I buy because I only buy what I love and what I love is dictated by my whole life experience and what inspires me. Although I buy very contrasting things, they all fit together because they’re integral to who I am. My job is my art so it’s really exciting to be able to use my judgment to source things that most people wouldn’t think to buy but when I put them in a certain context they become desirable. Also by buying across the board, and not specialising in certain pieces, I’m learning all the time.
What do you like least about your work / business?
Updating spreadsheets, organising deliveries, invoicing…the general admin that keeps me stuck behind my desk in front of the computer. I’d much prefer to be spending time with suppliers and talking to clients, or doing lots of other creative things like taking photographs and restoring pieces.
How do you juggle the demands of running a business alongside your creative output?
The creative side will always come first so that work is prioritised. Admin is often dealt with after hours and can easily build up, so my working day tends to be very long. Recently I realised I needed to make the admin side of my business more manageable. That’s why I contacted My Special PA, so I could get some help putting several systems in place.
Our working relationship has just started out, but can you describe how the support from My Special PA is benefiting you/your business?
It’s giving me a sense of security to know that I’m getting the business organised, using systems to do everything more efficiently. Due to the nature of what I do, business inevitably fluctuates. So it’s important for me to feel in control and be able to do everything myself when time allows. But I now have a backup plan for busy periods – I know I can ask My Special PA for more support if I need it, as the team are gaining a good understanding of how my business works by helping me with this set-up phase.
How do you see the relationship impacting on your business in a year’s time?
I see myself in a position where I’m confidently managing the new systems that are in place, where I have information at my fingertips and everything is up to date and organised. I’d like to think I’ll be running my business more efficiently, saving money with less time needed for admin. I’m looking forward to having more free time to be creative, look after customers and regain a better work/life balance.
Our last question is, simply, why Brighton?
Brighton was the first place I made a conscious choice to move to, after living in London for 19 years. I’d always ended up living in other places by chance. It feels much more laid back than London and I love the fact Brighton is small enough to bump into people you know and be intimate and sociable, yet large enough to be slightly anonymous with the potential for new clients. There’s some fantastic architecture in Brighton and the city is very creative and diverse. I really like the fact you can get around on foot but the countryside is also easy to access.