Meet the Makers: Pickwick Papers & Fabrics

Pickwick Papers & Fabrics is Greenwich’s most fabulous wallpaper, fabric and interior design studio. Attached to Greenwich Market since 1975, it’s run with passion by Julia Johnson, daughter of founder Anthea Apps.

In 2022, after 47 years in a shop on Nelson Road, Pickwick Papers moved to a studio just across from Greenwich Market. The move was ‘traumatic’, remembers Julia, who had to migrate the contents of five entire floors to their new home. But after four weeks’ hard graft, Pickwick Papers was reborn in its new digs: intimate, blessed with abundant natural light, and ideal for Julia’s bespoke design services.

Stepping into Julia’s peaceful, first-floor studio is like stumbling into some opulent sultan’s treasury. Her mantra is ‘if it’s feasible, we’ll make it!’ Curtains, cushions, blinds, tiebacks: everything is made on-site. And Pickwick Papers is a ‘showroom for all the top brands ... Sanderson and Zoffany and Osborne and Little, Morris & Co, Designers Guild, Harlequin.’

‘People come in here for the first time, gasp, and say they never knew it existed!’, Julia enthuses. She guides her customers through the process of realising their dream interiors: ‘it’s lovely when you get the reward at the end: customers who are thrilled with curtains, colourings and things like that.’

Julia has always been artistic by nature. A singer and actor, she and her friends started an opera group performing at Greenwich Theatre. She approaches interior design as another form of theatre, where the mise-en-scène is composed from curtains, cushions and wallpaper. ‘When people come into the showroom, it’s very much a performance’.

Her design CV is impressive – and spangled with celebrities. She’s done no fewer than four interiors for comedian Vic Reeves, who once lived in Greenwich: ‘we did lots of weird and wonderful things for him!’ Actress and former MP Glenda Jackson CBE was another satisfied client. But perhaps Julia’s most cherished project was an entire five-floor penthouse on London’s City Road. ‘That was incredible. Polished floorboards, a cinema room and more.’

Julia insists that her role is simply to realise her customers’ dreams. ‘I walk through a building site in a hard hat, walk stressed clients through the transformation, then have the joy of hanging the curtains at the other end. Having a happy customer; you can’t beat that! Sometimes it might be just cushions and a wall colour, but it’s enough to transform a room.’

Trading at Greenwich Market means three things to Julia. First, there’s its historic beauty; but no less essential are the elements of ‘family and familiarity.’ Her family traded here for nearly 50 years, her brother and daughter work with her to this day, and the trading community itself is a familiar collective.

Julia grew up in Greenwich. The supportive, ever-evolving community of Greenwich Market it’s the only workplace she’s known. She remembers when it was still a produce market, and knew bygone Greenwich identities like Dick Moy, the historian and antiques dealer whose commemorative plaque graces a Georgian building on Nevada Street.

Pickwick Papers’ longevity and local ties help it stand out from other interior design studios. As Julia says, ‘I’ve got customers who came into the shop when they were toddlers. I become like a sort of favourite aunt. Or perhaps the ‘Curtain Fairy!’ Long may she wield her wand at Pickwick Papers, making design dreams come true!

By Hugh McNaughtan

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