Stephanie Leclere, founder & owner
I am Stephanie Leclere the founder and maker behind Kiki Voltaire. I started my working life running my own advertising business in Paris, before moving to London in 1994. Over the past 20 years I have been scouring antique markets and auction houses in search of salvage to restore and re-invent. In 2003 I joined an evening restoration class and in 2006, after moving to Brighton, I trained in both traditional and modern upholstery at The Cass (London Metropolitan University), following my passion for interior design, textiles and crafted handmade furniture and home furnishing. In 2008, I set up Kiki Voltaire as a boutique upholstery business. Quality craftsmanship is paramount to Kiki Voltaire's work. We love what we do and produce unique pieces of furniture and home furnishing beautifully crafted that are made to last a lifetime.
Where are you based?
Kiki Voltaire and my home are based in Brighton, Hanover, a 10 minutes walk from the seafront and the lanes. We moved here from London in 2006. I come from Paris, then lived in London and still wanted to live in a city which also gave us an easy commute to London so after a few fun weekends in Brighton it seems like a good choice. I love living by the sea and near the countryside and will head to beach or for a walk on the Downs as soon as we can. Brighton is a friendly place where it is easy to start a conversation with people you just met. Lots of people work have creative jobs so it gives the opportunity to meet like-minded people and it has a fantastic sense of community. If you have young children there is lots of freedom and access to open space which is lovely. What a better place to live in!? However, I still miss the energy of London and try to go as much as I can as I love the buzz you get from it! Then I quickly come back to a more peaceful way of life in Brighton.
Click here to visit my home in Brighton.
How did you get started?
When I was young, I used to visit to Les Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris at the weekend with my dad and loved looking at the antique shops and the atmosphere. Sellers where passionate about their jobs, and often would have friends over lunch around a table for sale. I love the idea of conviviality mixed with your job or hobby, as for some it wasn’t a full time job but more a passion they would fulfill at the weekend. When I moved to London, I first lived in Portobello and would go to Golborne Road on Saturdays, and started to buy furniture there and at auctions. This led to an evening restoration class in the beautiful Garden Hampstead suburb. From there my teacher suggested to study upholstery, which I studied at The Cass for 3 years. I finally gave up my day job in finance in 2008 and set up Kiki Voltaire. I had a son not long after and since I have focussed on my family and the business.
What is your favourite to make?
Kiki Voltaire offers a collection of made-to-order home furnishings such as bespoke headboards, fabric noticeboards, cork pinboards and vintage chairs, and therefore I have a wide range of products I make. I enjoy the variety and designing a unique piece for a client. I enjoy the process of buying an original vintage chair or armchair and transforming them into a contemporary piece whilst respecting the original design. I love the wood restoration process. It's a real labour of love as can take a very long time, some days! But the transformation of old tired chairs into ones fully restored is very satisfactory!
Where do you find your inspiration?
Since moving to Brighton, being near the sea and the Sussex countryside, my style and choice of fabric has been influenced by nature, walks by the sea, moody skies, spring colours. I care about the environment and have a long time ago decided to work with natural and sustainable fabric, working with European designers and mills. My favourites are wool and linen – sheepskin in the winter.
What era do you identify to?
I love everything about the fifties, it's fashion, interior design and generally it's post war (creative) energy. My grandmother was a seamstress and had a house full of beautiful patterns books that I enjoyed looking at in my childhood. As my interest in interiors grew, I’ve enjoyed discovering the furniture and textile of the era. I love their simple line, structure and functionality. Yet at the same time I do find the bold patterns and colours of the seventies appealing but in the end I am often drawn back to natural fabric with texture when designing my collection. Although lately I have been more daring with colours and use them in my Contemporary Notice Board Collection and our Cork notice board collection in collaboration with Cath Bristow brings in patterns and colour.
I believe your interior needs be a homely comfortable and harmonious space that reflects your personality. I am a big fan an harmonious blend of old and new where there are no particular rules but to please oneself. What is import to me is for your belongings and furniture are well crafted using the best materials or have a deep meaning.
What is the ethos of Kiki Voltaire?
Quality craftsmanship has always been paramount. We make unique pieces of furniture beautifully crafted that are made to last a lifetime. It’s the opposite of buying mass produced products from a big chain. It's a celebration of re-invented vintage finds from the UK and Europe, especially France where I can source some special pieces like my collection of Bridge Chairs.
Kiki Voltaire embraces traditional & modern upholstery, using beautifully made fabric from talented emerging designers as well as British brands such as Bute, Moons and Romo. I strongly believe that it is important to conserve the UK and European textile industry and craftsmanship – "savoir-faire" – alive. All our products are made to order in Kiki Voltaire's Brighton studio.
What is unique about Kiki Voltaire?
We re-invent classic furniture and create new handmade pieces to match your taste. British, bespoke and made to last a lifetime.
Quality craftmanship is at the heart of our work and we offer a bespoke design service on our own collection of headboards, fabric notice boards, and vintage chairs, working closely with customers throughout the design process to offer them a bespoke made-to-order product.
I also source antique pieces from France, in particular Bridge chairs, working closely with antique dealers who source special pieces for us. I then re-upholster them in Kiki's Brighton studio and work with my customers to choose an original fabric to match their interior or find something special to dress it up!
What are your plans?
The last couple of years have been very busy with the Notice Board bespoke orders business and my collection of Contemporary Notice Boards. I am trying to keep a balance of making fabric notice boards and re-upholstering vintage brought from France. Our new finds are shared via our newsletter and Instagram updates.
I would like to work more closely with local Interior Designer whether it's for our bespoke notice board service or offer some of our unique French antique chairs.
All our products are available in the shop. For commissions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07946 618907.