The thing about having been born and living in this country is our inbuilt pride at our antiquity and heritage. We don’t appreciate the old church down in the village, or the museum in the town presenting a record of how the industrial side of life began and prospered. We certainly don’t often come across evidence of what our bit of the country was like a few thousand years ago. That’s the sort of thing geeks look for at the Natural Science Museum or the British Museum. Having come back from a very massive Texan city, I can say now how proud I am of knowing the villages near me all have very old 13th & 15th Century churches and other old places. They also house many seriously old artefacts too, oak chests, wooden trestles and wardrobes or cabinets. I shall never again take this for granted – having attended a social heritage museum on holiday, where the oldest building was from 1823!
I have been helping out at a heritage property near me. It’s one of the most well known in this area – being in a set of several within a very small 5 mile patch. They’re all connected in some way with the English civil war and were handed over to the friends and patrons of the conquering leaders. Much of the furniture and effects of eahFamily against family all over great britain – though down the central spine and more particularly in the midlands area, the civil war houses and tragedies loom large to this day. The furniture in many of these house is probably not the original. In those troubled times, many a house load of furniture and effects were confiscated and bandied around the gloating victors. It ispossible through to find really good pieces of very old furniture that has been cared for and slightly less old but beautifully aged and preserved with new upscaling decor.
There is something really magical about visiting a heritage house at the beginning of their season. Most times this will be just before the Easter holidays. The house will have een cleaned and carpets, rugs, sofas and soft furnishings given a resotrative going over. Picture frames have been dusted and wiped down. The window blinds, so esential for keeping the asset fading light out, are gingerly opened. Just enough for the paying punter to be able to see some of the room, but not so much as to cause damage. The light, especially harsh sunlihght, has a devastating effect on old window hangings and embroidery. Tapestries hanging in halls need to be carefully conserved and it’s very difficult to see them without a certain amount of light. Of course, the original benefactor will not have had an inkling of the problem they were creating when they hung their very much prized art work!
So many folk turning up at a family gather can be a bit of a nightmare for the hostess and her spouse. Back in the summer when the idea of a family house party was proffered, it must have seemed like the ideal solution to the ever raging question – how do we all meet up with each other when we’re so separate through the year . . . . . Now that one branch of the family has got a bigger house in the country – well this was the best idea this century. As we approached November, lists of things to be made and donated to the food store were issued in good time. The house was decorated with an incredible festoon of finery from early December – so as not to spook the two dogs. . . likely story! The decor and furniture was adjusted to suit each set of family guests. Extra beds here, more clothes space there. The age of the property made it all feel truly wonderful. The best ever!
I have just got back from caring for someone else’s house for a couple of weeks. It’s quite good fun to do this especially as in this case, the house is very old. The furniture in it isn’t quite the same era but by the look and feel of the fabulous wooden chests and cabinets, we’re only a couple of centuries adrift I think! Coming from the kind of family that only ever had modern furniture or from the 1950s at the latest, being surrounded by real wood, old grained oak wardrobes and tables is quite a wonderous thing. The generations of folk who have lived there over the last 480 years will not have thought at all about future generations thanking them and looking back gratefully to their wisdom in buying and caring for these incredible old pieces. You can obtain antique furniture via very specialist online sites. Great care needed to avoid the sharks out there though!
We’re probably all familiar with the programmes on tv that show auctions of bits and bobs that celebrities have ‘bought’ in various car boots or antique shops at specially low prices. I’m always a bit concerned that the auctioneernever seems to start the bidding at a sensible level to attract the kind of money the celebrity needs to cover their costs – and blushes. One particular programme, so used to things making a loss, they get really excited if the party ‘wipes their face’ i.e. sells for the same as they bought. It’s actually a loss though in real terms because of auction admin costs and commission. I know someone who’s putting some of their grandma’s old wooden dining chairs and a couple of dressing tables and small sideboards into the local auction. If the trend for all things homely in tea shops continues, they should do ok.
I did wonder if the trend for shabby chic painted wooden items had passed on now. There have been some very odd examples of the craft on sale in second hand shops and emporiums dedicated to the sourcing and provision of antique items. There is much cheating that goes on too of course. This is nothing new of course. Folk have endeavoured to make furniture and books, correspondence and paintings look much older by the careful application of weak tea for aging. The newer habit of painting something then half stripping it to make a very disressed finish bothers me. I struggle to find anything attractive about taking a perfectly functioning wooden cabinet and distressing it to the point where is looks like it’s on its last legs. However, folk do like these items when done tastefully and in keeping with other genuinely old artefacts already in place. It’s horses for courses I guess.
I was helping out at a local country house that opens to the public two or three times a week. The house is no longer lived in and reverted to a fund raising trust some years ago on the demise of the last remaining family owner. there is some antique furnishing in the house, but not all in the main rooms above stairs. Items have been repaired and remodelled, for example in the butler’s pantry below stairs, the work tables have been brought up to safety levels but not refurbished so they look new. the whole idea is to leave them in the state they were discovered after many years of abandonment. The word antique does rather seem out of place in the servants’ quarters, but as these items were the most used for centuries and have not been updated, they qualify more than the furnishings above stairs that have been changed and updated in the last century.
When we come to furnish our first home, it can often be a case of taking whatever relatives and pals have going for free – things they have cherished and used for years. We don’t often look at them and see the antique potential. I used to scoff at my grandparents’ clumping old brown wood furniture – dreading having to have that in any house of mine. Well of course, when I starting renting flats from landlords, they would fill them with any old stuff and I had to lump it! Now though when I furnish my home, I pick modern, very pale, very streamlined furniture to suit the decor. These lovely danish pieces will be antiques in their own right one day – but in the meantime I revel in the joy of being able to look round heritage properties with their fabulous wealth of antiques and luxury bed linen brands such as Victoria Linen. The real McCoy! Read more at https://www.victorialinen.co.uk/
I do love a good magazine – and the ones about homes, modern, old, established, country piles – you name it, there will be a magazine dedicated to it. The articles about looking for antiques and the care of them when you find them; these are fascinating and give an insight into how much money is needed to get your first piece of furniture worthy of the title ‘antique’. It’s a shame that so much older brown wood furniture has been discarded, burnt on bonfies, remodelled into shed fillers etc. With a little thought, it is possible to decorate a room and furnish it with pieces you like, when they’re nowhere near antique. Sometimes the pretentions of life are not worth chasing, but getting the look you desire is much more achievable if the goal is less crowded. I like smooth danish designs. These pieces from the 1960s are so collectable, they ae the modern day antiques.