Of all the furniture I possess, there is one small upright chest of drawers that means the most. Admitedly since moving to this house many years ago, it has been parked in the garage, just until we could strip off years of old paint and maybe colour it a pleasing shade, more in keeping with it’s originally intended surroundings. Well, it’s never moved from a rather cosy spot away from danger of cars backing in. The old handles have mostly broken off, the top is a bit wonky too, but it’s a utility ware cabinet – thousands were supplied cheaply to help families start again after the horrors of world war 2. My mother in law had received hers and used it as a baby chest. The plain wood inside with no frills and the well constructed design make it a splendid piece of mid century furniture – to be loved and cherished just as much as piece of a top price G plan!
I subscribe to some lovely magazines, one is more of a social headliner, aimed at the more affluent section of the female community. It’s been going as an independent for almost 200 years and is the publication to have if one employs staff of any kind. I just love looking in the classified ads at the back of the magazine. All sorts of tempting positions are available – housekeeper, couple to run housekeeping, gardening and chauffering. I was amazed at the fantastic salaries that are quoted – admittedly most in those ads placed by recruitment agencies. Gone are the one liners – lovely sunny room over garage available for the right lady – who has to be a gromm, jockey, jumper, mucker outer and general dogs body around the home of usually a very genteel old biddy. Some of the salaries are indeed eye watering. up around mid £30K, most applicants need to speak an additional language or two, all have to drive and most of those would be expected to provide their own car now. That’s rather a shame as one regular feature on ads was “car provided as is horse box” !
There was a time when the only folk able to buy and live in an ancient antique filled home were the upper classes. Or those in the middle section who took a risk, and sometimes won, but very often did not! The buying of any property is an exciting but nerve shredding time – buying into history is quite another ball game. The age of the property will make a huge difference to the build type and how easy it’s going to be to get a mortgage on it. There are some trading times around the world when buying ancient is not as popular amongst the lenders as it might otherwise be. Mortgage lenders want to know that their funds will be safely making money once they hand it to you, you hand it over for the cutsie little chocolate box cottage. Very often the properties are listede, which causes a whole heap of conditions regarding the upkeep and maintenance of the home. A ‘listed’ owner has to be very careful not to carry out any structural alterations without getting the ok from the local planning officer. The onus is always on the owner of the place to ensure they meet every criteria. But once every hoop has been sailed through, every i dotted and t crossed, and the wind in favourable position . . . living in a gorgeous old cottage will be fantastic and worth all the aggrevation !
Golly gosh did I see a lot of shabby chic and faux antique furniture and homeware products this last week. I visited an area in the Midlands – not my usual stomping ground. I saw stalls holding sales of millions of christmas effects, spray painted in glorious metallic shades. It’s amazing just how many pine cones one can cram into a kilner jar! There were also some famililar household effects that had been repurposed and made to look more vintage than they might be. Coat hangers newly adorned with little lace borders and peg bags with frilly aprons and pleated kilt effect fronts. Families just love going out to local craft fayres and exhibitions. After such a devastating year with lockdowns and lots of restrictions on activity, there seems to be a genuine desire to get back to old fashioned ways. Rather like trying to turn the clock back to our childhood or maybe our grandparents’ era. I have seen a great deal of faux victoriana – heavily adorned trinkets and small pieces of furniture made to reflect the comfortable family parlour setting.
It must be a wonderful feeling to own a specific make of chair or table. One of those manufactured in England from oak in a previus century would be even better. Knowing how to appreciate and love such old pieces of furniture is well known now but over the centuries, these every day pieces of wooden furniure were never viewed as likely to be of value – famiies hung on to hand me downs of every type simply because they didn’t expect to be able to get anything else in their lifetime. Family furniture is probably still doing its rounds today but it has to stay in good woring cleaning and polishing the wrong way can do irrepairable harm. Just a gentle wipe with a clean duster to remove the surface dust will be sufficient. Once or twice a year an light application of wax polish will keep it fed and help stop the drying effects of central heating from making the wood brittle. The smell of that wax polish is a treat to the nostrils too!
We will all be truly chuffed when the current movement and socialising restrictions are lifted during the next few months. To be able to just go out and get into the car and drive somewhere without having to plan and have a good reason for going will be fantastic. As much as we respect the government and their need to contain the virus, the need for families to start getting used to freedoms again is overwhelming. Oh to be able to visit a ‘non essential’ store, such as a decorating and diy emporium to choose a completely fresh colour change for the house – seeing the same old walls and furniture for many months at a time calls for a radial rework when this new found freedom does arrive! Just the thought of being able to look and see a change of room design is almost too exciting to contemplate! I like the way the bigger out of town diy places have real room settings so you can invisage a similar theme for your own home. Although online stores are so quik and convenient, now and again, seeing the real thing in person does take some beating!
I had the most glorious day out a while back – catching up with some old colleagues, we decided to meet up at a mid point. I’d no been to this particular emporium before but it’s one that almost everyone seemed to have heard of. What appears to be a busy family farm shop and giftwarehas greatly expanded into a truly phenomenal homeware, antique and furnishing enterprise. There is the original barn housing the most incredible displays of vgetables, almost all from the farm with exceptions that can’t grow here. Then further along is the bakery department with an amazing selection of breads, pastries and cakes of every shape, size and flavour. I’d been there an hour before reaching the antique department. It was huge, with a wonderful vintage section upstairs, with clothes, smaller furniture and ’50s toys and memorabilia. Fortunately most of these inspiring outlets have reached the 21st century and have an online presence which allows us to wallow in our delight and order when it suits!
I was staying in a remote village some forty kilometres above a lovely mediterranean town recently. When I first visited, these shy folk would keep to their little village dwellings and come out to their verandah to look over the English tourists and sometimes we might exchange the nearest to a civil ‘hello’. I’ve got to know the locals gradually over many years of staying with the same family. Watching them improve their lot, turning something not unlike a cattle shed into a full blown 4 bedroomed mansion has been fascinating. Out goes the basic sink plus the rotten old draining board and mismatched cupboards – often made up of fruit picking crates, left over from a havest many moons ago. In come sleek ceramic or steel sinks, fully runing water . . . The antique water pumps in the yard, fed by spring water or wells and under which everyone used to wash themselves have long since ceased to be needed and if not sold to budding antique dealers, are sold on as reclaims. Changes are sad but necessary to keep up with modern needs.
I for one have really missed the opportunity of visiting heritage houses since the global pandemic has caused absolute restrictions on all gatherings and visits. It must have been very hard to manage some of the large estates, with no income to offset the pay of the gardening and housekeeping teams. Having been a volunteer room guide at a heritage house for several seasons, I really appreciate some of the issues that arise throughout the year and how much effort goes in to keeping the antiques and pictures in place without damage. With very ancient wooden furniture for example, it is critical to keep the sunlight off each item – it has a serious drying effect that makes the patina fade and gradually crack through dryness. Previous generations would not have known this so may not have always cared for their furniture in the same way we do now. In the ‘close’ season, all major items are covered with dust cloths and huge sheets and on a rota are cleaned and the wood fed to protect every piece.
One of the things I’m really missing a great deal just at the moment is the ability to follow my heart and visit my heritage and historic houses. Oh how I miss the chance to savour the beautiful surroundings – those parkland entrances, driving through tree lined avenues to get to the main house or castle. I truly adore the smell of antique places. Especially if they’re filled with luscious old furniture and effects. That smell of old antique wood is unmistakeable! This is not a concern for many families, especially if they’re suffering budgetary melt down due to being furloughed or even putshed out on the dole. The historic and heritage industry are also suffering massively too – they can’t open houses and so that stram of revenue has gone but worse still, their catering facilities are lying idle – no income from the tea rooms or wedding venues.
Of course, I can always look at tv lifestyle programme and hope that something connected with antiques or historic houses comes up, and I can research favourite styles and periods on the internet. I can even buy articles – so I need not panic about my shortage of cultural delights!