Painted Baby Cabinet Due An Upgrade

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!

Ads for Domestic Staff Still Publicised

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” !

Antique Or Authentic – Village Properties Need Both

I travel to the mediterranean twice a year to stay with my best chum.  Her village is up in the hills & still has many old village houses – traditional stone built hovels with one large room housing a fire place/cooking area;  a separated off section for food preparation, and a very much still outside toilet.  Bathrooms were not considered necessary for thounsand years or more!   The villagers who own these houses, have now realised the potential of their old family homes – they themselves now live in smart houses with all mod cons in the nearest towns.  The village homes are rapdily being refurbished, expanded and sometimes rebuilt, to bring them up to date.  Nothing changes about the front verandahs – they have to remain looking like a village house.    Holiday makers and tourists flock to these upgraded houses to rent for a few spartan days rest and recuperation.  The supply and demand of the village house is parallel to that of the apropriate antique furniture that is needed to complete the authenticity.

 

Turning The Clock Back To Olden Days

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.

Craftsmen Made Furniture Are Heirloom Pieces

I was watching a programme recently on the skills of true British craftsmen within companies that have been making furniture historically renowned for quality and excellence.  There must be companies in other countries but the one I’m alluding to still sells very well known settees.  I can’t recall them mentioning any other type of chairs but they make very deep set leather sofas.  We watched the whole process from the customer deciding on colour and spec, to the workshop selecting the materials and starting off the framework.  Each sofa was handled with such pride by one muscular chap – the love of the product was almost overwhelming at times as they demonstrated to camera each stageof their task.   It takes about 21 days to complete one of those sofas and needless to say their price tag reflects the hand made quality.  The firm are so proud of their worldwide status that they don’t need to apologise for the cost.  There are queues of well heeled families waiting for a famous heirloom sofa of their own.

Gentle Care For The Oldest Furnishings

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!

DIY Emporiums Offer Thrilling Trips Out

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!

Antique & Farm Shop Combo Truly Wins

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!

Antique Village Pumps Disappearing Fast

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.

Managing Large Antique Collections In Crisis

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.