There's a bungalow near me that has been on the property market for a while. Surprising, for bungalows here never normally need an agent, let alone an agent's board up to illicit interest. Anyway things started to take off a couple of months ago and in went the skip, for the inevitable ripping out process. I must say that it helps having an pal living not more than a stones throw away, so regular bulletins come my very nosy way. The couple are intending to keep all the original arts and crafts woodwork, i.e. the interconnecting doors, the pelmets, picture rails and good floor boards. They also have the original fitted wardrobes with matching bed head and side cabinets. They plan to replace the missing furniture with auction antiques if they can find exactly the right era. The buzz of excitement about this project is palpable - hope they have an open day so we can see it all!
I was watching catch up tv at lunch time today, over the rather delicious salmon salad I'd lovingly prepared for the purpose. I like to watch the old documentaries that BBC4 leave on their channel - some have been rescued from the abyss, just in time. They are so varied in subject and age but currently I am enjoying social history documentaries made between 1968 and 1979 on country houses and what happened to the folks that ran them. In each one I've enjoyed this week there are the kitchens giving us an idea on how complicated it was to get food organised, cooked and up to the top table to feed a dinner party of anything from 6 to 56 guests. The furniture and effects of the day are all on show, antiques and modern stuff sitting cheek by jowl. The tastes then were so different to today - they are a wonderful lesson in social mobility too.
I have the very wonderful joy of helping out as a volunteer at a small niche country house - it's not really big enough to be called a stately home although I guess in real terms it probably would call itself that. After all, who'd not want to be classed as stately when given half a chance. This is unusually not one that has long held connectins back to the battles of Naseby or Stamford Bridge. No connections with the English civil war that I have discovered at all. Two very lavishly rich americans took over the lease for a few years in the 1920s and they spent thousands of pounds making the place into the perfect country house idyll. The lady of the house was a collector of modern and some old. She had one of the salons decorated with hand painted chinese wallpaper - which was hung on batons ready to be moved whenever.
When we bought our first house - many years ago in the '80s, we had to make do with a lot of second hand furniture. All lovingly handed on by relatives and friends. That's what we all did in those days. Unless we came from the more affluent end of the scale and bought all new to start with. I had longed for a nice sleek table, chairs and sideboard from a very well known, classy, and prohibitively expensive maker. As luck would have it, my inlaws had just such a set and I coveted it from day one! When dear old ma in law moved to a care home and we emptied out her bungalow, the set finally became mine. Funnily though, I have my own solid oak table, chairs and sideboard, the sleek set is too small for my room. But it is lovingly used, appreciated and cared for by the next generation - starting their own antiques!
I live just outside a peculiar little industrial town - very proud of its working class roots in wool trading and then the shoe making heritage of their bygone days. There are no big houses of note anywhere in the vicinity or any obvious need for beautiful old oak furniture. One or two Arts and Crafts era houses dot the main thoroughfares but they are hidden behind huge front hedges, it's only when walking close by on foot that you can see the wonderfully balanced frontages with lead paned windows, stone surrounds, oak doors with attractive glass inserts. Once I spot a beautiful house, I do try to imagine the insides, wondering if they do have the right furniture for the style and age. Like a heritage house in the next town, the inside of which was designed by Rennie Mackintosh himself and reflects the era so perfectly it is breathtaking.
I have been very happily delving into all kinds of magazines of late. I've recently been introduced to a magazine subscription service that offers online acess to every publication conceivable. My particular favourites through are house, style, lifestyle, property magazines. The choice is enormous with many of them coming from the same publishing house or group. How they all make money is beyond me but evidently they do. I love leafing through page after page of glorious house settings with the most fabulous antique furnishings placed so perfectly. Seeing furniture and room arrangements in this way is jolly helpful, without it, you have the dealers, the auction houses and various flea markets all displaying their wares, but with high gloss colour finish pages, you can see just more of everything. It puts each piece in perspective, allowing you to visualise a similar idea in your own home. So much better than an auctioneers sales catalogue.
It's a funny old world. One minute we have all the modern furniture that we could want - nice easy chairs, long three or four person settees, matching pouffe for the feet, or if it lifts up, to put more junk in. Now we are going back to the finer design points of Art Deco and the Arts and Crafts movements. There are so many really beautiful articles out in private collections - plain wooden furniture with minimum fuss, clean lines with the merest hint of decoration. For some this will be a step too far. Back to the almost Bauhous brutalism of stark lines and absolutely no frills. Now we are harking back to style tied in with hardwearing. Use of home grown materials also features heavily these days. Being able to order a specially design piece from an artisan furniture maker must surely be the pinnacle of success under the home owner with style heading!
It's such a funny old world. When I was young and we were bundled into the family car to make the journey from the Midlands down to the S coast twice a year, to see family, we used to hate both the journey and the arrival - the venue was not very hospitable. Lots of having to behave and sitting up straight. No laughter or games of any sort on Sundays and many long sessions down at the local citadel where our grandpa was a very important body.
We entertained ourselves banging out tunes on the piano and playing at making camp with all the spindle backed dining chairs. I thought of those poor chairs when I was sourcing a set of very similar for my daughter's forthcoming house move. If only we'd not been so naughty and appreciated the lovely oak furniture that we had access to and didn't appreciate for one minute!
Needing a break from the ordinary day to day operations, I happily accpeted a chance to share a cottage holiday in the west country. A very rural location indeed - wow it was so beautiful and peaceful. Good job we had a very high people carrier as the lanes were so narrow and the hedgerows very high. All the press huffing and puffing about this particular vehicle proved to be so very accurate!
The cottages we shared were very nicely appointed - charmingly quaint but with some seriously attractive old furniture. Gorgeous oak dining chairs around the very old trestle table - marked and slightly battered, but so obviously a much loved piece from a proper family home. Knowing how to obtain such fantastic history and quality is difficult but there are niche companies online who will source whatever you seek. Except maybe that living verison of the Taj Mahal !
I attended a party the other week. It started off as just a small gathering to celebrate a 30th birthday and once the hostess and partner started inviting relatives, the list of 'long lost' seemed to grow and grow. Incredibly, all invitees accepted and a fantastic time was had by all - in a very ancient antique filled holiday home belonging to a family friend.
Apart from the joys of meeting up with branches of both families, we were touched by the generosity of the club member who showed us around and gave us a talk on the antiques surrounding us. It made me realise how wonderful it must be to know the furniture around you had belonged to the same family for so many generations - beautiful oak trestles, wardrobes, pictures, and a sturdy long chest holding documents going back to the 1600s. Once home, I so wished I wasn't surrounded by modern 20th century furnishings!