We really do have to keep a check on expenditure when we are dealing with the family refurnishing budget. It is so very easy to get carried awa when looking at refurnishing in a more antique style. Gone are the sale rooms with Grannie’s old feather going for a fiver on a Satureay morning. No, but it could still be Grannie’ws oled bed but it will have a very much fatter price on the ticket. The popularity of programmes about valuing artefacts and then watching them be sold at auction has prompted folk to raid said grannie’s attac and race off with many more ‘heirlooms’. That favourite nursing chair you may recall your mum or nanny sat in when weaning you or perhaps that nice little desk bureau in the old sitting room. These items of furniture are much sought after and fetch premium prices these days. There are three programmes on tv currently that have helped to boost the power of the auction and sales rooms. Audiences these days are fast becoming esxperts at pricing up goods so they will know what their maximum bid ought to be. Its all a case of doing research and not over bidding on the day.
I was reading one of the more robust country living magazines last week. I do love the top quality publications as they show houses in the most gorgeous parts of the country and most of them have furnishings we can only dare to dream about. When they showcase the interior of their featured properties, it’s absolutely incredible how lovely their family owned furniture and furnishings are. The master and mistress of a house will vary of course. I do like the old ones who have worked hard to earn the respect of the young people in the village. It takes some guts to site old furniture in a property if you suspect the immediate neighbours have gone down the minimalist eco route. Beautiful oak tables and matching chairs make for a splendid room; any other material would look out of place. In fact, the wider and deeper sofas are the order of the day.
Whilst I stay with chums out in the country, literally in the middle of nowhere, it is fantastically relaxing. I just love being able to walk their dogs up the lane to the field right at the top of the second lane. On the way past all the fabulous houses, we also pass a lot of trees. There are horse chestnut, sycamore and my most favourite of all – English oak. The trees are stunning to look at whilst walking under them and they’re even more so from the middle of that field up the road. Looking back, I can see wonderful groups of trees – lots of them. It highlights the joy of country living – the nearest towns are both market towns that offer farmers markets every month. In fact they both offer a wide range of country stores with wonderful choices of meats, vegetables and housefold effects, such as true oak furniture – lots of it and much of it made locally.
The lovely thing I like about living beyond the town is being able to visit old properties within easy walking distance. The old rectory is up the road and this house dates back to the 1640s in parts. It has the most fantastic atmosphere when you get inside the back kitchen. Firstly the floor is still just impacted earth, that’s been there under matting for hundreds of years. It’s so fantastic to imagine just how many pairs of feet have trodden over it. All th history that has made its mark on the walls and surfaces. The cooking range is quite old and was slotted in the alcove where an original fire pit had been, the range needed a chimney which was already there. There are bread ovens either side of this alcove, cast iron oven doors open up in the wall and are an interesting feature. The larder is off to the side and has quarry tiles that stay seriously cold and this is reflected in the marble shelving – 3 deep sheets of spacious food storage! Then add the gorgeous table and chairs that match the dresser on which the chinawear is displayed. Wooh and fabulous space for we mortals to sit imbibing coffee occationally.
I love being invited into someone’s home when they still have the old family pieces of furniture, especially when there has been grandma’s level of care attached to them. The modern way of thinking includes such instruction as dusting off each piece with eithr a dry lint free duster or very soft brush to remove loose dust from all surfaces. Sometimes it will be necessary to carefully reach the out of the way places with a vacum cleaner brush attachment. You have to take care not to knock the corners or cornices. Next dilute some mild washing up liquid and rinse out a cleaning cloth in it, wringing it out very well so it is barely damp. Must not be more damp as that will ruin the furniture. A very gentle wipe over grain of the surface to remove dirt, will be all that’s needed. Dry off thoughourly with another soft dry cloth. it is critical not to wet the surface, if your cloth is too damp, take steps to blot it dry with copious cloths.
There’s been a fascinating series on mainstream tv by an ex politician who is now a traveller and very decent presenter of interesting facts. He carries a well known rail gujide from the last century – depending on location. His travelogues have become more and more popular – not only is he an engaging personality, but they find interesting folk to chat to in each of the locations filmed. I have seen fantastic historical pieces about early English and European settlers in the States – the stories of racial and ethnic cleansing are humiliating and true, sadly. However, as there’s nothing we can do about our sordid past now, I feel it best to capture the essence of the programmes and enjoy what each person wishes to show me! Fantastic arrays of early furniture are usually the mainstay, and the earliest working machinery. The furniture is so lovingly cherished, moreso in the States and Canada it would seem.
Does anybody else assume you have to live out in the country in a massive mansion or huge cottage before we can begin to take an interest in antiques. I have a slight advantage here in that I volunteered as a room steward at just such a property. I live in an area where there are many properties dating back to the English civil war and before. Admittedly they are all just up the road from the most famous civil war battle ground, which suggests much support for the winning side at the time. The furnitue in the house I know does not all fall into the ‘family antique herloom’ category and is in fact made up of odd buys from other country house sales. At one time the house was livedin by a very famous inerior decorating socialite who came over from the US with her husband and wanted to buy theur way into the very top tie of society. Leasing this housde and filling it with ‘appropriate’ aged furnishings enabled her to look the part and buy into society she certainly did.
Upon opening the cover of my favourite country style living magazine, which is not only nationwide, but also often includes articles from europe and the USA, my eyes hit upon a property very local to me. I nearly fell off my chair because this particular stately pile has always been talked about in hushed tonesd and with a reverence held normally for very very important people. There has been a general assumption that it was still owned by the slightly aristocratic family who bought it some 300 years ago. But upon loooking at the description of the property – in all its glory over 2 pages of the mag, it would seem that it was sold once before, in the early 2000s. Word has now gone round about this incredible bit of news — the local ‘big house’ up on the market for a smidgen short of £10M. It seems absolutely unbelievable. The write up suggests it has eleven bathrooms and sixteen bedrooms. All sorts of statistics fill the paragraph of ‘what we have to offer’. Oh how I would love to be able to pretend to be a buyer on the look out!
It’s faunny thing the way the brain works. Whenever I think of the very very large scandinavian furniture and household emporium, I automatically think of a modern purpose built apartment or town house. Their starkly practical and modern ethos that means everything has to have a function and more if possible, no frills, just good honest pricing with modern materials, it’s hard to picture some of their plainer pieces in a country house setting. There is something so perfect about the prospect of opening up a gorgeous solid oak front door, to reveal oak tables and chairs, chesterfield sofas and everything from a previous period. There’s no reason why modernist furniture can’t be placed in the same setting though. There are many places where simple lines in an old home look especially effective – highlighting the amount of space and breathing room a large house offers! Their kitchens are fantastic too – and no one replaces and old kitchen with another old one, they are alwayts ultra modern chrome and white!
There is certainly something to be said about keeping the beauty of oak furniture in a house. I stay with various relatives and many of them, it must be said, have the scandi pared back to the minimum look about their decor and furnishings. When I then when I get home, I really appreciate mmy oak – specially in the dining room. A few years ago I invested in a fabulous oak side board – it was modern and one I’d seen in a very upmarket retailer a few years before at a much higher price than my household expenditure could run to. So I was thrilled when visiting my local adhoc furnishing store that sells discontinued lines and saw the very same at a much more appealing price. However, that started a bit of a run and I then changed my scandi dining table for an oak one matching the sideboard and then of course, the chairs needed upgrading too! But I love it all and feel at home as soon as I enter the room.