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Crime.

Crime.

In my searches I see plenty of gorgeous furniture.  I see mass produced furniture.  I see bland furniture.  I see ugly furniture.  I see furniture that really should just be at the town dump.  But the furniture that really makes me crazy, is the insanely beautiful old furniture that has been abused.  I don’t say it lightly when I tell you there are people out there committing crimes against furniture.  Yes, furniture crime.

It comes in many forms.  But here are the main culprits:

The DOER-UPER.

These are the well intentioned petty offenders.  They find a beautiful piece of furniture and then with a good heart, set about ‘doing it up’.  But in the process this piece of furniture that has earned its character through years of love and use, is rendered as soulless as if they’d bought a piece of new furniture.  Fine imposed:  Step away from the Black and Decker Mouse.  Put down the Cedar Antique High Gloss Varnish.

The STATEMENT MAKER.

Middle range offender with a need for creative outlet.  They want a statement and I’m all for adding some individuality, but what these people do to good furniture, should be saved for the bargain Gumtree finds.  Cedar chiffoniers covered in neon paint with novelty hardware.  Oak sideboards tricked up with IKEA shelf lighting.  Bentwood chairs (original!) covered in puff paint stencilling and fake fur seat pads.  Fine imposed:  A one week WEA course in Creating Your Own Statement Artwork & Sculpture for Beginners.

The CLUELESS DESTROYER.

These are the worst offenders of all.  Mainly because they don’t know that what they are about to fiddle with is a rare and beautiful thing and also because what they then do is so awful.  These are the people that use a three metre long, centuries old butchers table to pull apart engines, degrease car parts and test drill bits.  They drag original Lloyd Loom chairs out onto a verandah for the cats to sharpen their claws on.  Or as I saw today, they take a beautiful, antique English armchair and they practice their upholstery skills with brown vinyl.

The proportions of these chairs are so lovely.  Big enough to curl up in or for a tall bloke to stretch back into.  This would have been a beautiful chair.  Now, it would squeak when you sat in it.  Three minutes in and you would start sweating.  If you tried to curl up, you’d slide off.  So sad.  Fine imposed:  Case by case.  And having looked now for some time at this poor chair, I don’t know that I can come up with anything.

I just know how long and hard I search for individual pieces for clients and how hard they are to find.  So when after months of searching I do find something, like a big antique armchair, suitable for a bloke over six foot for a wedding anniversary present and I find it, my heart just sinks to think what could have been.

JUDGE’S CLOSING REMARKS

There is some great unwanted furniture bargains available through so many avenues (garage sales, Gumtree, eBay, facebook sites) and these pieces are great for having a play.  Stop them reaching landfill and make your mark.  But if you inherited something from your grandmother, if it came out of an old shed, if it weighs a tonne or if its filled with down stuffing, place it in an auction or online and you might be surprised to find that someone like me, might pay you more than you would ever spend on that hot glue gun, feather boa, glitter paint and those pink rhinestones.

Let’s Talk About Matt.

Let’s Talk About Matt.

I recently got asked at a party what I think of Matt.  I told them I thought he was great in Friends, gave the most consistent laughs, but had really disappointed in all his work since.

Strangely, Matt LeBlanc was not the Matt they were referring to.  They were actually wondering that considering my bent for all things worn, scratched and dented and my overall passion for furniture and design, how I feel about Matt Blatt, the mainly online furniture company that sells mass produced replica’s of highly sought after designer furniture.

Considering I was feeling a little bit silly (champagne, you cheeky minx), I probably should have ignored this question and instead participated in a stunningly in depth conversation about Friends that demonstrated that I should throw this furniture caper away and instead devote my time to writing Friends trivia questions (What is Joey’s middle name? Find the answer at the bottom of this outstanding blog post…).

But anyway, I digress, so, for everyone’s benefit, here is what I think about designer replica furniture.  I appreciate great design and the opportunity to have pieces of furniture (whether original or replica) in your home that are pleasing to look at is a great thing.  I like that they can contribute interest and personality and when worked in with other pieces can make for a really interesting and unique space.

So, yes, I think they have their place, but now for the rest.  What I don’t like is that a lot of them are poorly made interpretations of truly outstanding, revolutionary and innovative design.  I think there is so much beautifully made vintage and antique furniture around that deserves our attention.  At the moment these replica stores are full of imitations of so much Scandinavian and Art Deco style furniture and it kills me that people go and buy a cheap, mass produced copy of these pieces when they could have the real thing for a fraction of the cost if they just took the time to look for it.  The final item is authentic and the quality is so much better.

The mass production of these pieces means that they appear in all the design magazines and renovation shows (to great effect) and quickly lose their uniqueness and so while people look to these stores to add style and individuality they end up looking like everybody else.  Long story short, I love that they are exposing people to great design, but they’re not for me.  And while you can go online and buy new versions of my favourite bentwood chairs for just about the same price of my vintage ones, I like that mine have worn smooth on the seat, that there is colour variation and that the construction is by hand, not by machine.

 

 

 

And Joey’s middle name is Francis.

Hold Onto Your Drawers.

Hold Onto Your Drawers.

If you asked me what one single piece of antique furniture was worth holding onto, I’d say drawers.  Beautifully handcrafted antique drawers in cedar, mahogany and pine are worth keeping no matter how your tastes change.  These universally practical storages pieces are so versatile and can make themselves useful in just about any space.  In bedrooms, as television units, in sitting rooms and in hallways, they add character and a unique element in almost any space.

The auction houses are full of furniture that has lasted for decades (and more) and in the past, those pieces would have been handed down to the next generation.  But as our tastes, our houses and the way we have all live has changed, those pieces of special furniture now no longer feel relevant to us.  But while it is easy to understand the shift away from huge mahogany dining settings and sideboards, there are other pieces that are perfect to keep and mix into the furniture that feels more relevant today – and for me, drawers would be it.

Pine Chest 1  Rustic Chest 6  Drawer 4  dovetail 3  another-pine-chest-1

I always regret that when my parents moved away from the home we grew up in that I was too young to appreciate the antique furniture that we had.  When it came time for them to downsize they specifically asked my sisters and I what we would like to keep, but those precious pieces seemed old and boring to my twenty year old self.  In hindsight they were all beautiful and were things that were precious to not only my parents but their parents as well and I will always struggle to make peace with the fact that they were sent to an auction and are now long gone.

But the pieces that were kept and live in their houses today, are predominantly sets of cedar drawers both large and small and trust me, I won’t be letting them go second time around!

So if you have sets, keep them, use them, hand them on to your children.  And if nobody wants them, send them my way…

 

The Benchmark.

The Benchmark.

In English parks and gardens sit gorgeous teak benches.  These long, simple pieces of outdoor furniture are made from solid teak as it is simply the most amazing timber for outdoor use.  Sturdy, very heavy and with the characteristic of maturing to a subtle steely, silvery, grey these benches are the perfect complement to their lush green gardens.  But an exciting (yes, exciting) fact is that these benches don’t just do well in the mother country, when exposed to the extremes of the Australian climate, they still come up trumps.  Capable of withstanding snow, sun, wind, salty air and sticky playground fingers all without the need to sand or seal, these benches sit in the same spot for decades only getting better with age.

So why the English/Australian outdoor furniture lesson?  Well!  In possibly my most exciting find yet, I am able to offer one of these benches for sale.  This bench is a whopping 2.4 metres long which, after much scouring of the internet, is like the famous hens tooth.  Most companies don’t make them anymore and if they do, you’ll need to find over 2,500 dollar coins in the piggy bank to make it yours.  This bench is in amazing condition and has already achieved the weathered, grey hue that I much prefer to the ‘straight from the factory’ look.  The profile is clean and simple making it perfect for any style of house or garden.  But there is one distinctive detail, that I appreciate and I’m sure you will too.

The arms (which on most benches are quite narrow and gently arched), have been widened slightly, made perfectly flat and with a graceful curve at the end.  Artistic?  Yes.  Practical?  Absolutely!  Who wants to sit on their amazing bench watching the sun set and have to reach for that g&t?  That glass needs to be at just the right spot that you barely have to move and this bench allows exactly that.

teak-bench-2  teak-bench-1  teak-bench-4

So, call it a bench, or call it the most outstanding drink coaster you’ve ever seen, I don’t mind, but don’t dilly dally on this one.  Because it won’t come up again.  And if you don’t believe me, have a skulk around the internet, do a bit of research and you’re realise that this is truly something special.

Available for sale on the website this evening.  Check facebook and instagram for updates.

And please also note, this bench is very long and heavy and will need some logistical planning to fall into your hot little hands, I have some great and affordable delivery options, but if you are interested in purchasing, maybe send me a quick message first and we can discuss.

Make the Leap.

Make the Leap.

I used to read proper fashion magazines.  And I still do, but only when I am at the hairdresser.  And then I have to keep wiping the mirror as I nearly choke on the free glass of bubbles when I see that the insanely beautiful jacket is in fact $12,000?  Sure, let me get my credit card.

But in all of those magazine there is inevitably an article about investment dressing and buying key pieces and then working them back with your ‘high street’ finds.  And there are examples of women with what appears to be effortless style that is made up of a range of different trends and styles and designers and the result is their appearance is unique and interesting.  And this works with furniture too but the difference is that combining a Target t-shirt with a Sass and Bide jacket involves a lot less risk than trying to work out how to find a piece of vintage furniture that will work with your existing Freedom couch.  And there are more dollars involved so the stakes are higher.

But I encourage you to take the leap.

Modern furniture is easily accessible and on trend and affordable and new (and I love something new just as much as the next person).  And there is a place for that in every home.  But unless you are paying crazy prices (which I’m guessing most of us are not), the construction is not great.  The timbers are rarely solid or of good quality and it doesn’t take long for things to start to wear down.  But in a vintage piece, for a fraction of the price, you can own a piece of furniture that has been made likely by hand, with solid timbers and at a time when everything was built to last.

It’s these pieces that add weight and interest to the more modern furniture.  They make them look less like something that everyone else has and more like a one off.  They make your house interesting and individual.  Mix an old chair with a Kmart cushion.  An Ikea table with a set of antique chairs.  A modern upholstered bed with some vintage side tables.  A modern couch with a pair of old armchairs.  A set of old prints, next to a modern canvas.

And that sort of approach is what makes older pieces in our homes look like they are meant to be there and not like something we grudgingly accepted from an old aunt.

And with your witty and practical combinations, people will come to your house and call you the Alexa Chung of interiors.  And you will nod knowingly before skulking off to type her name into google.  And when one of her 1,410,000 results pop up, you will congratulate yourself for being so fabulous and clever and immediately book yourself a hairdressers appointment so you can have her hair.  And while you are at the hairdressers you will be reading a fashion magazine and admire a jacket, see that it’s $12,000, spray your champagne all over the mirror and then be reminded of this article and realise that I am right.

(PS, for those reading this on facebook, I assure you there are paragraphs neatly inserted into this post which is a blog from my website.  But facebook insists on displaying it as one massive block)

 

 

 

Vintage Prints

Vintage Prints.

A lot of prints come up in auctions, particularly in bulk lots (multiple items in the one sale lot) and often they are all truly awful.  But, because I love art, if I get the chance to be at an auction in person I will always flick through the frames to see what’s there.  And sometimes you can find things that are really cool.  Last week I came across two prints by Albrecht Durer (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce his name either) but when I saw them, they immediately grabbed my attention and it was only when I got home that it clicked as to why.

Some of you may remember that I have a woodblock print of a rhino that I have used in some of my photo’s.  It is a print that I inherited from my grandmother and I have always loved it.  Anyway, turns out that the rhino and the two prints that I saw in the auction are by the same artist.  And this is why I love what I do, because that bit of digging in the back of an estate auction led me to two prints that encouraged me to find out more about this amazing artist.

So, Albrecht Durer is an artist who painted mainly in the early 1500’s.  The rhino print he did in 1515 was based only on notes and a sketch from another artist, he never saw the animal in real life.  But the reason the rhino image he created is so iconic and well known is the drawing he did (originally in pen and then made into a wood block print) was an exaggeration of the ‘fable’ of the animal.  He drew it in such a way to increase the impact and presence of the rhino’s form to make it appear more impressive and to give it’s hide the effect of being like a suit of armour.  This was unusual for the time when most art was only appreciated for its adherence to reality.

The prints that I bought last week were from his earlier work and are in a more traditional style.  ‘A Young Hare’ which he painted in 1502 was a watercolour and gouche and was likely done from a stuffed form as opposed to a live animal (cue my love of taxidermy!) and is particularly recognised for its detailed likeness, and individual features including whiskers and the reflection of a window in the hare’s eye.  The other print is of two squirrels titled ‘Two Squirrels, One Eating a Hazelnut’ and it was painted in 1512, but there is less known about this painting.

Anyway, I appreciate it’s a Friday night before a long weekend and the prospect of getting the bubbles into your glass is likely a far more exciting prospect than my discovery of some dusty prints, but I love art and I love realism and I love thinking about the fact that these images were created over 400 years ago by some crazy dude with a name I can’t pronounce.  So, I suppose cheers to that?

durer-hare durer-rhino durer-squirrel

The Coolest Safe You’ll Ever Meat.

This is the coolest safe you’ll ever meat.

(I used to work in advertising and when we wrote copy the question was often asked, ‘is it funny, or is it just punny?’  Lucky for me, I can be as punny as I like in my own little domain.  And I’m laughing.)

Anyway, this beautiful meat safe caught my eye because of its original condition and beautiful character and finish.  It’s not perfect and definitely not the place to store your meat, but for children’s books and toys, wine glasses, platters and vases, dvd’s and board games it would make a really lovely and unique storage piece.

Meat Safe 1

Full description, dimensions and more photos on the website this afternoon.

More Naked Ladies.

Charcoal 2

Those who’ve been on The Dovetail Trader bandwagon since the beginning know that when it comes to artwork, I do have a bent for naked ladies.  So, as I started to search for art to offer alongside the furniture, it seemed only fitting that a few beautiful bodies, minus their clothes, would crop up.  And here is the first.

I saw this original charcoal and watercolour a few months back on a site that represents independent artists in the UK and I’ve kept thinking about it.  Why?  Done in the late 70’s, I like the loose and casual style of the composition and that it is almost abstract in its omission of certain parts.  The pose is quite relaxed, not too confronting (no nipples!) and almost ladylike.  It makes me think of someone sitting in the sun.

Available for sale on the website.

Taxidermy.

Horns 1Taxidermy is very divisive.  You either love it and spend hours searching for it in auctions and on ebay (me) or you think it is weird and creepy to have dead stuff in your house (most people).  Obviously, I love it.  I love the really traditional beautiful regal mounted heads (just like Charles, see my facebook page for a formal introduction) and get a massive laugh from the double headed ducks and the frogs with walking sticks and top hats.

Taxidermy, became bang on trend a few years ago and every stylist going around tacked up a stag head or a set of horns in all the interiors they photographed.  For the fabulous mounts, it was brilliant, they got dragged from sheds and man caves, had their pelts hoovered (NEVER do this) and their eyes made sparkly with Spray and Wipe.  They were everywhere and the prices went through the roof, but then through being massively overused they became unfashionable as they are their cardboard counterparts flooded the market.

This spate of popularity and their more recent falling out of favour, means that having not been in auctions for years, or being there but being hugely overpriced, they are starting to appear again and I couldn’t be happier.  Because taxidermy shouldn’t be about fashion.  Owning a piece of taxidermy is about a genuine love and appreciation for animals and the natural world and a desire to have a reminder of that in your home.  Charles, our stag, I chose for his kind face and proud, masculine presence.  He looks over our sitting room and is truly part of the family (and a super low cost pet) but I won’t try and explain it further because it does just sound weird.

So I encourage you to look, if not for a full piece of taxidermy, but perhaps for beautiful emu or robin’s eggs, nautilus shells, antlers, skulls and sun bleached bones.  These are great decorator pieces and as long as you steer away from the animals preserved in jars of formaldehyde, I promise people won’t think you’re too loko.

And finally, all these pieces are great conversation starters.  What better way to break the ice than to recount the time you had a stand off with the irate feral buffalo in the NT bush?  Or I suppose you could just say you bought it, but where’s the fun in that?

What’s The Rub?

Sir Robert 1

Between the 13th and the 16th century, in churches all over England, beautiful brass plaques were laid into the floors.  These incredibly intricate and detailed images depicted notable men and women from the area and also family trees and historical information.  And up until the early 1990’s people (mostly passionate historically focussed Brits) would visit these churches with huge rolls of butchers paper and something called ‘heelball’ and create what are known as brass rubbings.

By laying the paper on the floor over the images and rubbing the heelball (which is like a waxy black crayon that was most often used to clean shoes) gently over the image, they would transfer the image to paper and then apply that paper to a backing board and frame it.  More recently, well, actually the late 70’s and 80’s when everything went a bit disco, the trend was to use black paper and silver and gold crayons, but those rubbings have never really appealed to me.  To blingy.

I have always been aware of brass rubbings as they hung on the walls of our house as children as my mother had lived in the UK for five years in the 60’s and had jumped on the bandwagon and had traipsed to cold dark churches and knelt on the freezing floor to get her pieces.  I love them for three reasons.  First, I love black and white.  Second, the detail and design in these images is just insane.  And what makes them more insane is it would take an extreme talent to make these today with all the technology we have available and to think that these were made as far back as the 13th century, by hand and in brass!  The skill is just fascinating.  And finally, the third reason, they are big.

Big art is hard to find and while there is an influx of big, mass produced modern art through online sites, these rubbings are big pieces that have huge impact and you won’t find them everywhere, they are really unique.  And they are not just for people with a medieval bent.  You don’t need a suit of armour by the door or a lions head rug to make these work.  With their monochromatic colour scheme and simple framing they work in any space.

They tend to pop up occasionally in auctions and online, but I have only seen two that were worth the bidding and then the logistics of getting them back and both are available for sale today through the website.  Make sure you check your measurements as both are extremely large.

Oh, and you won’t see any new ones of these popping up.  In the early 90’s the practice of taking brass rubbings was almost exclusively banned as their popularity meant that too much wear was being made to the plaques.

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