You can’t imagine these days being part of the 1920s and ’30s social scene where the need to follow social etiquette to the nth degree was absolutely critical. I have lots of dealings with a historic house that used to be governed by these very conventions. Here I am thinking of the ‘coming out’ ball held in 1876 for one of the daughters of the house I’m attached to. The father not only had his house extended to accommodate a small ball room, but upon finding out that a nearby palacial pile had added an even grander, bigger ballroom, he then had yet another built on at the back of his house. Ensuring the correct style of furniture – up to date for its day was also absolutely essential. It’s so easy these days to furnish our houses and be utterly relaxed about it whilst we choose from some of the best online sites out there today!
I currently help out as a volunteer in a country house – it’s been open to the public for many years but it has been applauded far more for the wonderful gardens which are world famous. Anyway, the house has been blessed with a vast amount of heritage lottery funding to enable them to open up the basement area which was the original male servants’ working and sleeping domain. There is a Butler’s Pantry with original work benches and huge storage cupboards. In the Footmens’ bedrooms there are beds and basic wardrobes etc. Although it is still spartan, I can’t help thinking these would seem like ultimate luxury for servants in the 1780s to 1930 period. The rooms in the upper house are set in different owner time zones and reflect differing fashions and tastes in furniture – that said, it’s all much more luxurious than downstairs with comfort and warmth very much in mind.
I do love wandering around historic houses and churches. In fact we used to plan all our family holidays to take in cities and towns with a good choice – no houses, no camping. After many years of this activity, it begins to feel very ‘same as, same as’ and I found myself being completely zoned out whenever I came upon a ‘green bedrom’ or another ‘yellow drawing room’. so it was with great joy that I came across the unexpected joy of finding a modern country house open for viewing. This one is so different from my usual choice – seriously modern with clean lines, no frills, stark architectural lines. I really enjoyed looking at each room setting which ranged from the late 1940s through to the end of the 1970s. The different decades reflected in the choice of furniture and furnishings – some bright brash colours. The monochrome dining room with matching chinaware and kitchen linens. Fantastic fun.
I have lived in my nice comfortable family sized home for nearly 20 years and it has been a source of constant joy with very little to get me down. When our family moved into this house just as it was finished being built – the paint just about drying on the walls . . . we bought a lot of the scandinavian flatpack furniture that was so popular in that time. It served us well and I still have much of it dotted around. My joy though a couple of years ago was to refurnish my main dining room and all the bedrooms. I decided that a little more classic furniture with some style was needed to give my comfort an oomph. I chose oak furniture throughout – the colour varies on each piece and the feeling of warmth is wonderful. I particularly like the lighter oak – nothing oppressive or heavy about my stunningly beautiful sideboard.
Now that Spring has finally decided it’s time it sprung, we are seeing a great rise in the number of folk getting their houses out on the market. There’s nothing quite like an early Easter holiday to get the decorator in us racing down to the diy emporiums and selecting paint sample pots, fabric swatches, new cabinet catalogues and even more exciting – new furniture booklets. I have recently helped a young relative make the big step up from living in a small and very conveniently sized starter home up to the dream home in the country. They had filled their dear little house with carefully chosen modular units from the well known scandinavian outlet – it was very effective for the purpose and they enjoyed 4 comfortable and easily mainained years. Now though they’re up for the generation change – only oak furniture with the right period look is being considered and it all looks fantastic.
Sometimes you just need to get away from the everyday humdrum. Taking a break in a country cottage for example can give you an instant lift. The cottage is more than likely going to be in a seriously gorgeous part of the country; the interior design and layout of the place will be old, characterful and full of history – and the more of that we can enjoy, the more our own little existence becomes worthwhile. I really do love living in a modern airy and very spacious detached exec property – it suits me well for the most part. Sometimes though I do hanker for the old, very ancient feel of a historic property. The interior designers of today have much work to do when they want to give more space for families – we own so much clutter now. The kitchen equipment alone needs space !
I subscribe to a certain online magazine supply site. It has been an absolute revelation I have to say – all the wonderful house and home publications are there and I recently found myself completely lost for hours reading back issues of an old favourite that deals primarily with expensiver homes and even more expensive antiques. I absolutely love being able to see inside other folks’ homes and it is such an inspiration to see what they have done with a particular style. Taks a 1920s built property, it will invariably have the gorgeous little touches that were so popular in that period – usually in the form of hand crafted woodwork in the kitchen, bathroom, stairs and of course, the bedrooms. Today modern designs are being used in refits and with a good project team on board, some fantastic schemes are coming to the fore.
I really love the feeling of oak for all kinds of furnishings. Be this the dining room suite – or the bedroom ensemble. There is no surer way to make the room look well furnished and stylish than ny using oak. I have often been around show rooms where they have all kinds of modern arrangements on view. This excites me as I can usually see the potential of this piece or that in any setting. If I am working on someone’s new scheme, I obviously ask them for their ideas of what constitutes a really well dressed and furnished room. Invariably the oak table and sideboard is left out of their thinking. I know not why, but once I introduce this idea, they are with it all the way. The warmth and versatility of the wood cannot be beaten, especially by the low cost mass produced scandnavian home fillers that still abound.
One of the absolute joys of belonging to any or all of the main heritage property groups is of course to visit a selection every year. Sometimes I achieve this, but usually I miss their opening dates or just can’t be in that area at the right time. The historic houses group is a favourite of mine because they are fabulous old buildings that families still live in and call home. Most have had to make changes , sell a few of the fine art pictures, confine themselves to the draughty west wing allowing visiting public on open days to wander around the other rooms. I love seeing the wonderful furniture and take in their ancient smells. Wondering what stories these fantastic old pieces could tell us. But then I come home, whack up the cental heating and plonk myself on my very modern sofa or eat at my very modern but sturdy oak table – no draughts, but a feeling of wellbeing all the same.
I was meandering around a strangely old fashioned furniture store – I’d been there several times over the years. Usually to view their end of year clear out sale. I was very lucky to have gone in just as they unlocked the door one particular 02 January. Anyway, I was happily mooching about when my eyes lit upon the most gorgeous sideboard. it was sat in an alcove, no labels or price board on show. I knew immediatey this was from the design sold by a particularly helpful but expensive department store and when it came out about 6 years ago, I lusted after it for months until finally having to concede defeat – the sheer cost would have bankrupted me.
But here is was in an end of lines, end of season sale! The speed with which I purchased this piece of modern furniture cannot be adeuately described. It is still stunning and I still love it, years later!