While everyone seems to be talking about the rise of ‘slow cooking’….. taking ones time over a bean or beef stew for example, rarely do you hear, in mainstream media, about the virtues of slow decorating….from the couples on Grand Designs who sit on their red Italian leather sofas (I’ve mentioned those before) next to their vases of crinkly twigs who you never hear saying “Im just waiting to find a nice coffee table to go just there….” through to the folk on Kirsty’s Vintage Home who, despite their flea market sourcing and admirable crafting, seemed to pull off a ‘ta dah’ moment after only a couple of weeks. Even if your style does lean towards eclectic vintage as opposed to groomed Italian, with high street shops doing a great line in vintage-look furniture, lighting and accessories its oh so tempting to shop the look in one fell swoop. Particularly for one such as me who is now impatiently staring at our painted and carpeted box of a lounge wishing I could instantly upgrade the TV table (to what I’m not yet sure….) and furnish the walls with a quirky arrangement of lovely ….something’s …pictures? Photos? Mirrors? Artefacts of some kind? All of which will, of course, take time and patience to put together. I’m not sure I have much of either.
Visiting a friend recently and seeing how she and her husband continuously adapt their versatile and inspiring kitchen extension to incorporate the changing needs of family life it was a reminder once again of how a space needs to be lived in, experienced and rearranged multiple times in order to develop into the complex and comfortable space a home should be. A layout stuck to religiously for the sole reason that it was the ‘original concept’ allows little room for expression. Items within should, I think, be added into the space over time with each piece adding its own bit of narrative to the mix. At least that’s what I believe. What I do is another matter entirely. I’m guilty of feeling beholden to an initial layout, planned painstakingly on graph paper but which may not be working quite so harmoniously in 3D. I’m also guilty of feeling inexplicably excited walking around John Lewis ….with often only the enforced financial reining as opposed to my much documented (here) decorating ‘values’ stopping me from buying into the one-stop-shop look.
Despite claiming at the beginning of this process that we would try, as far as possible, to Reduce (ha) Reuse Recycle when it came to sourcing items for this house….I have not yet been to an antiques fair. In fact I only realised such a thing existed a few months ago when Kirsty sung the praises of rainy Newbury. I have been, in my defence, to a couple of salvage yards. Admittedly I’ve crossed the thresholds of numerous charity shops…every singe one in North Yorkshire I think. We’ve had tremendous luck garageering and lofting….with a number of special heirlooms gifted to us to be treasured for decades more to come. And I’m causing the onslaught of arthritis in my middle finger by swiping through countless Ebay images on a nightly basis. We have though, on more occasions than Ill care to admit, both been tempted by the glossily styled quick fixes of Habitat and John Lewis with our values quashed for want of speed. This week, however, I experienced proof that searching, rummaging and holding out for the right piece at the right price pays dividends….my purse, my house and my uplifted spirits thanked me. (My husband simply sighed.)
It started with a trip to see a chap called Abel Sloane, championed by the blog My Friends House from whom I had bought, via email, a solitary bentwood chair billed affectionately as The Lonely Lonesome. I had my eye on a desk or two, somewhat crazily as I have four vintage ones complete with attached chairs in the shed waiting for a time when I’m not so sick of sanding that I can turn my hand to refurbishing them……one for O’s room (or possibly the snug) and the rest to be put up for sale. So with the appointment booked in which to browse the rest of his wares and collect the chair I had called a friend, an Ebay Queen whose house I alluded to above, who has furnished her home with gems by the combined use of a canny eye, effortless styling and a sense of humour. She needed little encouragement to accompany me….the natural instinct to rummage somewhat hard to curb once it has taken its bite.
The shop, it turned out, was not one. It was a garage, filled to the brim with the fabulous chairs you will see, if you care to take a look, on his website. A deal was struck and the lonely chair came home to be introduced to my dressing table along with one of the oak topped and rusty legged desks. A potential bedside table? I had thought….if the legs were lopped a little shorter? It was trialled for a day as such but the boisterously big new kingsize bed has squeezed it out. Its now moonlighting as a temporary side table in a temporary corner – our kitchen extension having been rearranged inspired by the anecdote above….new dining table position (against what was once referred to as the avocado sofa wall) working a treat but more thought needed to the new ‘sofa corner’. So the desks exact destination may as yet be uncertain but I assure you it is loved nonetheless.
Following our forecourt exchange and in need of a coffee before my afternoon of painting was due to commence, we headed to the local high street where my friend suggested we stop in at a few charity furniture shops – chairs she had bought for tuppence were selling at Abels tumblr site for hundreds. In need of no better excuse, in we went.
Shortly into our mooch I found an oak bookcase.
“Im looking for one for O’s room” I said. Though in truth storage for only three of his well-thumbed books is actually needed. The rest are merely ornamental.
We turned over the price tag.
“Buy it.” my friend urged.
“It won’t fit in the car!” I said, the chair and desk having already been shoehorned in next to O’s empty carseat.
“The seats go down.” she said.
“Im not sure how….”I admitted reluctantly, my inability to work any part of a car other than operating the key, wheels, and pedals a serious character flaw for a wannabe treasure hunter.
“I’ll work it out. Don’t let that stop you.”
We perused some more.
“Im after a round table” my friend said
“Me too, for the lounge next to the armchair” I echoed.
“No, I mean a dining table.” she corrected. We both looked. There stood a sturdy wooden extendable table with elegantly tapered legs. It’s price? Almost nothing. The very next day, in an achingly trendy vintage shop in Islington I saw a similar table for, I kid you not, £1495.
Buoyed by our finds and propelled by the promise of more we circled the shop again, like furniture vultures, raking past the Ikea wardrobes and overstuffed chintz sofas to find G Plan wardrobes and sideboards (we stood contemplating both for ages but try as we might between us couldn’t think of a space in either home in which to put either), cute sewing tables with secret kniting baskets and battered chests of drawers. My friend came away with the table and a kitchen cupboard complete with lock and key, bought for her kitchen crockery. I bought a worn tallboy to be used as a linen cupboard perhaps in need of a light sand but its bumps and grazes all part of its character, the bookcase for O and a record cupboard decked out (excuse the pun) with pigeon holes destined to be used for the less glamorous purpose of office filing. My haul, plus delivery, secured for a cockney ton.
So bug having truly bitten I’m joining the same friend for a bit more bargain hunting this weekend..
Dress code: Pyjamas.
Destination: Car boot.