Home decoration: Six vintage items every home should have

Home decoration: Six vintage items every home should have

[timgcap=Give your home flair like this antique Danish office chair. File picture.][/timgcap]

Those add-water-and-stir spaces, studded with nothing but expected, appropriate, new pieces, generally deliver a flat, tuneless finish.

Honestly accrued interiors are marked by a sprinkling of characterful, personal buys. Add a vintage or antique dimension with just a few, well-chosen things infused with quality and fascination.

An Old Painting

One old painting (or 28 old paintings). Before you fling that art-by-the-metre into the trolley at your local home super-store along with the cushions and bird feeders, with a hideous “chang” — let’s get real.

There are tens of thousands of beautiful paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints waiting for rediscovery. To fill a wall with wonder, forget Tulips in New York painted in a Chinese factory in rude impasto, and take a look through the catalogue of an art auction online.

Trust me — you would be better off having a go yourself and why not?

Great Irish art from even the early 20th century starts in the low hundreds, framed, finished and often with some Royal Hibernian Academy history riding on a label on the back.

Buy art not because you think you should — but because you cannot live without it. Try Collect Ireland for current online sales that view for a comfortable couple of weeks.

Morgan O’Driscoll of Skibereen is excellent, collectireland.com. Clever investors never miss the graduation show of their local college of art.


Having recently unearthed my parents’ late 1960s Bang & Olufsen equipment — King Crimson and the Meet the Beatles has relaunched to the atmosphere with deafening certainty.

Choose from vintage decks, old suitcase players or new record players with CD capability, radio and a USB port that allow you to create MP3s on your computer from vinyl.

Old records and old players offer a unique sound actually enhanced by slight variations in the grooves of the old vinyl and the gearing of the player arm.

The turntable itself (termed by buffs as the platter and cushion) should spin liquid and flat.

See my full guide to buying equipment here.

A Chiffonier

Storage cabinets from the Regency period forward offer quality and value that cannot be beaten for equivalent, handcrafted furniture from a studio or high street hanger.

The antique chiffonier has fallen from favour, and you can expect to get a “rag picker” (from the French for a rag-keeper) in mahogany with some scrolled Rococo carving for as little as €200.

This will be shared over cupboards, drawers and (if you’re lucky) — a raised brass gallery and a glorious serpentine mirror or up-stand.

Early rosewood pieces, dark “plum pudding” mahogany or Irish-made early 19th-century examples with Ionic columns, will command a premium.

Mirrors and top pieces can be kept with the piece or used separately as a bed-head or fabulous mirror. Look for swelling ‘cushion fronted’ drawers, oak lining, internal slide-out shelving and structural integrity when you buy or bid.

With a nice high surface — they are ideal for a wider front hall.

Vintage Coffee Service

Home decoration: Six vintage items every home should have

Remember those tall waisted coffee pots and percolators that littered the top shelves of second hand shops years ago?

Try finding them now. Ceramics are an ideal way to not only own some design of the time, but to actually use it for high days and holidays.

For 60s groove, go straight to the work of Susan William-Ellis for Portmeirion. Her Totem ware c.1963 in a deep moss green, white (rare) or mustard brown includes raised tribal relief work in fascinating tall cylinders, triangular handles and tight little barrel shaped coffee cups.

The collection was produced into the 1970s, so there’s plenty of William-Ellis on Ebay, so you can collect a set piece by piece.

Don’t buy anything chipped and ensure the lids are undamaged and original. Cups and saucers from €10, coffee pots from €40.

Take a look at John Cuffley’s gilded black 1970s Phoenix set for Portmeirion — eccentric and very, very cool.

Oriental Rug

Oriental and tribal rugs don’t have to cost the earth, and if you prefer something brand new, the heritage is woven into the pieces if you source them correctly.

Belouch to Kilims can serve on the floor, act as very rock-and-roll bed heads or be hung on any wall bar the bathroom or kitchen where they will simply get greasy.

Carpets can be sourced from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the Caucuses, from India and China, Turkey and Morocco.

Take the terror out of the investment by working with a good auction house, or by approaching a seasoned, reputable dealer who will steer you away from chemical dyes, machine made carpets and (if you’re looking for something truly old) will guide you to a rug from the pre-industrial era with a high knot count.

Ensure you understand the care and cleaning deserved by an old dear. Peter Linden is widely acknowledged as the leading specialist and dealer in the country (now appointment only), peterlinden.com.

Orphaned dining chairs

What’s a single occasional the rest of the time? Anything you like. Every auction contains a couple of odd chairs dissociated from their original set.

You might even find a nice small “lady’s” chair, intended for placement for visitors or dressing up a corner of a reception room. Choose from Victorian balloon backs to G-plan mid-century teak.

Try one in a bedroom as an attractive spot to throw your dressing-gown or use a sturdy Arts and Crafts chair with simple lines as a perch in the front hall to get your shoes off.

To test a chair’s integrity — look for signs of worm in any softwood components. Then taking the top rail at a corner, nudge it sideways across the seat to check for rocking-and-rolling on failing joints.

Drop-in seats are an easy repair, but key in any necessary refurbishment to sprung upholstery.

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