The Un-Distructible

Taste is as evolutionary as it is individual and it changes with lifestyle.

Picture this:As a child, growing up in a flat in Amsterdam, space was at a premium and  I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of toys and projects displayed at one time. Things  had to be in order if we had guests unexpectedly or by invitation. As an only child, I probably spent more time around adults than children with siblings.  I matured faster than many of  my peers and moved out of my parents home at an early age. I remember thinking how I definitely did not want dark, old furniture dominating my living space ( like many of my relatives and parents had).  I went with an oversized white leather sofa suite  in a rather small scale space, typical of Dutch architecture , minimalist walls and a huge  arc lamp, with trajectory swiveling  360 degrees but usually positioned to fall over a glass topmammoth /marble base  coffee table — Any other space  was consumed by stereo equipment to balance out my headbanger heaven.

I can always relate to clients who come to us with desire to make a transition in their decor that involves adding antiques to a relatively modern environment.  I enjoy furniture without apparent history as well as those in which I am profoundly enlightened by well-documented provenance that is connected to a particular style, name or manufacturer.   And oh yes,  my taste has changed. I have to admit to having some of the ‘dark’ furniture at which I once so proudly scoffed!

Many newlyweds start out with ‘early attic’ and when kids come along, they decide to keep it for a while or not add anything to maximize playspace. My parents were in their thirties when they married and created me. Their decor reflected an appreciation inherited showpieces and mature taste. All are happy as the ‘little sprouts’ toddle and bump and fall as carefree and innocent as childhood allows.  Later, we stroll through labarinth of disposable, trendy furniture like Ikea, and antiques is a word that fades out of our decorating vocabulary for a while. Why is this? 

William Morris believed simple philosophy was that a home should only be filled with the beautiful or the functional. Why not from the very beginning? If  ‘ little sprout’  takes a magic marker to a 300 year old trunk , it’s wood.  Just remove the marker bits and re-stain the area. It may even add extra character and until little sprout takes his/her art to safer surfaces. And if s/he wants to crawl on top of it,  it won’t hurt.  It’s a survivor of hundreds of years already. Scuffs? been there done that , Heavy marks and nicks? BTDT too. I just have one magical word  to say to you…

Patina!  It’s what makes or breaks the beauty and ‘story’ of your antique piece.  It’s miracle is that it has survived so much already, there’s little you can do that won’t add to it accumulated ‘character’.  So don’t hold back –start enjoying the world of collecting when the bug bits you.  There are some good bets that although pricey on the front end will save you money and even increase in value for you in the longer term. If you are a young parent considering a transition in your decor to  ‘real furniture’ that can withstand teething marks and magic markers here are some tips  you might find helpful:

Look for indestructible pieces of solid construction out of pure woods not MDF or other composites that cannot sustain water or damp and simply are not lasting.

Trunk lids can translate to smashed fingers, so bungy cord the trunk or cover it, when Testoster Ronny is in the room.  If you have the luxury of keeping antiques in their special room, still bungee cord it unless its in bright sunlight,  which over time can  create  subtle to stark strapmarks.  One grandmother turned her trunk upside down for about a year, and put cloth on it, untill it was ‘safe’ for grandkids to be around it. 

When you have ‘big people’ over it will be easy for children to model  appropriate behavior with several attentive watchers in the room to monitor and firmly  instruct.  Kids learn faster than you think. It will be more a problem with visiting children than with your own before you know it.  A good way to teach small children is to stage a little tea party just with them, kind of like a dress rehearsal before ‘company’ comes. Let them get involved in everything, handwritten invites, dressing up, picking out what to serve and on what, etc.  Use apple juice in coffee cups for example — so they get used to the idea of seeing  ‘big peoples’ cups and saucers.  Have some kids topics to talk about and keep the time short so it doesn’t exaust their attention span. Reward their behaviour by change of clothes and wild and raucous play where  this is allowed.

Acquire things that you can hang up high. By the time toddlers grow up to it, they know what it is. Consider Flemish mirror for example. (separate topic in sidebar). 

Oak, dark , rustic pieces can withstand markers and stroller bumps best.  Some parents never remove things like this because its part of growing up and becomes part of the story of the furniture or amusing  family anecdotes.

Another good addition is an antique bed for kids.  Sadly, most antique beds are perfectly sized for kids and the smaller scale will give their room more play space. The styles are quite variable and the construction is of solid wood , which is very durable and can be restored easily in later stadium. Unlike other choices, you’ll retain value and as child matures, the bed can be re-invested when child wants to exert his or her taste.

Accessories like wooden ship winches,  antique croquet balls, cigar moulds are pretty indestructible and can’t be swallowed. They add little touches of character and converstaion pieces , and provide great excuses to amuse children with history, enrich their study experiences, relate to family travels.

Any search engine will spit out an endless list of actions in attempt to childproof a home in general. Not all circumstances are controllable all of the time as kids constantly remind us. Starting early to show your appreciation for antique and collectibles might be one of the nicest gifts your family will share in more ways than one.  If your taste changes, don’t be shy. There’s a myriad of things to collect that fit all purses. Go with your heart desire and start tracking the marvelous!  It will provide a lot of fun and enrichment as the family explores the markets together and can enjoy the rich history of these wonderful pieces.


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