Italian Minstrel

Italian Minstrel

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Beautiful Birds and Bulrushes

This is one of my favourite fabrics, the detail is incredible, beautiful finches and rushes, insects and flowers all in a soft shell pink and ivory on a moss green background. The fabric is cotton, but a heavy serge cotton like canvas almost, just lovely. The fabric is on a pair of large French pleated curtains with the prettiest tops, rosettes where the pleat is, if only I had a room that needed yet more curtains!!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

How Toiles were created...

The Miller, his son and the donkey
This is a charming original Toile, dating from the early 1800s, the subject matter is the miller, his son and the donkey, a fabric which tells a tale, often from Aesop's Fables in illustration. These illustrations were then put onto copper-plate and printed in a single colour onto linen or cotton, the detail being very fine. That is what a toile is and the early dating toiles are very collectable.  By early I mean c. 1770 onwards and some of those fabrics only survive as an original design in a museum.

Often they were part of an eleaborate bed-hanging set and over the years the set would either get separated or parts worn and damaged, so you find pieces and rarely an early complete set, which would be very valuable. This piece is a pelmet, and would have hung from the canopy, hand-quilted and backed in home-spun linen.

Just wonderful when you think every part of the process was hand-made from the illustration being drawn, engraved on the copper-plate, hand-printed onto the fabric which in those days would have been loomed but still 'manned', then the hand-work to back the fabric with hand-spun and loomed linen, and to hand-quilt it, finally the making of the piece to fit the bed for which it was ordered. Really only something that wealthy follk could afford, but because of the naive, pastoral style of the fabric it still endures today.

Monday, 22 August 2011

French Inspiration

Extract from French catalogue c 1900
The above picture is a page from a wonderful French shop catalogue dating from the turn of last century, showing the lovely elegant items of furniture and furnishings on offer for the discerning buyer. These sort of catalogues are very useful to people like me because they give the narrative to things I find, which by themselves might be a bit of a mystery. For example, I might come across pelmet roses or patera, which would probably have formed part of a bed or curtain set, but the rest has long since been separated. So these designs give me a clue as to how to complete the look.

Sometimes also the name of an item is lost, either through translation or disuse of an item, for example, I sell hold back hooks, which essentially are anchored to the wall and are composed of brass or bronze 'arms' that hold back the curtain in the way a tassled tie back would, These have a  name, which is 'embrasse' or embrace (in direct translation) and that makes perfect sense! The brass curves 'embrace' the curtain fabric. Even French sellers do not know the name, so this catalogue is keeping a name alive, that would otherwise be lost.

Speaking of keeping names alive, I was astounded to hear that Collins say the words 'aerodrome' and 'charabanc' are now obsolete words and will no longer be in their short dictionaries, although they may be of interest to historians! They are lovely words, which I very much connect with a 1920s Miss Marple type world, and the loss of them from the dictionary will surely consign them to history. Use these words as often as you can please, strike back and support charming language! I use these words regularly and I really never thought the day would come where my language was obsolete!! Ouch!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

France once more...

Chatea d'Amboise - Loire Valley

We took a short trip to the wonderful Loire Valley a few weeks ago, and to some extent you become accustomed to the the view of a chateau as they are so plentiful, however, this does not mean that you don't want to stop and stare! This is the Chateau d'Amboise which is so imposing and the town so charming, right on the banks of the River Loire, the longest river in France. Flowing through the Loire Valley it seems wide, with occasional islands in the centre creating sometimes dangerous conditions (quick-sand and hazardous whirlpools so we were told ) that catch out the unsuspecting traveller. The River Loire rises in the Ardeche at Mont Gerbier de Jonc and flows into the Bay of Biscay at St. Nazaire some 1020 kilometers later (that is 629 miles to us Imperialists). All along the Loire Valley there are vineyards, producing the lightest and most delicious of wines, mostly white, some reds, and plenty of 'methode traditionelle' sparkling wines which are every bit as good as champagne.

Known as the garden of France, the area between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes is a World Heritage Site, there being a great concentration of Chateaux, around 300!

Whilst in the Loire Valley we visited an antique fair at Chambord, yet another Chateau ( in fact the hunting lodge for King Francois I of France) where we spent the whole day looking at items of all descriptions, including things such as a copper turbotois, the pan in which you would cook turbot, what Mrs. Beeton would call a turbot-kettle, despite it not looking remotely like a kettle but rather kite-shaped. Surely only the French would have such fascinating things for sale!

We found some antique textiles and will be listing them over the next few weeks, as well as some gorgeous bronze curtain fitments, so keep a look out. But in the meanwhile feast your eyes on the chateau built purely as a hunting lodge of the King of France with 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 84 staircases - and just marvel!

Chateau de Chambord

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Golden Lion Rampant from the Loire Valley

Heraldic Lion Rampant

This is a close-up of a gorgeous French 19th C silkwork panel which is a golden lion rampant, all hand-worked in silk on a vertical piece about 8ft long. These vertical borders were often used along the edge of curtains, sometimes portiere (door curtains), or bed hangings. The work is always very neat and unusually this is entirely in silk so very flat and in near perfect condition, with the colours still vibrant as you would expect from silk. This came from a Chateau in the Loire Valley in France - a stunning area and the location of many famous Chateaux throughout French history and of course, noted for its wonderful vineyards and delicious white wines...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

This could be hand-painted velvet

This could be hand-painted velvet - but it isn't! It is the face of a viola, looking for all the world like a wise Chinese Mandarin braving the March winds, and trying to find the watery sun, still weak at the horizon. The good news is, there is enough! And more sun is on its way, slowly rising in the sky, encouraging the birds to find suitable locations for their nests and the leaves to begin to break.

Catkins are flowering (they may look like lamb's tails but they really are flowers) on hazel, the puss-in-willow has shown its soft fur and acid yellow aconites and pure white snowdrops are nearly over, with primroses shyly beginning to show their pure but pale yellow petals. My favourite season is coming and the riot of colour is beginning to build.

The interesting thing about colour is that if it were replicated in exact measures on a textile or fabric we would find it gaudy and unrealistic, but somehow context and scale is all. In our textiles we like subtlety and faded tones, and of course, with the passage of a hundred years or more, that is what happens. The dyes fade, light reacts with materials and we have the equivalent of dried flowers. And we love it.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Our new site, Original Period Interiors

Original Period Interiors
We have recently launched our new web-site, Original Period Interiors where you can find large architectural items for restoration projects as well as a link to our Ebay store for smaller interior pieces to purchase.

We have been wanting to set up this site for a while now, but time always seems to be against us - however we found an excellent photographer,  who has been able to capture the 'magic' of the pieces and that has helped us get started.

The site has some superb original Regency columns and doors, as well as garden pieces and we will be adding to these as time goes on. Do take a look, even if out of curiosity!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Warm and cosy quilts...

Snow Geese at South Walk Farm!
I could not resist this photograph, our stunning pure white geese against the December snow with the wooded valley below, each twig covered in an ice blue hoar frost as beautiful as I've ever seen. The amazing thing is that the geese are impervious to the below zero temperatures, with their thick down beneath the waterproof feathers. I love to bury my fingers into the down when I pick up one of our geese so that I can marvel at the warmth inside. It proves to me why goose down is such a favoured filling for duvets and eiderdowns (although of course the best is the eider feather from the Scandinavian eider duck). Goose-down is light and ultra warm, and perfect for the deep winter we have been having this year.

The French however have another filling for their bed-covers: they use sheep's wool in it's 'just sheared' condition (but obviously washed), and then they hand-quilt the bed-cover to keep the pockets of wool in position. It is also light and speaking from personal experience I would say it might even be a little bit warmer than down. These quilts are often very beautiful and usually hand-worked family heirlooms, increasingly hard to find. There are French cotton quilts too which are just an extra decorative layer to add - however if you want real cosiness look for the French wool quilts!