November 21 2011
I have always identified with the idea of incorporating reclaimed furniture into my decorating scheme. Unfortunately, I did up my current flat on a tight budget, so it was more cost-effective to buy things from Conran, John Lewis and random garden centres – a depressing but undeniable fact.
Recently, however, in one of those cosmic pockets where a theme appears suddenly in one’s life without any reason or warning, a series of reclaimed pieces have captivated my imagination and led to a little investigation into where to get the best reclaimed furniture right now in the UK and beyond. Of course there are always trusty antiques stores and markets such as can be found on Portobello Road or at Kempton Racecourse, but this is less about musty dishevelled sofas and more about bold, design-led pieces in excellent condition, whose talking point is not so much their second-hand nature but rather their rich and striking aesthetic. For brevity’s sake I will keep it limited to the Cotswolds, London, and the world wide web.
The other week, at supper with two rather blokey and ostensibly un-decorative male friends, I was captivated by a lovely old weathered factory crate on wheels that served as a coffee table. It was so striking in its aged and beaten aesthetic that I immediately asked where it was from, and so I was introduced to Original House. Based in Northleach in the Cotswolds, this reclaimed furniture showroom and shop was set up by Archie and Caddy Mackie in 2008, out of a combination of disdain for soulless mass-market pieces and a love of the weathered, the aged, and the unusual. Their beautiful collection ranges from salvaged factory toolboxes in the most romantic of peppermint greens, to cast iron radiators and 1890s cisterns – and their mantra is simple: great design products, like great wines, get better with age. The products they source exude a certain chunkiness and masculinity that situates them leap years ahead of provincial junk stores and fussy antiques. (Pictured: furniture from Original House.)
If you are in the area, it is also worth popping by the famous Burford Garden Company (as I did a few weeks ago on a consumer-driven whim), which, I was pleased to see, has created a stunning series of romantic yet boisterous pastel tables, cabinets and chairs, all made from the wood used for traditional Indonesian fishing boats. They’re wonderfully faded and worn yet tough and sturdy.
For urban dwellers, Vauxhall’s Lassco has long lived up to its reputation as “London’s prime resource for architectural antiques, salvage and curiosities”. Here, the price may be higher, but the product is wide and varied and of the richest craftsmanship. Stained glass windows, age-old church altars, convent colonnades and traditional yacht fittings are but a few of the beauties on offer. What is more, the adjoining Brunswick House Café was recently hailed as “one of the most memorable places to eat in London” by none other than the Financial Times.
But for those based beyond the UK or who prefer to source their homewares from a vibrant online community, Etsy is the place to go. This e-commerce site has hundreds of innovative handmade furniture designs on offer, a number of which have been created with salvaged timber and other materials. Here, you can have one-to-one contact with the seller and thus know all you want about the piece you are buying – when it was made, where the original materials were from; you can even, in many cases, order a bespoke reclaimed design. Top of my list right now would have to be ModernRust (www.etsy.com/people/ModernRust) and Robrray (www.etsy.com/shop/robrray?ref=seller_info).
I say, out with the new, in with the old.