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Yes? No? Maybe So?

Could it be? What is old is new again: antiques are coming back in favor? For about the last decade, modern furniture and interiors have reigned. Modern and contemporary furniture have fetched incredibly high prices at auction and asking prices at retail have been higher than a four-year private college education. Perhaps, people are seeing the warmth, beauty and historical importance of antiques once again?

After all, many “new” furniture pieces by designers have been inspired by old designs. But that is a post for a later time.

Antique furniture has had it rough lately, and especially in the last eighteen months. Although 2008 saw some high prices at the higher end of the market, the middle market tanked. With the collapse of Lehman Brothers, fewer homes sales and a plunging stock market, sales of antique items showed even larger decline. Items were barely moving at auction, and if they did some pieces reached a quarter of the hammer price from just a little over a year ago. Some retail dealers priced their stock significantly lower. By the fourth quarter of last year, the top end of the market has also bombed.

Personally, I was so pleased to read about designers beginning to incorporate antiques into their designs. Wendy Moonan wrote about this in the NY Times on the annual Kips Bay decorator show house. (You can read this

So, what do we think? With a little creativity and some cash in our pockets, would any of you incorporate the following items into your homes? What would you pair one of these items with? How would you recover some of these chairs for a cleaner, more stylish look?

1. A pair of Directoire Fauteuils? (Christie’s, Paris - April 7, 2009)

2. A Late George II Giltwood Overmantle Mirror. (Christie's, London - July 12, 2007). Would you use this? It is big – 66” x 66½ “.

3. A George III Satinwood, Mahogany and Amaranth Marquetry Demi-Lune Commode (Christie’s, London - March 18, 2009)

4. A Neoclassical white marble, green-painted, parcel-gilt and faux-marble decorated console table. Swedish? German? (
Sotheby’s, NYC April 3, 2009.) Would you put a mirror over this? A painting? A series of etchings or old maps?

5. A Regency Mahogany Daybed (Christie’s, London - June 7, 2007)
Where would you put this? And what upholstery would you recover it in? (I think the lines on this is fab…)

6. A Pair of George III Black Japanned Armchairs (Sotheby’s, London - May 17, 2005)

7. Vargueno?

8. A Swedish Neoclassical ormolu, cut-glass and sea blue twelve-light chandelier, (Sotheby’s, NYC - April 3, 2009). I forgot to document the size, but I recall the diameter was not that big. I was searching for this stuff very late at night. Make up your own size? Would you use this in a saucy bathroom? Bedroom? Foyer? Modern retractable glassed-in room?

9. A Pair of George Mahogany Hall Chairs, (
Sotheby’s, NYC - April 5, 2006). Oil the wood a bit and then place them against a wall in a wide hallway and marry it with a bright, bold graphic rug? Yes no? Intriguing or unsettling?

10. Papier-Mâché Table - (Stamford Auction, Norwalk, CT, February 11, 2007). In an all-white room?

11. An English Mahogany Gout Stool from the eighteenth century? (
Canterbury Auction Galleries: West Canterbury, Kent, UK - September 16, 2008)

Recover it and push up against the window for a little dog or cat to recline and gaze out to watch the birds outside? Or the traffic? Or so they can watch for that particular mail man that they detest?

Just for fun:

12. Would anyone want this? Those who don't would you at least dare yourself to touch the bellies of these little frogs? (
Desert West Auction Service: Mimbres, New Mexico, US - November 22, 2008). Cool or creepy?

Tea Time !

The tea table was a culturally charged piece of furniture. It was first introduced by the Dutch and then the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, the queen of Charles II introduced it to the English court in the seventeenth century. And then its popularity quickly spread. It was new. It was beguiling. It was ambiguous. Its surface could change. It could be horizontal when in use or vertical when not. It was foldable. It was movable. It was important.

What recession? This early eighteenth century number had an estimate of $12,000-$18,000 back in October of 2008. Someone snagged it for over $48,000 at Northeast Auctions.

Important enough to hold tea and all of the exquisite expensive porcelain and silver items with which to serve it. It signified wealth and good breeding/taste. It smelled of money.

George I walnut tea table. I like the dainty pad feet. Circa 1720 available at Mallett's.

The tea table was a symbol of social rank, civility and family stability. It commanded tightly scripted ceremonies and behavior. During the first quarter on the eighteenth century, wealthy people sat around the tea table and enjoyed their luxurious commodity. They were refined, gentle, and knew proper etiquette. The tea table’s surface was decorated with expensive porcelain to drink the tea from. Drinking tea meant genteel behavior. It meant you were privileged and you could afford it.

Tea items on a tray were arranged in a specific order and served in a particular way based on age, gender and rank. People would huddle around it. So close sometimes that hot water was poured upon their heads. Tea time was formal event, with both men and women or casual with friends. It followed a strict code of etiquette. Tea warmed the body, and caffeine stimulated the mind. The finely polished mahogany of the table was a visual treat for any guest. Little children who placed their greasy fingerprints upon it were scolded. Tea tables varied from square to circular. Some had scalloped edges, and some were japanned.

Clinton Howell.

Over the century the price of tea tumbled and by century’s end, the wealthy merchant class as well as the common laborer was drinking it. Tea was portable and easily prepared and tea tables had to be stylish enough to carry out the performance of tea pouring and tea drinking. The tea table was the stage. The design had to reflect the latest fashions. The people sitting around it had to understand the performance of pouring tea and turning one’s spoon in the cup to drink from just so. Spoon etiquette was very important. One was never to stir one’s spoon, but gently fold the tea slowly from the six o’clock position to the twelve.

Tea cups with a handle were held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie up. This allowed for balance. In order to drink a cup with no handle, one only needed to place one’s thumb at the six o'clock position and one’s index and middle fingers; you could at the twelve o'clock position, but again one must gently raise one’s pinkie for balance. And never ever pick up a sugar cube with your fingers, only use sugar tongs or else risk loosing your reputation. These codes of behavior were a way to weed out those who did not belong: The bourgeoisie. The working class.

Available at Michael Lipitch (Knees on the legs look to be carved at a later date...)

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, as the price of tea dropped more modest and affordable tea tables were produced. The elite did not like this. Accusations of over indulgence, negligence and flouting of natural social order were heard. Doctors and philanthropists published articles raging against classes other than the wealthy drinking tea. They stated it was bad for the lower classes health. Hot tea would make the blood boil and even cause death. Many of the wealthy of the time believed that the social habits of the poor must be controlled. An anonymous writer wrote a pamphlet and circulated it widely. Drinking tea in the afternoon was believed to encourage “artful husseys” to drink spirits and to vent their emotions by complaining about their husbands.

Available at Charlecote.

To the elite, the practice of tea-drinking in the afternoon among working class women meant they were neglecting their knitting and daily household duties; and instead spending what their hard working husbands had earned as they wasted time sitting around the tea table gossiping and leaving their children in rags gnawing on crusts of bread.

George III rosewood tea table with an octagonal top with satinwood banding.

Tea drinking has changed since then. Most of us enjoy the taste -- served hot or cold over ice. Brewed by the hot afternoon sun or quickly made with a convenient little bag steeped in water for a matter of minutes. Add a little lemon or dab of honey and most of us are just fine regardless what we drink it from or where we come from.

Music wallpaper

Game Wallpaper and Pictures

Computer Desktop Wallpaper

Nefertiti Phone: I have no positive comment

It’s the little things in life that can help our mood for the day. Things as small as making every green light when we are driving like a bat out of hell late for work. Or watching our dog happily stretch out on the green fluffy grass and bask in the sunshine. Waking up to find all the tulips have bloomed. Or a little retail therapy -- buying a new object we have coveted for some time (especially after a bad week or month? Several months?). Some of these objects can be so small and exquisite. Not for everyone to see, but we carry the item with us hidden in a pocket or a handbag. This isn’t anything new. Throughout time people have always desired the latest snuff box, bonbonnière, match safe or etui willing to pay a high price for an item crafted from precious materials or painted with exquisite scenes. These items were things used everyday. Today we have a cell phone or blackberry -- the more expensive, the better, we are told. (I find the more expensive, the more apt to break.) The fashion forward are always searching for the latest ‘must have’.

Well… last year (I’m always behind on the latest electronic), Givori introduced the exclusive, limited edition Nefertiti phone. “Inspired by the great royal wife of the Pharaoh known for her beauty throughout Egypt,” it “exudes the decadence and mystery of a bygone era.”

(Not seeing it… but that is only my opinion…)

Only fifty of the Nefertiti phones were created and each one designed differently with its own limited edition number. The individual phones feature “vintage 1930's collectibles (not sure what that means other than those plastic bits glued on) and 24 carat gold coated Swarovski crystals”. And it is available in luxury stores in Dubai for approximately $4440. (Ouch.)

A collectible investment for the future? Or an absolute eyesore?

Like a beautiful piece of jewelry? Or a bunch of crusty old barnacles?

(Interesting info about the barnacle I was completely unaware of can be found here –- be sure to scroll down to the photo to read below.)