Keeping it in the family

A couple of weeks ago I took my mum to meet up with her brother. He emigrated to Cincinnati 40 years ago, so they don’t see each other often. Anyway, he was in the UK and so a trip was arranged.

A full store cupboard

My uncle’s dresser is now the home to my bottled produce

Amidst all the reminiscing and funny stories, my aunt wondered what had happened to their dinning room furniture, which had been passed to my nan before they went to the US. I can confidently say that they never expected me to say ‘oh, your dresser is in my kitchen and my sister has the gate-legged table’. Discussion revealed that they had bought these items (along with some dining chairs, which I used to have but which did not stand the test of time quite so well) when they were first married – 58 years ago. I’m sure that when it was bought they never envisaged it would have such longevity, nor that it would end up being used in such a practical way – apparently, it original served to display a set of willow-pattern plates (now in the possession of one of my cousins).

Books and jars - it's a working piece of furniture now

Books and jars – it’s a working piece of furniture now

I hadn’t really considered it anything but a nice story, but on reflection it says a lot that we should be surprised that a modern piece of furniture would be passed through the family. We tend to think that antique furniture is the only sort worth preserving, but why not well-made, useful modern pieces? I think that this is the sort of attitude that we need to foster – to see the value in what we have. Certainly, if I was going out to buy a dresser, I wouldn’t choose such dark wood, but equally, I am very fond of what I have. And my fondness is not just because it’s a useful item, it’s because of the family history, the stories, my memories of it in my grandmother’s living room. When I lived in an ancient cottage, this dresser and a pantry represented the only storage space in my kitchen, but now I have a fitted kitchen it’s still useful and used every day.

So, let’s celebrate such ‘heirlooms’ and not consign them to the rubbish. After all, they are tomorrow’s antiques!

Great crate

Fifteen years ago, when we moved to Chez Snail we had almost no furniture, having managed with very old items that I inherited from my nan. They had served us well in our little cottage, but the new house was bigger and some of the old stuff was completely beyond repair. We had some things that were good – our bed, a dresser, a coat cupboard and gate-legged table, plus lots of bookshelves. But furnishing a whole house is expensive and so we hired a van and made a trip to Ikea, where we bought pretty much everything we needed.

A well-used table

A well-used table

And I’m pleased to report that almost all of it is still going strong. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently re-covering the sofa in crochet, but the actual piece of furniture certainly doesn’t need replacing. The only things that have finally started to break apart are the triangular side tables that we bought for £5 each. Over the years the surfaces have got damaged, but now structural cracks are starting to appear and the end is in sight. And so, with my recycle and re-use hat on, I sought replacements, although the old ones will still get some use in the limery I think. I thought about buying a second-hand nest of tables, but I really wanted something a bit more modern… and so to Etsy I went….

Where I discovered JB Wood Designs, a company making furniture out of, amongst other things, reclaimed apple crates… and I couldn’t resist. So, we are now the proud owners of not only two new side tables, each with a built-in shelf, but also a coffee table/storage unit on castors that will be so useful.

So, no more mass-produced furniture for us – I’m loving being able to support a small manufacturer, plus I now have more space to store yarn!!

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