Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Is OLD the new NEW?

(image: Design Inspiration)

I saw this funny sign on Pinterest and it got me thinking about old and new, mixing it up, satisfying our twin desires for beauty and practicality but without compromising on comfort or integrity. For those readers who know West Egg, I'm all for re-using, recycling, even up-cycling old pieces (except where an old chest of drawers gets painted bubblegum pink - why??)

So I believe in recycling, antiques, vintage, etc etc, and I love the patina of old pieces of furniture. But I also love the functionality, practicality and just plain, simple working ability of modern furniture. Particularly in the kitchen. Who wants to wrestle with an unruly, stubborn drawer every time you want a piece of cutlery? And you never want to see an antique chair in a home office or any kind of office for that matter. Goodbye pots of cash, hello back pain.

The solution? Mix it up. For me, interior design these days is all about eclecticism. Co-mingling pieces of old and new furniture and decorative home accessories is a brilliant way to bring comfort, elegance and a unique timeless quality to modern homes. 

The key to the successful co-habitation of old and new is to keep it simple and have one common theme or thread running through your interior design of the room. The obvious thread is colour but it could be something to do with the provenance of a particular piece. Personally I love to buy decorative pieces on trips overseas, not only are they are a lovely reminder of a fantastic holiday and also something unique to your home. De-cluttering and keeping it simple are the two best ways to show off your favourite pieces. 

(image: Emily Gilbert Photography)

I love how these photographs by Emily Gilbert make blending antique and modern furniture seem so simple, natural and comfortable. Emily is an amazingly talented interiors photographer based in New York, her website and blog have some truly inspiring images.

(image: I BP Blogspot)

This sitting room just about sums up eclectic. I am such a fan of sisal rugs for instant texture (and they are so reasonably priced too). And I am loving the flower arrangement! Totally unique, fun and interesting. 

What do you think about mixing old and new? I would love to hear your views and ideas - email me at or leave a comment below. Bye for now!

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Monday, 11 July 2011

Top 10 Tips for Buying Antique Furniture

I get lots of emails from people who are in the market for a piece of antique furniture but don't want to get ripped off (no surprise there). Here are my top 10 tips to keep in mind when buying antiques....

  • Be Prepared! If you're visiting antique fairs or auctions and have a piece of furniture in mind, say a chest of drawers, make sure you measure the area it is supposed to fit before you go. Useful things to take with you are a tape measure, camera, notebook and pen. For early morning antiques fairs you should definitely take a waterproof jacket/coat (if you don't it will rain, every time). Also a good tip is a hot flask for tea or coffee - it is very cold at 5am even in the summer months. 

  • Unless a piece of furniture has been hidden away under a shroud of blankets in a country mansion for donkeys years, you should expect to see certain signs of everyday wear and tear that the hustle and bustle of life inflicts on furniture over time. Always look to see if the wear and tear on a piece of furniture is convincing and consistent - you would see normal wear on arms, legs and handles. Also, any screws, nails, handles and corners should have small patches of discolouration around them. 

  • The patina and colour of a piece of furniture is acquired by a hundred years of exposure to light, daily use and regular polishing/waxing. You would expect to see marks and scratches over a long period of time, if not it may mean the surface has been stripped back and re-polished thereby losing the wonderful patina of 100+ years of use. 

  • Never pick a chair up by its arms, always hold it underneath. Chairs are most liable to loose joints or broken legs so always check the joints carefully. You don't want to be left holding the leg and the rest of the chair crumbles around you. 

  • Always check the proportions of a piece of furniture and ensure that each of the drawers were made in the same way and of the same wood. 

  • Painted furniture was popular from the mid 18th century to the early 20th century and often pieces were repainted to reflect the fashion of the day. Fake antique painted furniture is often convincingly replicated because it incorporates a realistic distressed effect. Always closely examine the paintwork - there should be obvious layers of paint with dirt in between each layer. Dark wax is used to copy this effect and you may be able to smell it if recently applied.

  • Unhappy marriages in furniture can usually be spotted straightaway by looking at any variations in construction, proportion and colour-matching. 

  • From unhappy marriage to divorce! Many pieces of early antique furniture were cut down to fit a smaller room size. These pieces are more difficult to spot but always look for unusual fading or other inconsistent marks. 

  • With tables always check the table top and base are made from the same wood or veneering and check there aren't any unusual marks underneath. 

  • Finally, watch out for the 19th century revivals of certain styles - you can spot a reproduction piece if it has exaggerated details, is made of exotic timber or the decoration is a mixture of styles. 
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    Tuesday, 5 April 2011

    London's Best Kept Antiques Secret

    The wonderful Lillie Road in Fulham, London is home to over 19 antiques shops offering a huge selection of antique furniture, lighting, mirrors and decorative objects. Originally the number one destination for British and international interior designers, it has a growing reputation as the place to source original pieces bringing with it a new swathe of individual buyers keen to explore the delights of the Lillie Road. 

    One of my favourite shops is Nimmo & Spooner. Myra Spooner and M. Charpentier have been in the antiques business for over 17 years and specialise in furniture, lighting and mirrors from the 18th to 20th century.

    Nimmo & Spooner 277 Lillie Rd, Tel: 0207 385 2724

    Nimmo & Spooner 277 Lillie Rd, Tel: 0207 385 2724

    If you're into chandeliers, a trip to Hindley Antiques is an absolute must. Nigel Hindley a lovely friendly chap and amongst other things, has the most superb selection of French chandliers from 1900 to the 1920s. 

    Hindley Antiques 281 Lillie Road, Tel: 0207 385 0706

    Anyone with a love of antiques and a pampered pooch must visit Alexander Von Westenholz. He not only deals in 19th century antique furniture, sporting prints, Victorian / Edwardian taxidermy but also sells dog boxes which are copies of an early 20thC dog bed made from stained ash and set on old croquet balls with a feather cushion and loose cover. 

    Alexander Von Westenholz, 297 Lillie Road,
    Tel: 0207 386 1888,

    Maison Artefact has been located at 273 Lillie Road for over 8 years. They deal in mostly 19th century French, Swedish and Italian pieces with a wonderful selection of stoneware, metal pieces and other decorative objects. The stunning 19th century French clock face in the photograph below is a massive 117cm in diameter and can be made to work for an additional charge. 

    Enormous clock at Maison Artefact,
     273 Lillie Road, Tel: 0207 381 2500
    Beautiful mirrors and dining table at Maison Artefact

    The garden at Maison Artefact

    Exploring antiques shops wouldn't be the same without a quick pit stop and fortunately the delightful Arturos Art & Delicatessen doesn't disappoint. It is a typical Portuguese deli with a lovely garden where you can sit and enjoy a really good cup of coffee.

    Visiting the Lillie Road is very easy - it is a 15 minute walk from Barons Court and Fulham Broadway tube stations and there is pay and display parking in the adjoining streets. One word of warning - a few of the dealers lock their shops up and work in nearby offices - they will usually leave a number to call on the front door. Enjoy your visit! 

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    Thursday, 10 March 2011

    A Glorious Day at the Races...(sort of)

    A quick post to share some lovely photos from Kempton Park Antiques Fair on Tuesday. Like most fairs, it's an early start - you have to be there at 6am if you're even remotely serious. I think most dealers are there much earlier to source new stock because the car park is always packed by the time I rock up at 6:15am. There are hundreds of stallholders, inside and out and despite the early start they are a pretty cheery bunch. I think one of the reasons it's so successful is that it caters for dealers and not tourists so you get a really excellent, eclectic range of furniture, decorative objects, silver, porcelain and pottery. It was -5 C when I pulled in to the car park, but I did remember to take a flask of coffee which saw me through and in an incredible display of willpower, I resisted the lure of the bacon sandwich van.

    Sun rising over Kempton Park

    6:30am absolutely freezing cold!

    I love these large green bottles especially withe sun beaming down on them.

    There are more photos of Kempton Park on the West Egg Facebook page which you view here. Amongst other things, I picked up another large vintage trunk - I'll do a separate post on that shortly, it's going to look fabulous once it's restored and will be available on the West Egg website.

    Thanks for reading and, if you can face the early start, Kempton Park is definitely worth a visit - just make sure you take a large car/van and lots of hot tea or coffee!

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    Thursday, 17 February 2011


    London called last week so off I went for a 2 day jaunt in the capital. It was a great trip and I got to spend some time indulging in one of my favourite pastimes; wandering around antiques markets and shops. I made my way up to the legendary Marylebone antiques district which is located at the eastern end of Church Street, NW8. It is here that the famous Alfie's Indoor Antiques Market was founded in 1976. It was, and still is, the largest indoor antiques market in the UK. Alfie's is home to over 100 dealers spread over 3 floors selling anything and everything from retro furniture and accessories, beautiful vintage lace and jewellery to 19th century furniture and antique paintings. Even hair and beauty are covered  thanks to Nina's Hair Palour which specialises in vintage half and make-up.

    Church Street plays host to a number of other antiques dealers and traders, some of whom started life in Alfie's - click here for a useful list. Among my favourites on this road are Tara Antiques at No 6. The proprietor Gerald is a lovely friendly chap who was very happy to chat and talk about the different pieces he was selling. He has a great selection of decorative antiques and ornaments - definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. 

    Angell Antiques at No 22 Church Street is an absolute must. In addition to a vast range of antique furniture and objects, they also have the most incredible selection of industrial and mechanical pieces; in some cases transformed for modern living. One fantastic example of this is the Aircraft Galley Kitchen - taken from an actual plane. This would make a very cool, and frankly unique, addition to a London bachelor pad - click here to take a look. If you're into vintage advertising signs then look no further. I love these old chemist shop display showcards - "Head Powders: Perfectly Pure and Safe to Take"

    Even more daring and unexpected are the treasures available at Andrew Nebbett Antiques located at 35-37 Church Street. From the Olympic Sign - 5 Rings c1920/1930 to this nickel plated Railway Lantern c1890 I think you'd be hard pushed to find a more exciting selection of antiques and vintage pieces in London.

    If you plan on visiting Church Street, the closest tube is Marylebone. A useful tip for those who drive is that there is no traffic permitted in Church Street on Saturdays due to the street market - you can still park in the surrounding streets though. Happy wandering!

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