An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 266

Clinton Howell Antiques - Dec. 25, 2023 - Issue 266

An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture

A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts

Merry Christmas! 
I don't know if predictions are worth anything, but I want to talk about a visit I had with the Ghost of English Antique Furniture's Future--I have to abide by his/her/its title, but for brevity's sake, I'll call him/her/it GEAFF or Geaff.

Geaff was a cheery chap or lass (as gender was indeterminate and not discussed) full of bonhomie, periodically breaking into the Monty Python tune, "Always Look on the Bright Side". Geaff just dropped in on me one day while I was writing my blog and I was a little shaken by the outfit Geaff sported which was leprechaunish but with a face that I could have sworn was Robert Adam's, the famous Scottish architect, although Geaff was wearing rouge and lipstick. "Come along," Geaff said to me, "I think you should see this". Geaff took me by the hand (poof!,) and in a sudden we were in a very chichi restaurant in New York City where three fellows and a stylish, somewhat over forty, woman, were having lunch. "Listen up," Geaff said to me, "you're going to learn something quite important here." So I listened in on the conversation,

"It's been a helluva year," one of the men said. "Flying five days out of seven for most of the year. And you know what happened? I woke up one night at home thinking I was in a hotel room somewhere--I couldn't tell you where because it was all beige. I thought I was having a nightmare so I went into my living room and there was more beige. I thought I was in a hotel lobby. Can you imagine?"       
One of the other fellows said, "That's nothing. I got up and went downstairs to a real hotel lobby thinking I was at home--I couldn't tell the difference and I was in my pajamas! Everything is what my wife describes as oatmeal--I mean our home and the hotel lobby as well as the room! What is it about oatmeal?"

"I love oatmeal," the third chap said, "but hot and in a bowl with cream and brown sugar. I, too, was having those dreams and then, the man snapped his fingers, "everything changed."

"How?" the others asked in unison.

"Well, Mary, my wife and I were in London and we walked by a shop that had this beautiful chair in the window; I said to Mary, semi-seriously and semi-joking, I bet I would never have the nightmare--the same one you guys are having--if I lived with furniture like this. We both laughed. But when I returned to out hotel after work that evening, Mary had visited the antiques store and in no uncertain terms told me we were going back there because I was right, my nightmares about beige would be over. Well, the long and the short of it is that we bought a bunch of really beautiful things including the chair in the window. In any case, we now have this furniture and the nightmares are gone." 

The stylish woman, who had kept silent up to this point finally said something. "Fellas, I have to tell you that this isn't at all surprising. To begin with, there's nothing wrong with beige or oatmeal--it's beige on beige or oatmeal on oatmeal that is the problem. And beauty is not just in how things look, but it's also in how you live and whether what you live with, engages you. Objects that have lived a long time are valued for the way they look and the history behind them. I've known and worked with the three of you for thirty years--do you see me the way we were when we met, or do you see me now? And does it matter that I'm not as svelte as I once was or would you rather work, or live for that matter, with a stylish young model that you think you want, but who wouldn't know one thing about the world before 2020?"
I turned to Geaff. "She makes a good point."

"Yes," Geaff said, "she knows her stuff and I will tell you that all of them are pretty handy at buying and selling as well." Geaff mentioned their names and even I knew who one of them, a hedge fund wiz, was.

"But," I said to Geaff, "they're just a drop in the bucket. The English furniture market needs a whole lot more than those three let alone five or ten...,"

Geaff interrupted me in turn. "Out of tiny acorns, great oak trees grow."

"That's a terrible script you have in your hands," I said, as he was reading from my blog.

"You should know, you wrote it and I just follow directions." With that, Geaff disappeared without explanation and I am left thinking, anything's possible so maybe this is the year for English furniture. I'll certainly recognize one of those guys if I ever see them again.