I’ve started this blog as a way to document my journey into the world of antiques, as I restore some of the period features to my new house. My aim is to marry Victorian/Edwardian and modern elements to create a home that nods to the past while acknowledging the present.
I am also pretty addicted to auctions, and will be showcasing the best and weirdest that the auction world has to offer.
Standing in a cold warehouse full of antiques, waiting for your lot to come around isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Nor is trawling through the local charity shops hoping to find a diamond in the rough. I enjoy both of these things, but I also enjoy flicking through the pages of glossy catalogues and looking at perfectly presented living rooms full of teal sofas, industrial chic light fittings and enviable soft furnishings.
Like many of us, I can be a dedicated bargain hunter… until I fall into the rabbit hole that is Pinterest and develop an obsession with a velvet armchair that costs the same as a city break in Paris!
With that in mind, I thought I’d try to publish a regular ‘splurge or save’ feature, starting with the ever-popular living room feature; the coffee table.
My first pick is from the eclectic Rockett St George, which is a complete treasure trove! If you happen to have a healthy bank balance, it’s worth checking out (or they sometimes have a pretty good sale for those of us with less disposable income). The vintage industrial steel trolley table with aged leather top (by Ines Cole) is a thing of beauty, but will set you back £1,295.
If you’d prefer a cheaper version and you don’t mind a bit of a fixer-upper, get to Bamford’s auctioneers and valuers on The Sale Room and place a bid on this ‘salvaged scaffolding planked coffee table on ‘an earlier industrial base’ and castors. The live auction is on the 4th October and the auctioneer’s estimate is £60-80. Unless you live in Derbyshire, where Bamford’s is based, you’ll have to factor in the delivery costs too.
Not your vibe? How about this beauty from Rose & Grey? The H. Lis Fox coffee table (large) is £650 and has been designed to complement other items from the same range but works on its own as well. It’s ‘hand-finished by a team of specialists in Poland and carries a Green Friendly Certificate’, which is one feature that’s definitely worth paying for.
If you don’t have the cash to splash, why not buy a preloved version, like this mid-century teak coffee table from East Bristol Auctions? It even has the magazine rack underneath as well. The auction is live from 5th-6th October and the opening price is £18 (auctioneer’s estimate is £30-50).
OK, so my last pick is a bit silly and not strictly a coffee table… This bear side table is by I Love Retro, for sale at Notonthehighstreet. The little brown grizzly is quite cute and definitely quirky. It’s also £169 and, like I said, not strictly a coffee table. So how about this – my final auction find – a glass-topped coffee table, the base of which is shaped like a bear?
It’s reminiscent of Mark Stoddart’s tables, where the glass top is like water and the base is an animal, which appears to be breaking the water’s surface.
I’m not sure who designed this table, but it is up for grabs at Busby auctioneers for an estimated £5-10.
I’m not sure what the condition is like, so if you’re in Dorset you might want to check it out before you bid (live auction on the 5th October).
Whether you love a bargain or enjoy an indulgence (or both), I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Feel free to comment in the box below with any suggestions.
In Britain, when shit gets emotional, you know it’s time for a cup of tea. Five words for any situation: “I’ll put the kettle on”. Your friend gets dumped: kettle on. You feel like procrastinating at work: kettle on. Need to diffuse tensions at a multiracial protest and simultaneously trivialise the issues of race and police brutality… tea actually might not be enough, but I hear a can of Pepsi does the trick just fine!
But whether you’re an Earl Grey drinker or a mint tea sipper, a cuppa is likely to have put a smile on your face at some point. Simple pleasures. With that in mind, I’ve picked out three completely contrasting teapots from The Sale Room to show just a small cross-section of the surprisingly interesting world of tea-holding vessels. Let’s start with the most expensive…
“The pear-shaped body with two quatrefoil panels enclosing flowers, fruit and butterflies against a yellow ground covered in flowers and foliage, the domed cover C-shaped handle and S-shaped handle decorated in blue with a similar scrolling foliage design, the spout terminating with a phoenix head…”
For word nerds, quatrefoil is from the (old) French for ‘four leaves’. It’s a good lookin’ teapot, as far as teapots go, and costs an estimated £3000 – £5000. I really feel like the rich and Insta-famous should post snaps of their Qing dynasty ceramics more often. Would I pay this much for a teapot? Not for all the tea in China…
The Art Deco style Lorna Bailey
English potter Lorna Bailey has a pretty distinctive style. Her quirky ceramics earned her an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire Uni.
This particular teapot gets my vote for its whimsical Art Deco style. I got my teapot for a few quid ‘down the car boot’ but if you’re a collector of Bailey’s playful pottery, you can pick this up for an estimated £80 – £120.
The French fancy
This 19th century French ‘veilleuse’ teapot (another word nerd gem) is an unusual one. I hadn’t heard of the style before, but it means ‘night light’ in French. I read up on these teapots on the English Tea Store’s blog so if you’d like to find out more about it, check it out. I don’t want to regurgitate what they’ve already articulated so well, but I would recommend reading this particular post. I’m a massive geek, but I found it quite interesting.
This particular veilleuse teapot is 8″ hight on a burner stand and ‘painted in colours with lovers in a garden and flower sprays’. It’s sale estimate is £40 – £60 and the opening bid is £25. If you’re looking for something cool for a tea-lover, this is an idea. Don’t forget: sometimes you get lucky with auctions and win items for a price that falls well below the estimate.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts, even if (especially if) they’re tea-related puns. Thanks for reading, I hope it hasn’t been too tea-dious…
If I described a piece of furniture as gothic, what would you imagine?
It might be because I watched the Beauty and the Beast remake recently (without Dame Angela, it could never have been quite as good) but I picture a magnificent, slightly scary room with heavy curtains and dim lighting. I have learnt, however, that there is a place for gothic, dark wood furniture in a modern home.
The image you’re looking at is my guest bedroom. The bed and side table were from Levenshulme antiques village in Manchester, which is excellent if you haven’t been there already (don’t forget to haggle). You could go to an auction, although beds don’t crop up as frequently as sideboards, wardrobes etc. This one required me to buy a ‘special’ mattress (translation ‘a mattress made for static caravans’) but it is SO pretty, it’s worth it. I love the carving in the wood and the toppers on the posts, which look a bit like pine cones.
For a while, I thought a fun feature wall with a bright pattern would look good behind it, but actually, I now think that simplicity is key. The bed is the feature of the room, and the things you choose to go with it should complement it but not steal its thunder. White, beige, cream – they’re all good bases for the walls and carpet. Then you can add some modern touches and splashes of colour to bring it up to date. The light is from Dunelm, the throw (my favourite) is from Home Sense, as are the tall vase and (faux) flowers.
We’re not quite finished with this room yet, but progress is progress. Next, we’ll be adding a mirror above the bed, a small Victorian mahogany desk and a matching chest of drawers (which we’re going to bid on at auction next week). Some quirky decorative cushions and an eye-catching light fitting will follow, and we’ll be pretty much there. A few candles and other decorative bits and pieces will complete the fresh, comfortable feel – and all without renaming this part of the house ‘the west wing’.
So, I’ve been looking for items other than scary dolls to share with you and – while there are A LOT of those – I have found a few strange lots.
One thing I’ve noticed whilst browsing upcoming auctions is the surprising amount of Nazi regalia on sale. I mean… who is sitting there in the auction room, covering their toothbrush moustache with one hand and holding their buyer number up with the other?
If I were at at auction, I would be judging the shit out of you for bidding on this stuff. I mean, what’s your excuse for buying a Nazi flag? “Uh… it’s not for me. It’s for a friend…” “I’m not racist but… check out this cool flag I just bought.” “Say what you want about Hitler, but he knew how to choose a great logo”. One item that particularly made me gawp was this Nazi NSDAP document stamp.
“Yours sincerely, Nick Griffin.” Stamp.
The next WTF item amuses me when I think about it in context. At most auctions, there are at least one or two really rare, expensive pieces. I would love to hear this item follow an intricately painted Ming vase or something… “Coming up now is lot 83 – a 9ct gold pendant formed as a cannabis leaf.” *A hush falls over the auction room, broken only by the odd gasp of wonderment. An elderly lady takes her handkerchief from her pocket and dabs at her eye, a single tear rolls down her cheek. It’s… it’s beautiful.*
Speaking of old dears, here is a fairly disturbing inkwell, modelled as an old woman! It was between this and a really angry looking taxidermy fox for my third and final WTF item, but she wins, hands down (if she had hands). I mean, what’s going on here? Is that a shower cap on her head? Why are her eyes so small? I don’t want her living out her twilight years having to hold her mouth open like that so people can dip their quill in it. STOP IT – you filthy dogs! That was not a euphemism.
If you see any other weird lots for sale, let me know and I’ll feature them in next week’s round-up.
Having beautiful high ceilings is lovely, especially when the windows are huge. They can be the focal point of the room. However, the unfortunate downside is: mo’ window, mo’ money’ – those curtains are going to need to be long, wide and bold enough to frame your already fairly dramatic windows.
In a Victorian house, the designer that springs to mind when you think of textiles is usually William Morris. And, while you can buy WM curtains at auction, it’s pot luck whether or not they’re going to be the right measurements for your windows. Many will have been made bespoke – something that comes at a hefty price tag.
To give you an idea, when I went into John Lewis with David (better half) and sat down with a nice lady to get a quote, the number that came back was around the thousand pound mark! To be fair, someone hadn’t taken the correct measurements and we could probably have asked for less fabric, but it would still have been a fair whack (and I’ll be damned if I’m spending more on curtains than I might spend on a two week holiday).
At this point, I was in agony from my “muscle tear” (turned out – later that day when we went to A&E – to be a kidney infection) and was disproportionately and irrationally grumpy with David (who probably had actually measured the curtains correctly and I was just being delusional). The news of the price tag did not go down well.
A bit later on, when we had re-measured and I was out of hospital, we hung the William Morris curtains we’d ordered online (not bespoke, but ready-made, in the maximum size they had in the print they offer) with curtain hooks from B&M (on a curtain pole from IKEA – check in soon when I write about pelmet boxes) for under £200 (cheaper if your windows are smaller). I realise that you can get curtains much more cheaply, but if you’re after a brand like Sanderson/William Morris, this is the best value you can get.
I am absolutely chuffed to bits with how these new curtains look and, given that I intend to hang onto these – probably forever – I think they’re great value. They frame the windows so well and go beautifully with the deep blue feature wall (we re-painted recently). Decorating a new house takes time. This is one thing I’ve learnt on this journey so far. My advice for someone in a similar position would be to practice patience. Enjoy the beautiful space you have and take time to appreciate how lucky you are. You can bring your ideas to life one step at a time.
I’m typing this from a hospital bed, with my left hand, because my right kidney is rebelling and there’s a cannula in my right arm, which feels icky to bend. I’m on the women’s ward, which is being run superbly by a team of lovely nurses. My neighbour is a sweet old lady who thanks Jesus a lot as she’s falling asleep (and then snores like a trooper). It seemed fitting to write a post inspired by this setting and, luckily, the auction world did not fail to deliver.
Here’s some cool stuff you could buy this week, if you happen to be into medical collectables:
A 20th century medical model of a human stomach split into two halves, for auction by East Bristol Auctions (16-17th Feb). The current bid is £40 quid and could go up to £60, proving that the stomach could Fundus* in more than just one way…
Two lead hospital patients, one with a grey blanket, the other with brown (apparently – it looks more like red to me). This is how I feel right now: old, leaden and not exactly feeling a million dollars, (more like an estimate of £10-20).
A US army nurse doll which is described rather nicely by the good folk at Alexander Historical Auctions: “The doll is housed in its original shipping carton, addressed to “The Merry McIntires” of Jefferson, Illinois, from Capt. J. McIntire, U.S. Army Medical Corps. Our research shows that McIntire was herself a nurse. The box bears several ink inscriptions, including: ‘Do Not Open Until Christmas Day!’ and ‘There Are Always Surprises At Christmas!’ The postmark gives a date of Nov. 15, 1944, squarely during wartime.” The auctioneer’s estimate stands at $150-200 (auction takes place on 18th and 19th Feb). I reckon this is the least scary doll I’ve seen on The Sale Room so far.
There are quite a few medical curiosities to be found at auction, especially when you’re lying in a hospital bed with not much else to do. That’s all from me today – the old lady in the bed opposite mine has just asked one of the nurses for breakfast (it’s almost 10pm) and is now happily munching away on Rice Krispies.
If you thought last week’s WTF items were more frightening than Trump’s chubby little chipolata fingers all over those nuclear codes then buckle up – I’ve got some corkers for you today.
Starting with the least scary – how about this confused dog, who clearly got way too drunk last night. Now it’s the morning and he’s just caught sight of himself in the mirror. He isn’t sure if his life choices have been the best lately. The booze blues have kicked in and now he is having an existential crisis. We’ve all been there, buddy. Want a post-Pinot pooch to remind you not to drink too much? He could be yours for £30-50 on 15/16th Feb (probably the 15th – he’s lot 905).
Now, I know we all loved Robin Williams’ genie in Aladdin. He was a big blue extrovert with an excellent twiddly beard. BUT Royal Doulton apparently did not care for this representation of the genie and instead created this guy. He looks a bit like Lord Varys from Game of Thrones but red and with a strange tash. If this is your vibe, the auction is on the 16th and starts at 10am. You’ll have to be prompt as, somewhat coincidentally, this genie is lot number three!
Remember Toy Story? Specifically the mutant toys in that young psychopath Sid’s room? This lot contains an image that will take you right back to that film. Let me start by how it’s described: “A vintage doll with sleep eyes together with another, in parts”. In. Parts. The sister doll looks like she’s egging him on, as he somehow manages to drag his dismembered body across the floor. Chucky ain’t got nothing on this little dude and his ‘sleep eyes’ friend.
And finally – while we’re on all of the top horror movie cliches – how about we send in the clowns? Well, one clown, who is clearly pointing out where Humpty Dumpty should go and sit. Why? Well, apparently he’s a “pre-1935 Schoenhut ‘Humpty Dumpty’ circus clown with 2 chairs”. What this actually means, I don’t know. But for now, my interpretation is that he directed Humpty Dumpty to sit on that wall when there were two good, empty chairs available. Maybe that fall wasn’t actually a fall…
Which lot is most WTF? Share your opinion in the comments box and, if you’re enjoying this blog, please feel free to share it on social media.
The auctions I have attended so far haven’t featured a lot of designer fashion. But some auctioneers do sell it. From Louis Vuitton travel trunks at thousands of pounds, to Ray Bans for a snip of their original price, there is something for the fashionista in the world of auctions.
Take this Celine mini luggage tote (RRP £2450) estimated to sell at £900-1,100. It’s a timed auction from William George & Co, ending on 12th Feb, so you still have time to get your bids in. The reserve hasn’t yet been met and the latest bid was £450. My guess would be that the reserve is around £750, but it is just a guess. No harm in sticking a bid of £475 in and seeing what happens.
If you’re shopping for your summer holidays then may I recommend a pair of Louis Vuitton faux tortoiseshell sunglasses, with gilt metal hinges and original case? The auctioneer is Tennants and the auction starts at 10.30am on 11th Feb. The auctioneer’s estimate is £80-100.
If it’s a pair of heels you’re after, you might want to take a look at these Christian Louboutin black leather ‘fish scale’ textured ankle boots (size 38). They come with the original box, dust bag and purchase receipt and the auctioneer’s estimate is a mere £60-80. For Louboutins!! They appear in the same auction as the sunglasses, which is actually a pretty good auction for designer fashion.
Let me know if you buy anything and, if you’re enjoying this blog, please feel free to share on social media.
There are loads of lovely hall tables to be found at antiques warehouses across the country: half moon Victorian beauties with barley twist legs to fancy Baroque pieces fit for a palace.
Alternatively, you could go for something a bit more industrial – something that uses material from the past to create something perfect for the present. I’d like to think this hall table, which is currently sitting in my hallway, is an example of this. The bottom half – from an original sewing machine table – has a top made of wood taken from the end of a church pew (I assume with permission).
The Singer sewing machine is on loan from a friend, but you can pick them up relatively cheaply. I picked up this hall table at Levenshulme Antiques Village, which I would absolutely recommend if you’re in the North West. It’s a great morning or afternoon out and they’re open on Sundays too.