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Posts Tagged ‘antiques’

So I’ve been out shopping for dining room tables and heaven forfend, it looks like I might actually be buying a new one, not an antique. The table is so beautifully made and lovingly finished that mixed in with other pieces you might never even notice. But truthfully, outside of upholstered pieces and IKEA Billy bookcases, I’m not sure I own any new furniture. I can tell you where and when every item was purchased and the story behind it. Which leads me to wonder if that is only my personal obsession? Does provenance really matter to you? Do you care if something is actually antique? Is it looking good and looking right that matters? Is it the story of finding something that matters? Is it the right price?

For me, nothing reflects those questions back more that my addiction to blue-green glass bottles and fishing floats. Having been in Tokyo for the last nine years I have been buying the Japanese variety almost exclusively – you never know a Chinese or Korean piece could have slipped in, but I don’t think so. I look for glass that has distinctive characteristics, from makers marks to hand blown evidence like bubbles and I particularly love wonky necks, spouts and glass screw tops. The floats I have gathered from shrine sale markets and from fisherman directly as they are considered obsolete and can sometimes be traded for a really yummy box of cookies. But funnily enough, while I consider that I have found floats “at the source,” many people think that beach combing them – finding them washed up on the shore – is the only true way to collect them.

glass and fishing float round up

The popularity of this kind of glass has skyrocketed in the last few years to the point of becoming almost ubiquitous. Floats and bottles are in all the catalogs and on all the flash sale sites. So the question is, does provenance matter?

At prices like these, I think the answer is most definitely yes. And if you read the fine print, it’s fairly fuzzy in its implications of age and history. We all know the colors are wrong and that these floats were never used, but if you like these colors do you care?

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OKL glass floatsWhat if you stumble across a store in Bali selling floats that arguably were made for the tourist trade? Does that make them more interesting or better than ones bought from a catalog back in the USA?

floats in Bali

For me personally, there is just no comparison to a variety of well used floats collected over time. The antique soba bowl holding them doesn’t hurt either. But you all knew I’d say that and I am not sure everyone would agree with me.

small floats in soba bowl

What about these large floats from Wisteria? Again, the fine print says handmade – which they may well be – but there is only an implication that these were used, because in fact, they were not. Note how conveniently the glass blowing pontil falls inside each float, giving it a perfect flat end so that you can style it nicely and easily on your bookshelf or coffee table – not something fishermen prioritized.  But the color and texture of the glass looks lovely. The price isn’t half bad either, especially if you are aware that they are recently made and not antique.

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But do you think it truly compares to the real thing?

floats and bottle

Bottles with fishing style ropes have become more popular and we all covet that rope bottle lamp that Tom Scheerer and Steven Gambrel love to use. Both of them have perfected the way of blending something that looks old with things that actually are old to create a seamless whole. I’m not sure this bottle does that. And bottles with fishermen ropes seem a bit made up to me actually…

glass bottle float net from hayneedle

The really giant bottles I collect were often covered in protective wicker for transport. Called demijohns, this was the method of choice for transporting liquids for thousands of years – even the ancient Egyptians encased their bottles in papyrus. Over time, many of the bottles lost their degradable wicker casing. leaving just the bottle. While you can find wicker-cased ones all over Europe, I had never seen any of the Japanese ones – used mostly for sake and other alcohol – covered in anything. That is, until right before I left. Can you believe this charmer actually has a bit of ivy growing on it? Swoon-worthy!

demijohn from shrine sale glass

New ones, like these from Pottery Barn, abound on the market. Again the fine print gives the impression of antiquity and use, but I am sure these bottles are new. Would you care? Or would you rather lug some back from that romantic trip in the south of France?

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I’m finding the shapes and details of the mass market ones to be lacking in variety and interest compared to the ones I have hunted up. Variety really is another advantage of vintage and antique.

other glass jugs and bottles

So before you start feeling bad for me that I have left the land of blue-green glass behind, take a look at one of my most recent Doha finds. Mostly likely Lebanese or from that region, these rustic forms of demijohns were used to transport regional liquids like olive oil. The protective wicker looks like a birds next and the bottle is crooked and handmade, just the way I like it. Since this photo it has cleaned up nicely and come to hang out with its new Japanese friends. The language barrier is slowing them down a bit, but I am sure they will get along fine.

glass bottle lebanon

If you think this post was just one big orgy of self-congratulation that my glass made it through the move intact, then you are correct. But I’d love to hear from you on this subject. Does provenance matter to you? Do you care about true antiquity?

If you want to read more about these treasures you can scroll through posts in the glass floats and glass bottles tags or even read the post that started it all: Buoys, Bottles and Bargains…the Rainy Day Special at Kawagoe

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So progress on the house has been moving a bit more slowly than I would like this summer and I am struggling to find the pieces I want to finish up the bedrooms. We had a dead and empty corner in our bedroom that I planned to furnish eventually, but it was not a priority and I wasn’t sure what I wanted there anyway. But the emptiness had been bothering me.

I checked in at a few of my my usual haunts and picked up this simple Doric style wood column. I’m not sure whether it was an interior or exterior architectural feature or perhaps more likely from a piece of built-in furniture, but I didn’t care. I had to have it and it was a bargain to boot! I brought it home with the idea stirring in the back of my mind that it might be just what I need to balance the French chaise and fill the dead space with some vertical interest. And I was right! It’s worth clicking to see the large photo for details.

column

The patina on it is lovely, although it is slightly rickety and needs a bit of love and tightening. I can’t date it for sure, but it seems to be late 19th or early 20th century.

column

Like I said, I hadn’t planned on one for the space, although I do recall this page from the winter issue of Lonny magazine catching my eye. This fluted column pedestal, in case you can’t read the fine print, is almost $1500. And good antique ones can be even more than that.

Lonny Jan Feb 2013

Now the big question about mine is whether I should add a plant…

column with ivy via my design chic

…a bust…

Suzanne Rheinstein At Home via Stylebeat

…a vase or urn…

Mark D Sikes House Beautiful

…or just leave it plain?

Column behind chair Lonny

Any thoughts on my column today?

Related Post:
Finding the Thread…Between Boston Ferns and Japanese Spools

Image Credits: 1-2. me, 3. Lonny December/January 2013, 4. via Design Chic, 5. Suzanne Rheinstein via StyleBeat, 6. House Beautiful December/January 2012, photo credit: Amy Neusinger via Mark D. Sikes, 7. Lonny June/July 2010, photo credit: Patrick Cline.

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I just got back from two quick but wonderful days in Kyoto, traveling with two dear like-minded friends.  We were worried it would be bare in winter, but in the absence of cherry blossoms or fall foliage, Kyoto was a study in green.

Green moss in gardens…

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…and temples everywhere.

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We were utterly and completely captivated by our subway car which felt straight out of the 1940s.  Mint green walls and deeper green velvet upholstery…

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…and even the silvery fretwork on the vents below.  How long would this fabric last in New York City?

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Day two changed hues as we spent most of it exploring the Fushimi Inari shrine and its thousands upon thousand of orange torii gates, each donated by Japanese businesses.

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Walking through the roughly two miles of gates was an extraordinary experience and the jolt of color against the winter landscape was intense.

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Later in the day green and orange joined together in some fretwork at Kiyomizu-dera, perched majestically at the edge of the mountains.

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Good luck offerings were everywhere, from the traditional kitsune (fox) messengers a the Inari shrine…

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…to garlands of rainbow origami cranes.

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Our hotel was most conveniently located in Gion, right along Shinmonzen Street, the main antiques drag of Kyoto.  Imagine that?! As we shopped, our color palette turned to blue from all the porcelain we were seeing, particularly at a shop I believe is called Akando, run by a darling older couple…

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…the proprietor having his likeness on their adorable business card.

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My friend almost bought these amazing Nabeshima dishes, but when we did the math they were well over $400.

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The other shop we spent serious time in I recall from my last trip. R. Kita Old Imari & Kutani has been in its location for over 70 years. They had me at the sign alone.

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In the window was this amazing 19th century Seto porcelain ice bucket, clearly made for the export market. It was the only Seto piece to be had amidst all the Old Imari & Kutani and I really wanted it. Unfortunately, it was a cool 1000 bucks.

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In general all the porcelain and other antiques were extremely expensive. Prices were way higher than in Tokyo and way way way higher than at the shrine sales. That is exactly what I remembered from previous visits.

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So once again, I looked – in this case instagrammed – and didn’t really buy.

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We did better in the soft goods department and my friend Maja of Alegria Design bought some lovely pieces of indigo kasuri to make bolster pillows. I’ve got kasuri on the brain these days, and you’ll see why quite soon as the ASIJ Gala quilt is almost complete!

kasuri

I managed to pick up a very unusually colored plum piece of kasuri.  I am nothing if not predictable! And at a year and a half out, it is starting to seem as if I will never be getting my lampshades from the custom vendor I ordered them from, so perhaps I might use this in another attempt elsewhere or a DIY!

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Gold was also one of the colors of the trip, as you can see from this lucky sun shot in the late afternoon at Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion.  A piece of Kyoto advice – always go there late in the day so that the sun is setting in front of the building if you want the lighting to be just right.

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One hidden gem we hit was the house and garden Murin-an near Nanzen-ji. Built just before the turn of the century it had that wonderful Anglo-Japan mix that I adore. The wall murals painted in the sitting room were just divine and the garden was a perfect oasis of peace and quiet in the bustling city.

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The Hotel Mume where we stayed was charming, in particular the sudare canopied bed area.

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The vending machines were particularly creative in Kyoto – Cup of Noodles anyone?

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That reminded me of the really interesting exhibit currently running in the Frederick Harris Gallery at the Tokyo American Club. A riff on Hokusai’s Thirty-Six View of Mt. Fuji, Peter MacMillan’s witty prints are well worth a viewing. If you are in Tokyo, it runs until February 24. If you are not, more of them can be found in my Instagram stream.

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And finally to wind down, a bit of black and white. It is quite common for ordinary folk to go to Kyoto and rent kimono for the day along with hair and make-up services.  These girls were not geisha (or maiko and geiko as they are called in Kyoto) but instead just having fun. You’d think they would look better in color, but it took away from their expressions.

kimonogirls

And the most modern white of all? That streamlined shinkansen, pulling in to take us home.

shinkansen

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