antiques

Form Versus Function…Apothecary Chest in the Kitchen

apothecary closeupAlthough I am back in Doha there are some summer things I can’t seem to get off my mind. Work on the beach house, mainly the exterior (more on that next week), will be happening while we are away this year. I figured the unexpected outside work would use up all the kitchen renovation money we had been hoarding, but in that magical way that bundling multiple projects tends to make each individual project much less expensive (at least in terms of the contractors’ fees) I find it may just be possible to do both. On that note, I saw a beautiful apothecary/shop/printers cabinet at one of my favorite local antique stores this summer. The color and the patina were just lovely, the size was right and even better, so was the price. It had just the kind of feel I want for the kitchen, evident in past posts and a few Pinterest boards (here and here). The only problem with it is a lack of functionality. Thirty-two tiny drawers don’t hold much, now do they?

There are a host of kitchens out in the stratosphere that feature an apothecary style or shop counter style piece as a center point in the kitchen. A few spring right to mind, including this one…

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…and this one. Both have been pinned endlessly and would be perfect spaces in our beach cottage. But what both of these kitchens have going for them that you can’t tell from the photos is that they are in very large rooms and offer just adjunct storage and workspace. It doesn’t hurt that the drawers are actually quite a bit larger and somewhat useful.

apothecary shop counter

The same holds true for one of my be all and end all kitchens, written about extensively before, that belonged to Peri Wolfman and Charles Good. Their Soho loft kitchen (and eponymous shop) sparked a revolution in kitchen design. They used a large shop counter as a divider, but as you see, space was never an issue.

Peri Wolfman loft kitchen via NYT

This grainy photo from Pinterest gives you a closer view. Sorry, my scanner is down, so I can’t offer a better picture.

peri wolfman soho ny kitchen shop counter

So back to my cabinet. Here it is in all its simple glory. Yes, I know the knobs are not original (you can see the old tack holes of the original handles) but they have certainly been on there for quite some time and I think they are adorable. Yes, I know the bottom left hand drawer is painted a darker color, but that seems to be part of its charm.

vintage  apothecary style cabinet photo

In order to get opinions, its important to see the space where the cabinet would go. Voila! We had been planning to get rid of a piece of cabinetry in this spot in lieu of a small island, but the chest above is narrow enough that it could work. We could also put a larger top on it and use it as the island itself. I think to truly understand the space it would probably help to read earlier posts on the kitchen renovation, like this one and this one, but imagine dark wood floors, gray, white marble, natural brass.

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So? What say you all? Form or function? Should I just buy it for insurance either way? I will tell you I have a very large pantry in the kitchen and some of the existing cabinets are not at all full.

For an incredible look at one of the most creative uses of an antique shop counter used in a kitchen, be sure to click over to Steve’s blog An Urban Cottage. Some of the best posts can be found here, here, here and here, but his whole blog is terrific!

Related Posts:
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 4…Full Reno Inspiration
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 2…What I Wish Was Here Originally
What’s Cooking? Peri Wolfman’s Kitchens Through the Years and That Marble-Topped Bakers Table
Still Dreaming of a French Marble Bakers Table
Ingenious Repurposing…Unusual Kitchen Islands and Printers Drawers
My Kitchen Island is Back on the Table
Opportunity Knocks…Shopping, Storing and Saving Stuff for Later
Other Posts in the Form Versus Function Kitchen Series

Old Versus New…Does Provenance Matter?

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

Today’s Column

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.

Color Study…Kyoto in Instagrams

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.

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

shinkansen

Shop Talk…Finds For a Cause at Fork + Pencil

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IMG_3158On Bergen Street between Smith and Court Streets, hidden up a few stairs and behind a nondescript door, lies one of my favorite Brooklyn antique shops, Fork + Pencil. It is not the flagship location – which is right around the corner on Court Street – instead it is the newer warehouse store, focusing on furniture and artwork. And theoretically, it is not actually an antiques shop, but officially a consignment shop. The mix is eclectic, but there is always something interesting to be found. What makes the place special is the owner Alex and its mission – all profits after expenses go to charity. While this is good unto itself, I think it creates a unique shopping experience and better quality merchandise gets consigned there – people like to see their goods doing good.

The main floor is always a mix of large items with accessory displays covering every horizontal surface, artwork and mirrors on all the walls and chandeliers hanging everywhere. Eras and styles are all jumbled together in a highly enjoyable smorgasbord.

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Intriguing arched shelving unit mounted on a console table.

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Mid-century mixes with colonial.

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Such a variety of lamps, like the pottery one above and this book stack one below…

stack of books lamp

…and this nicely miss-matched pair of cobalt bottles can be found everywhere.

cobalt blue glass bottle lamps

One of F + P’s specialties is porcelain and pottery. Lots of Staffordshire, Asian ceramics, like the big Imari bowl here, lustreware, Sevres and other French porcelain, and the list goes on.

fork and pencil imari

A favorite find is this giant polychrome transferware bowl. Birds and blossoms in the same place!

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Their other great strength is art – etchings, engravings and all kinds of small works on paper, priced so well as to be worth more even than just their frames.

fork and pencil rose

Loved these antique carriage prints. Very Georgette Heyer!

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The basement is more of an adventure than the upstairs and usually looks something like this, but there are always treasures to be unearthed with a little effort.

fork and pencil basement

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A case in point – it doesn’t get better than this – a George Smith standard armchair found nestled in a back corner…

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…and now nestling right here. Fresh from a Southampton estate, that chair lists for somewhere in the $6000 range new and even on sale rings up around $4000. Planning to re-cover it, but for now it looks great.

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The artwork finds have been outstanding, including this Brooklyn view with its charming French mat and the small Chinese gouache below.

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And an art triple play over just 2 visits yielded these…

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…and this…

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…and these…

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…which mixed with this new offering from Dash & Albert, the Garden Path runner, and some beautiful antique lace curtains, has created an instantly decorated laundry room for about $500.

Garden Path Dash Albert hooked rug

There is a nice article about Alex and the founding of the stores in the South Brooklyn Post. And the original store around the corner is well worth checking out – many of the valuable “smalls” end up there.

Fork + Pencil
Warehouse: 18 Bergen Street
Main Store: 221a Court Street
Brooklyn New York 11201
718 488 8855  |  info@forkandpencil.com
Tuesday – Sunday 11 – 7

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