One of the more more subtle pieces we've acquired recently has inspired us to start a new blog series titled "Things We Love." This chinoiserie wine cooler absolutely captivates us. At a glance, you might dismiss it as an old beat-up piece of metal. If you spend time to take a closer look, you might discover the beauty that lies in its imperfections. I guess our description of this piece as "untouched" isn't entirely accurate. It surely has been touched by the hands of time. Its 300 years of age is written into the dents and bruises and loss of decoration. These imperfections evince the age of the piece. When you pick it up, you are immediately aware that you're holding a piece of history. I imagine it to be something like the feeling an archaeologist gets when uncovering an ancient artifact such as a shard of pottery that has been buried for centuries.
And while we do appreciate what's missing, what remains is equally intriguing. The faint traces of a red, possibly faux-tortoise shell ground; the sparkling nature of the gold floral painting; the crusty boundaries between the paint and the bare, patinated metal. All these details spark the imagination: what might this have looked like originally, who might have taken the time to create such a thing of beauty, and what tales has it overheard as dinner guests downed bottles of wine pulled from its interior.
Of course, we could find someone who could re-paint this piece. We could re-create what it looked like the day it was made without the use of imagination. But we feel that would rob it of its character. It would be akin to putting arms back on the Venus de Milo. A fully intact Venus would rob her of her mystery. There would be no room for speculation or imagination. She would be what she is and nothing more. It is her imperfection that makes her perfectly beauty. And while this wine cooler certainly doesn't reach the level of cultural significance of the Venus de Milo, we find it to be gorgeous and full of character for some of the same reasons.
Too often when people think of 18th Century English interiors, they conjure up dark paneling and staid decor. The derogatory term de rigueur is "boring brown." Thank you to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for dissuading visitors of any such notions. You will find there the drawing room from Robert Adam's Lansdowne House and it is a dizzying explosion of color and pattern. Every surface from the ceiling to the full length pilasters down to the baseboards is adorned in color and/or pattern. I had the pleasure of visiting the museum during the recent Philadelphia show. The evening light coming through the windows only added to the drama of the setting. The next time you're in Philadelphia, it is a can't-miss along with the rest of this amazing museum.
Greek designer Katerina Kamprani specializes in bad design. At first glance, her works seem to be primarily whimsical and aimed at generating chuckles. Toeless galoshes, anyone? However, to write them off as completely frivolous misses the point. Sometimes, we don't realize what makes for good design until we see it juxtaposed with the bad. For instance, take a look at Kamprani's wine glass.
The lines are graceful and the form is certainly attractive, but when one imagines trying to take a drink, the whole thing falls apart. Side-by-side comparisons are also useful in judging the quality of certain antiques. Just because something is old, doesn't mean it was designed (or built) well. There was certainly much trial and error in the evolution of certain forms that persist to this day. The unsung furniture makers of our past must have had to create many pieces that didn't work to arrive at those that did. It is a fun and informative exercise today to look back and try to re-imagine what some of those failures might have been.
There's a big hole in the heart of Kentucky this week. Pearse Lyons passed away too soon on March 8th. He was a dynamo, an unbelievably generous philanthropist, and an unending fountain of ambitious ideas. You can read about his life here: Pearse Lyons, who built a $3 billion company and brought the world to Kentucky, dies.
Like many thousands of Irish before him, he adopted Kentucky as his home. I particularly love this quote of his from the article: “If you can’t sell Kentucky as a place to do business, then you’re not in any shape or form a salesman, because it’s an easy sale. I’ve been around the world I don’t know how many times, and I’ve never found a place as conducive to doing business or rearing a family as Kentucky — y’all.”
Rest easy, Dr. Lyons. We'll all drink a Bourbon Barrel Ale in your memory.
Well, they don't actually mention us by name, but they do list Central Kentucky as the #8 U.S. destination to visit in 2018; right there between Richmond, VA and Minneapolis, MN. While the beauty and history of the Bluegrass are becoming more widely known, we like to think of our little antique shop as a hidden gem within a once-hidden gem of a region.
Our home is also home to the natural beauty of the Kentucky River palisades and the Dix River (shown in the photo at top). It is here that you will find rich history in the form of places like the Beaumont Inn, the restored Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, as well as our shop, which was built by the man described here:
And we'd be more than happy to point you to one of the finest bourbon bars you'll find anywhere, Jane Barleycorn. All of this is located within 20 miles of our door, and there is much, much more to experience and enjoy. Come pay us a visit. We'd love to show you some Southern hospitality, help with travel arrangements, and steer you in the right direction.
As New York's Winter Antiques Show draws to a close, there is plenty of discussion about "mixing" periods and styles in current interiors and on the floors of antique shows. The Winter Show is the most prestigious antique show in the US. For most of it's 64 year history, the show has been known as a bastion of the most traditional decorative arts. In the past, the merchandise on display was subjected to very strict age requirements. As times have changed and tastes evolved, the show has gradually opened up to a wider variety of wares including modern and contemporary art and furniture. This type of mixing is becoming the norm at shows across the country. Some pull it off more successfully than others.
When it's done well, mixing can create a more interesting space. Introducing the unexpected through juxtaposition can be thought-provoking and eye-opening. Is there any reason not to hang an 18th Century portrait of a champion cock beside a two-year-old bull portrait by Peter Maier all on a wall covered in a modern Carolyn Ray wallpaper? We think not. Take a look at the picture above and see what you think.