Decorate Green With Antiques -September/October 2011

by: Lisa LeClair

There is a peaceful presence in a room with classically-designed furniture, especially those with the patina of age.

Items gently worn from years of use and restored once again to beauty enchant with untold stories. Something as simple as a serving bowl can bestow the grace of timelessness to your table when it is a remembrance of another era.

A long-time signature of my design style, I find that my clients lovingly embrace the elegance of antique furniture, and quickly become collectors themselves. Nantucket homes, in particular, are brought to life when old paintings, weathervanes, Chinese export porcelain and ship’s chests add their charming artistry to a seaside home.

No matter how you express your personal style, every home has space for antique pieces: a writing desk in the corner, reclaimed barn board on the floor, or a wing chair handed down through generations. There is an added beauty to the natural refinement of antiques. They are the ultimate in green design.

When windows are flung open to sea breezes and sand is underfoot, it is the perfect time to reassess the health of our living quarters and do what we can to keep our homes clean and pristine. Here are a few reasons why choosing antiques is an integral part of a stylish and holistic lifestyle:

  • No chemical vapors are brought into your home: Your home’s interior should be a place of fresh air and health. Yet any new piece of furniture, cabinetry, flooring or finished wood has some chemical overtones. Off-gassing is the process of releasing the vapors that are the residue of many fine finishes. Antiques were created long ago, with less toxic products, and any off-gassing has long been complete.
  • No negative environmental impact is created: Beyond the health issues in your own home are the costs to the planet. Manufacturing plants, even the very greenest, distribute impurities into our air, waste systems and water. New furniture requires the production of finishes, dyes and sealants. Shipping them demands the creation of packing materials. They arrive in retail stores via large fossil-fuel-burning vehicles.
  • No new resources are used: Every beautiful piece of wooden furniture was once a tree growing in a forest. Lovingly cared-for antique wooden furniture was cut from old-growth forests long ago. No new resources are used in its construction, making its restoration and reuse a loving part of caring for the Earth.
  • Antiques are recycling at its best: The sofa your grandmother loved, the barrister bookcase you find at the auction, the softly-faded colors of the old Turkish rug don’t belong in a landfill. The treasures from another time can be loved and used again. And again. And again.
  • Antiques bring unique craftsmanship to a room: Even in a contemporary home or modern space, the gentle lines of antique furniture can add a special eye-catching detail to the design. Rather than a massproduced item, what you buy and bring home was likely made in a small workshop by a craftsman who made good use of few resources.
  • Antiques have stood the test of time: These classic pieces are sturdy and well-made. They wouldn’t still be here if they weren’t. The quality of their wood is usually stronger, created from timber with tighter growth rings, making repair a simple task when necessary. Furniture that is unworthy of a craftsman’s repair time only adds to our cycle of wasteful consumption.
  • Antiques add beauty and joy to life: There is a thrill when you spot the perfect ship’s model, campaign chest or weathervane. You feel an immediate connection to the collectible candlestick or Chinese export porcelain. When you place it in your home, among other well-loved and cherished pieces, you can feel good about your purchase, your home and reducing your footprint on the surface of the Earth.
  • Remember, it’s not all furniture: You can find antique cabinetry, flooring, doors, beams, posts, mantels and other architectural details. Have fun, and happy hunting! 

The “Ship of Bengal,” an 18th-century British woolie, is in mint condition. A rare ship’s identification is part of the design, as well as the British flag. Below, on an 18th-century campaign chest, is a 19th-century “honors box” where candy was kept (one piece per guest, on their honor).

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