Among my recurring spiels is the idea of Everyday Antiques, that is, that Antique are Green, cost effective and sustainable, and that their everyday use makes sense.
One of the recurring themes I hear from my friends, family and people I meet is that antiques aren't for them, by virtue of the fact that their homes aren't safe for antiques, and antiques are expensive (and therefore irreplaceable and not to be bought by ordinary people).
'Display cabinet with a lock!' suggests Martin, practically.
Well, yes, this is a good idea for rare and priceless antiques, but totally unnecessary for another category: the everyday antique.
While it's true that you probably don't want the Pinner Vase sitting on a coffee table in the family room where your five-year-old or the labrador's tail or an altercation between the twins can result in a $80 million smash, the truth is that most of us won't be buying the Pinner Vase for our sitting rooms, anyway, and there are a whole lot of modestly-priced antiques whose use does make sense, even for middle-class families.
Which brings me to The Butter Dish Incident.
I happen to dislike plastic butter dishes. I don’t like looking at them, I don’t like the feel of them, I don’t like cleaning them. So I bought an expensive ceramic lidded butter dish from an up-market housewares store. And then I broke it. So I replaced it. Then I broke the lid of the replacement.
At that point my husband said, “Wumman, yeh’ve got to be kiddin’. All the butter dishes you have in the stockroom, and yer off to buy another?” He was right – what was I thinking? I “bought back” a beautiful molded glass butter dish from our stock, it was a fraction of the cost of a new one, and we’ve had it on the kitchen table ever since.
Why hadn't I chosen a vintage or antique butter dish in the first place? Well, for one thing, I was matching my up-market totally yuppie kitchenware. But why? Well, because I wasn't thinking! I was putting antiques in one category, and my everyday living in another.
But it might get broken! Yeah, sure it might. But a whole lotta things we own might get broken. Do we refrain from buying a lamp or a television set or a bottle of beer because 'it might get broken'? But it's irreplaceable! Well...it might be...but then, so are my yuppie homewares, now - the manufacturer has discontinued the line!
If you're buying an 'ordinary' butter dish or sugar bowl, why wouldn't you save money and buy a vintage one? If you're buying a special or fancy vase, something to display or only to be used when company comes, again, why not an antique? Especially one that has been increasing in value? Why don't we think outside the box?
So, when you're next thinking about decorating or outfitting your home, think outside the box. Consider visiting a second-hand or antiques shop. Tell the owner what you're looking for, and ask what's affordable. You just might get a very pleasant surprise!