Spring: When a House Becomes a Home

We like old things. We're not saying this to be hip. We're not saying this to be on trend. We just love old stuff. They call it vintage now. It's the kind of furniture that our Grandparents had. The kind of furniture that became unfashionable because it was well made, lasted decades, sometime centuries, and had patina. It was furniture that wouldn't go away. Sometimes in our old house at Drovers we couldn't find the things we wanted because people threw these things out. They threw them in skips, took them to the tip, even burnt them in their back gardens because the call of the new was all shiny, and for a time people wanted shiny houses. Shiny houses don't look good in Yorkshire, they stick out like a sore thumb, they make you look a little daft; they're bloody good for the gossips though and entirety of the 90s and some of the 00s were full of bloody gossips who told you what was great, what was in, what was fashionable and chintz became a dirty word. Brown furniture, as it became known, was something that was traded in back alleys, car boots and dodgy fly by night shops by men in large overcoats called Bob, Phil and Dave. Later they formed a reproduction band. Then the word Vintage came along and that brown furniture was desirable on prime time TV. Someone even slandered our furniture once by asking whether they could upcycle them with chalk paint. They are now a walking billboard. Recently we found a cow's hoof phone, we have always wanted a cow hoof's phone, we have dreamed about them. We have looked at them at vintage fairs, fingers lingering over the smooth bakelite, now worn and cracked, cradling the handset against our necks, the wire trailing away to nothing. Long ago munched away by mice and balked at the price of them. They are an expensive commodity and that's before you rewire them, if you can. Then we found this excellent weighty old fashioned bell ring reproduction of the cow's hoof phone for a mere £39 (Red Candy). The simple thing is that we have been through many phones since we've moved to Pig Row. We have seen wireless phones die mid-chat, cordless bases batted off by Little D to crumble to shards as they hit the floor and the last phone was a nasty cheap white thing that didn't even reach a foot from the phone point. This phone though was a masterpiece in the 1930s and is still a masterpiece in design today. Sturdy. Reliable and when it rings you don't jump with the shock or embarrassment of the ring tone. This is a bell from the 1930s, it says come and pick me up, answer me but if you're doing something better, there's no urgency, they'll ring back if it's important. 80s pop synth ring tone doesn't have the same effect.

1930s phone.

Reproduction can be a dirty word, it can conjure up images of poorly constructed furniture - the flat pack kind that consigned many vintage sideboards to the skip - however, at Drovers we did dabble in reproduction. We had a reproduction fireplace from In Situ, an art deco fire surround of tulips, when we moved we actually wondered whether to pull it out and take it with us but there has to be a point when a home becomes a house and a house becomes a home. Ripping out the fire would have taken away part of the home in Drovers. So, we left it and started again at Pig Row. You may think that a phone isn't that important or that a phone should be cordless but there is something about the weight of this cow's hoof that reminds you of an era long gone. A phone that conjures up a simpler time, a slower time, a time full of rotary dials and bakelite. Maybe the Wartime Garden, Dig for Victory and Eat for Victory got under our skin and made us consider how the small things in life can make you feel at home.

1930s phone reproduction is excellent.

A phone can do that but with camera in hand we started to go round our home to see what other tiny things make us smile, make a house a home, make a piece of furniture become the patina in your life.

Simple old furniture can give a heart to a home.

The simple idea of a simple lock in a plain cabinet makes you wonder why a lock was needed. You'd never find a lock in a flat pack cabinet, then again your wouldn't need it or want to open it. This is a cupboard that you can bury your head in and smell the scents of the past. You could find us head in a cupboard, sniffing away and phoning someone to tell them. Slowly our house is becoming a home and we can see beyond the peeling paint, the ripped wallpaper and the boarded ceiling waiting patiently to be plastered and decorated. We can take our time to make a home, anyone can make a house.

Vintage bowls.

Our ethos of buying secondhand extends to our crockery and recently we found these little birds languishing on a clearance shelf in an antique centre in Mytholmroyd. We couldn't help but bring them home but our love of antiques has extended to the beginning of our relationship. One day back in 1999, we found these scales.

How can buying old furniture bring you together?

They were in a junk shop for a stately price of £2. The owner wanted shot of them, they were a heavy doorstop and we took them back to Andrew's parents house. A walk that normally took around 15 minutes took us over an hour to carry these scales back. It was one of the hottest days of the year, we arrived sweaty, red faced and dragging the scales into the hall. We suspect we lost more than 4lbs in sweating that day. We still have them today, it was one of the first things we purchased together and they have sat in our kitchen at Drovers and now sit in our front room. Little D has taken to it, regularly weighing his toys, at present his Peppa Pig weighs the most.

How to find antique furniture.

You'd think after one heavy object we would shy away from buying another but after two years of living here we found this Welsh Dresser at a local Emmaus. It had been reserved for 24 hours and we actually went back the following day, on a Friday, when it was due to be sold and it was still there, we had to sit there for forty minutes until the shop was about to close to purchase it, just in case the original people who reserved it showed up. They never did and it came home with us. This magpie attitude even extends into what was hidden in the house when we arrived.

Look for things in your house that can be reused in different ways.

This door was the old larder door, covered once in hardboard, and it sat outside for one harsh winter, the paint weathering away and we brought it back in, allowed it to dry and it's destined to be our kitchen table on two saw horses. The secret past can hide in the most unusual paces; we found the crumbling remains of screens in the kitchen. These screens were built to keep the animals on one side of the house and the family on the other but to get all the heat from the sleeping animals. We found the original ridge line preserved immaculately in the attic and the beautiful Yorkshire stone walls revealed themselves from beneath crumbling plaster. The plaster in turn was forgotten behind sheets of mock tongue and groove. It was like finding a lazy stripper in your loft. One layer at a time, boys.

Don't dismiss the building materials of your home.

Even the attic provided us with some hidden secrets in the shape of Norman the Gnome and an old radio. The radio doesn't work and Norman is a little grumpy after being cleaned of years of attic dust.

Finding a gnome in the attic.

These simple objects, cast off, forgotten in an attic came to life again as Little D laughs about Norman living in the attic listening to Radio Luxembourg and that is the key to old things in your house. They have a story, they all have a past, they were owned by other people, who loved them, who ran their fingers across the top of a favourite table, who covered them over in plaster, left them in the attic, turned with the fashions and forgot to pass them on. These are the things we should cherish in whatever shape they come, even a simple reproduction phone can remind you that this is a home not a house.

The phone was a gift from Red Candy who are fans of our blog. Opinions expressed here are our own.


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