Woods-Worm-eaten Furniture and its Drawbacks
Every room in a house should possess at least one attractive feature. This may be either a sunny aspect, some specially comfortable chairs, perfect lighting arrangements, or a capacious cupboard-all practical features that have a way of endearing a special room to the hearts of its occupiers.
It is not given to all to be able to afford fine antiques, but we may all pick up at one time or another some treasure which, adapted to modern use, will give a note of individuality to a room, and afford us an opportunity of showing artistic taste and exercising ingenuity.
Fragments of carving can be utilised in many different ways. A room may gain a desirable character by utilising small pieces of carving, as an overmantel, as decoration for a sideboard, or as the mural adornment of a room. To do so would cost little in comparison with what would have to be expended if the same amount of carving were commissioned from a clever craftsman of the present day, and the result would remind us also of pleasant explorations in the curiosity shops of Venice, the old market of Amsterdam, some country builder's yard in rural England; or no further, perhaps, than the Caledonian Market in Camden Town where many a treasure is still to be picked up by the connoisseur.
It was at the last-named place that the fine piece of Italian carving was found which now forms the centre panel of the sideboard shown in the illustration.
Very dilapidated it looked as it lay in a heap on the ground, and the thick coats of white and green paint which hid the grain of the wood disfigured it badly; but at the unpainted back the good oak could be seen, and the finder cheerfully paid the half-crown demanded as its price. The panel measures 27 inches by 22 inches, and had probably formed part of a richly carved choir-screen.
After much scraping, sandpapering, with the grain of the wood, oiling, and other wise treatment, the panel was ready. Then came the purchase of a serviceable oak dower-chest, sold cheaply at 25s. because one of its sides was lacking. The back of the sideboard was planed, the looking-glass added, and a really handsome piece of furniture was the result. A village cabinetmaker put it together according to a sketch supplied him, and fitted it to the humble little carved sideboard.
It is sometimes possible to pick up a single Chippendale bedpost, and the lovers of bargains are advised never to neglect such an opportunity. Carved, twisted, or painted bedposts which have once been used for an old four-poster can be utilised in a variety of ways.
A handsome sideboard back made out of a finely carved Italian panel and an oak dower-chest
One example of such use is shown in the illustration, where an ugly hall, with staircase ending abruptly by the door, was transformed by the addition of dark-stained arches, and the bedpost as the slender, daintily carved pillar.
If a pair of bedposts can be found, they can be used on either side of a high eighteenth-century chimneypiece, or at the sides of the open space between large doors in two rooms which are so divided.
The adapting of old brackets and candelabra to the requirements of modern times is extremely simple. Many people like to use such fitments of Adams or Louis XV. design for wax candles, for which purpose they were originally intended. Others use the old fittings, but have them pierced for electric light wires. In such cases candle-shaped holders are put into the socket, for the fitment seems to require that finish. Candle shades may be fixed to hide the light bulb.
Another way of adapting an antique to a modern requirement is to have a duplex-lamp fitting, with burner and reservoir complete, put into a handsome Nankin or bronze vase. The effect is extremely good, especially if the vase is of a large and heavy kind. There is an appearance of weight and solidity that is very reassuring about these old jar lamps, and which are much appreciated by those who, from necessity or choice, still use oil lamps.
It is possible to pierce the jar at the bottom, and fit the lamp for electricity, but this is not often done.
Many old chairs seem to have been made for a more Spartan generation than that of the present day; and for these, and for the sofas, day beds, arm or grandfather upright chairs, more cushions are required.
These are easy to make, and if covered in chintz or brocade, in
A carved Chippendale bedpost utilised as a pillar to support an arch over a staircase. The effect is to transform and beautify an ugly hall and stairway patterns of the same period as the chair, do not sound a jarring note.
It is one of the merits of genuine antiques that they can be used in juxtaposition without jarring effect. The differing but mellow tones accord well, so that any articles of the Chippendale period, for instance, can be combined with artistic effect in a room, even if they are not of the same pattern.
This is a fairly successful plan, for by such a use of different woods the one represented naturally confines itself-the oak to articles made in Tudor and Cromwellian times, the walnut to those of Queen Anne's day, the mahogany to the period of Chippendale, Ince, and Mayhew, and others of their followers.
Another excellent rule to observe in the modern use of antiques is restraint of colour, so that painted satinwood and gilt Louis XVI. furniture will never creep into the room heavily furnished with oak or mahogany.
In acquiring a piece of furniture for modern use, it is a good plan never to trouble oneself about its maker. If you are satisfied that the piece is beautiful and suitable for its purpose, it is enough. If you are a collector, the matter is different; then such questions as original workmanship and absence of modern tinkering are all-important, and expert knowledge is required for the choice of genuine specimens.
With such matters this article is not concerned. Adaptability for modern use presupposes soundness and artistic beauty, and that is all.
With regard to soundness, the enthusiast should never, under any consideration,
Old Sheffield plate candelabra can be fitted for electric light, and the bulbs concealed by the ordinary candle shades bring wormy furniture into her room, or attempt to have such infected wood, however old or desirable, made up with other furniture. Wood-worms not only destroy the wood they inhabit, but also attack other furniture in the same room.