Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I am a great admirer of minimalist interiors. Those sleek, clean, sparse spaces, unencumbered by fanciful ornamentation and devoid of superfluous objects. Oh, yes, Dear Readers, I have a great respect for homes that adhere to such pure design concepts.
I just can’t live in them.
I like stuff. Indeed, if it weren’t for ‘stuff’, there wouldn’t be a Furniture Addict Blog! As anyone who’s familiar with this journal knows, I have a great need/passion/desire to collect and display ‘stuff’. But not just any ol’ thing. The objects of my desire must speak to me in some way….They must incite some spark, convey a certain Je ne sais quoi before I embrace them as treasures.
One of my collections was initiated a few years ago by the purchase of my jewel box of a home in Arlington Virginia. The previous owner, a kindred spirit who had enjoyed many years of treasure hunting while living there, most magnanimously conveyed a spectacular gilded metal chandelier that she had installed in the petite dining room. I was immediately mesmerized by this golden gem! It fit so perfectly within the home’s Parisian-inspired décor that she must have recognized to remove it would be akin to stripping the structure of a vital organ. (That, and the fact that its style was antithetical to the design of her future home in Mexico.) Regardless, like all the other design choices she had made for my new home, its delicate ornamentation blended seamlessly with the vintage furnishings I brought to the space.
Little did I realize at the time that this fortuitous conveyance would lead to years of hunting for similar treasures. Very soon after moving into my home, BFF Diana The Lady D and I were exploring a tiny nearby shopping district. Immediately drawn into a home interiors shop by its fanciful window display, I was astonished to see hanging inside a gilded and bejeweled sconce which was the perfect match to my chandelier!
Exuberantly entering the establishment, we were welcomed by the shop’s proprietor and discovered that the shop was actually a combination home décor store and interior design service. I quickly inquired about the sconce, and the proprietor informed me that such objects were imported from Italy into the United States in the 1950s through the 1970s. (In the Washington DC area, the primary purveyor of these imports was Lord & Taylor, a once high-end department store whose ultimate demise resulted in yet anther batch of the ubiquitous Macy’s). Apparently, there were several manufactures of such gilded metal decorative objects, but most all were identified in some way as “Florentine”. The sconce, while not marked, quite obviously fit into this category.
After a minimal period of negotiations (my skills were not as finely honed as they are now), Diana and I left the shop accompanied by the newly acquired sconce. Immediately upon entering its new home, I spied the perfect location to hang this treasure – on a hook serendipitously left by the previous owner, on a wall flanking the dining room entrance! Standing in the living room, one can gaze upon both the chandelier and its smaller – yet no less glorious -- counterpart.
Since those two most momentous acquisitions, I have augmented my collection with other magnificent finds. By far the largest piece is this coffee table. Unlike the chandelier and sconce, which is sculpted in a stylized leaf design, the coffee table is resplendently created with two oversized lotus blossoms supporting a clear glass oval top. This incredible item was discovered at one of my first DC Big Flea outings (accompanied by, of course, the Lady D). The vendor from whom I purchased this beauty explained that, while she adored the table, her husband had insisted that she downsize her collection of Florentine gilt. (I think she should have solved the dilemma by ridding her home of the husband, but we all make decisions with which we must live. Regardless, her lapse in judgment resulted in a gain for moi!)
Other glorious pieces in the collection include a footed cake plate with gilded roses and roses etched in the glass; two table lamps (one from Joseph’s Coat, the other from Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market); and a pair of sconces discovered on my and Sharona’s first excursion to the Arlington Civitan Flea, as documented in an earlier post. There is also a more diminutive (but no less ornate) sconce with delicately white enameled flowers, acquired at the DC Big Flea from David Haney of Fort Harmar Antiques of Marietta, Ohio (the same vendor from whom I’d purchased those most wonderful wing chairs.)
Quite honestly, I feel no guilt over my gilt. These masterfully handcrafted pieces of la dolce vita provide me with endless visual delight. Let the minimalists bask in their austerity. But for me, like that doyenne of overindulgence Mae West once exclaimed, “Too much of a good thing…can be wonderful!”