There’s no doubting the rise in popularity of vintage furniture and interiors and there doesn’t seem to be a high street homewares or furniture retailer that does not have a vintage style ranges and lookalike furniture. However, going original with old and vintage means furniture was generally handcrafted by experts using quality materials for specific purpose and made to last. Best of all it’s the individual stories, details and histories that antiques, vintage and repurposed pieces bring with them that really set them apart. Scaramanga founder, Carl, shows some of the details that make buying vintage worth the little extra. So whether it was travel storage trunks for carrying clothes on transatlantic journeys, glass storage cabinets used by shopkeepers for displaying their wares or storage chests used by jewellery makers and artisans reusing antique and vintage furniture means they get a new lease of life, but it’s all about the detail that makes vintage and antique furniture unusual and unique.
Naturally Faded Painted Furniture
A lot of the vintage furniture we buy is painted furniture. They would have been made from tropical hardwoods like teak and rosewood and after years of use its owner would have painted it to give it a new lease of life and to brighten up a shop’s interior or a livingroom. After several years of hard use the piece would be painted again in a different colour, this would be repeated again. Over many years with repeated use the layers of paint would be rubbed, fade and chip off to reveal previous layers of paint and / or the original natural teakwood. Authentic faded paintwork will be shown to be uneven so there is more fading and distressing in some parts and less in others.
Of course faded painted vintage furniture shows a piece is old and the way a piece reveals its layers will be different for each piece as they are used in different ways and will be unique.
This is a vintage temple that would typically be used to make offerings to Hindu deities in homes and workplaces. Different parts have been painted different colours. The was painted yellow and then red. The lower frame’s blue colour has also been painted red. The red has faded to reveal the lower yellow and blue.
This small chest of drawers shows very thick layers of paint. Around the handle where the users fingers would have pushed and pulled the handle the paint has changed colour. We suspect that they were used in a workshop has the front is pretty greasey.
Dents, Dings and Bumps
Vintage travel trunk – This small painted travel trunk shows lots of dents, scratches, chips and marks. It’s condition reflects the nature of travel in India. Suitcases were made of steel to protect them from the rigours of travel in India. dusty, bumpy roads road riddled with potholes, luggage piled on top of buses, temperatures over 45 degrees,
Old post boxes like these are still a common sight in villages and towns across India. We have only ever had a handful of these red wonders. Like our wooden furniture we have left them as found. Each box is unique. They would have been made, p[aintd red and then had the India Post logo and lettering stenciled on. It would have been taken to the local village’s post office. After several years the mastermaster would have painted it himself. Over mny years the layers of paint would give the postbox a unique patina.
The lettering detailing the postal area, collection times and would have been painted on by hand and not stenciled. You can see that all 4 postboxes and unique two look very well used and old, the other two are less distressed. It’s pieces like these that make our collection of vintage furniture really special.
Expert Master Craftsmanship
It’s not all about paintwork and distressing. Today most furniture is mass produced using machinery and very little handcrafting skills. It’s easy to forget that 100 years ago that old wooden chests like these would have been made by master carpernters and cabinetmakers. Dovetail joinery to make a box creates super strong joints. They’re considered the best joints and require a very skilled carpenter to cut them by hand.
Using thick planks of teak (a very durable, pest and water restistant tropical hardwood) for chest and box making combined with dovetailed joints gives and chest that would last for many generations.
Thankfully we still use skilled craftsmen restore our vintage furniture.
History and Story Telling
Travel labels and stickers were used by travel agents, shipping companies, porters know where were a travellers luggage was going. They were also used to promote hotels in resorts, towns and cities. They are often removed by people tryng to make an antique suitcase look as original as possible; but removing them is removing part of its history and character. A well worn trunk with scuffed edges and discoloured surfaces looks more authentic with labels showing it travelled around the world. Labels can also form part of it’s history. We have been able to research the routes and ships trunks have taken from labels. So we always recommend keeping them on, no matter how tatty they may look. But also look out for replica travel labels too they’ll look new and perfectly placed.
The patina that forms on wood is very important in vintage and antique furniture. It’s the change to the surface layer of the wood through age, wear, and polishing. The patina will vary from wood to wood, different pieces made from the same wood and even different parts of a particular piece of furniture. The best patina is that that’s built naturally over time. Like time-worn wood patina add character and originality to furniture. It sets authentic vintage furniture apart from replica vintage furniture. It makes an item more original and unique. Of course it’s possible to create the illusion of patina with waxes, polishes and stains, but nothing ever beats proper patina.
This blue authentic art deco armoire has its original blue patina. It has darkened in places and has a wonderful crackled effect in other places.
This teak storage chest is around 120 years old and has a wonderful deep golden brown colour that has darkened over time and exposure to light.
Time worn wood
This is a jewellery makers workbench – they can still be seen in traditional street markets across India. Over many years the jeweller’s tools have worn away the front of his workbench – not an easily repeated as teak is a notorious dense and durable hardwood. We’ve left the wear as we found it. Many vintage furniture sellers would sand the tool marks down to give the top a smooth and even finish. Many would also paint the top to match the sides. Restoring the old pieces to make them look like new wipes away so much character that has built up over many years. When Carl, buys furniture he looks for pieces that have character and charm. He searches for pieces that have just been discovered and in the dscovered state.
Expert Furniture Restoration
Here’s Mr Ram. He’s been restoring antique furniture for the last 30 years. he comes from a long long line of traditional Indian carpenters. His brothers are carpenters, his father, grandfather, great grandfather, great great gandfather were all carpenters. So it cam as not surprise when he told me his son is also a carpenter!
The first stage is to wash the piece. This removes the dirt and grime with water alone, but we are careful not to remove the natural aging of surfaces which a detergent could do.
Next we make the piece of furniture structurally sound. Joints and suports are tightened or added. He will always use reclaimed or old wood. Using wood salvaged from old furniture means it already aged and if there were going to be any splitting or movement in the wood it would have already happened. The wood will already have a naturally aged finish.
We do not repair cracked wood, fill joints or holes. if there is part of a panel that has broken off, then we’ll replace it with an old piece of wood. We’ll then wax it to look the same as the oeiginal. Of course it’s always possible to spot the replaced piece and we don’t try to hide the fact it’s a repair. Much of our vintage teak furniture was made to be used in shops, schools, universities, offices and workshops in hot, cold, wet and dry conditions.
Although they were made to last many many years there will always be some reoair work that would be needed over the long life of a piece of furniture.