Saturday, 29 January 2011

Sod's law?

Why is it that you can have had something on your internal 'wish list' for ages, and never see it, and then once you've bought said item....well, obviously it immediately appears elsewhere? I've had a vague hankering for an enamel candlestick for ages - the 'wee willie winkie' kind - and having won a white and navy one on ebay for about a fiver including postage, I then find something similar in my favourite local charity shop for £1.50! This one is powder blue, and equally appealing, if not more so.

In addition to the blue candle holder, I also got a very pretty bone china teacup and saucer (destined to be a poured wax teacup candle - I made loads of these at Christmas), and a couple of hardback cookery books. I got Jamie at Home for £1.99, and Delia Smith's How to Cook for £1.00. I like to think that I'm not completely clueless in that regard, but there are some basics which still elude me - omelettes and meringues being cases in point, so hopefully it will prove to be money well spent. All in all it was a successful visit, and I can probably sell the ebay candlestick on again at some point, but I am now wondering if if I'm too impatient, and should just wait and see what turns up...

For example, also on the lust list is one of those old wooden sewing boxes; the cantilevered type that open right out. Now the thought is there, I want one right now. Of course, sod's law will dictate that if I pay £30 on ebay, I will see suddenly stumble across one that I could just carry home for half the price. Then again, if I don't bid - I could be waiting years. What would you do?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

An interesting mix...

We had fruit salad for pudding this evening. I know, I know, hold the front page. But it gave me the opportunity to use some of my recent buys, and although they're all from different eras, I think they sit together perfectly.

The really heavy glass bowl was a charity shop find for £2.00, sitting unloved and dusty with various lonely pint glasses and cloudy pyrex on a bottom shelf. I'm not sure when it was made (similar things on Ebay are helpfully described as 'vintage') but would guess at the 1950s. I love the starburst in the base.

I have six of the little sundae dishes, which are helpfully so art deco that there's no doubt they're from the 30s. They probably deserve something more glamorous than some chopped satsumas. Finally, there's the fun and frivolous silver plated 'shell' spoons. At least, that's how I see them. My late Gran had a set, which I remember clearly from my childhood. For some reason, ice-cream or a banana split was a far more of a treat eaten with one of these. Anyway, I don't know what happened to hers, but when I found a set of six with a serving spoon at a boot fair, I was really pleased to pay £3.00. They might not be worth much, but I always think of her when I use them.

Monday, 24 January 2011

A new vintage buy

Wow. I guess I don't need to point out that the collar on this sundress is at maximum 70s. I love it on though.

The problem with clothing from the 1970s is that you can look like you're on your way to a fancy dress party. On the hanger I agree that this dress by Kati looks a little OTT, but it has a lot going for it. The cotton fabric (not polyester - whoohoo!) is cool and swishy, and the colours are fairly muted. I think my orange leather wedges from Faith will be the perfect partner and keep the 70s vibe going. Best of all, there is a teeny-tiny hole in the skirt. Yes, a blim burn. (as I believe they call it. ahem). This dress has seen some happy hippy afternoons in the park.

The dress cost £15 in the sale at Vien Vintage on Church Rd, Crystal Palace. The owner Vivienne has some great stock, and if you don't see the era you're after, ask. She may well have the perfect thing out the back.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


I think I'm probably breaking the first rule of writing about anything flower related by not titling this post something like 'Blooming Gorgeous'. Sorry. Anyway, as it's cold and miserable outside, I just bought some cut flowers to brighten the place up, and thought I would share some of the vases I've bought recently.

I got this little tank vase last week at St Christopher's Hospice shop for £1.50. I think it's really stylish and am at a loss as to why someone didn't want it. I cut these hot pink carnations right down so the heads are on the rim; I was going for the kind of arrangement you see in boutique hotels. I'm not sure if carnations have been rehabilitated enough to be allowed over the threshold of 5 star hotels, but I think they work really well here, a far cry from their 'petrol station' image.

The '4 leaf clover' edge vase was quite grubby around the base when I spotted it, but it cleaned up well with just some hot soapy water. It has a really pretty vintage feel to it, and the design makes it easy to arrange flowers so they stay where you've put them - I put just one flower per 'loop'. It's especially good for freesias but there wasn't much choice in the supermarket, so I put the remainder of the carnations in it.  It cost £2.00, so was cheaper than the bunch of flowers!

Above is my little collection of 1960s art glass bud vases. These were found in charity shops, on Ebay, and at a boot fair last year. None were more than a fiver, and the green and turquoise based ones were 50p each! These are ideal for a single stem picked from the garden - even a solitary pansy will look great - or when you accidentally lose the head of a flower from a bouquet. As the coloured glass is so pretty, they don't need even need flowers - just some light shining though onto a sunny windowsill. A warning though, they are prone to 'clouding' from hard water evaporation, which can be impossible to remove, so do clean them promptly.

I bought this little vase (or possibly a sherry glass?) at the same time as the tank vase and it cost me a pound. It's just right for keeping my make-up brushes in.

Finally, here is a little pair of silver plated rose bowls, bought for £3.00 at Age UK. I like to think these have a bit of an ecclesiastical look. Any ideas on what flowers would work in them? I think roses would probably overwhelm them, as they're only 3 inches high. Unless they're meant for pot-pourri?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Why Vintage?

So - why vintage? I love a Mulberry handbag and a shiny rail of new season clothes as much as the next girl, but the reason my heart doesn't race when I enter Primark is nothing to do with snobbery or not liking a bargain.(ok, maybe just slightly - have you been in there recently?). Over the last few years I've got heartily sick of buying clothes which develop holes after a few wears, or furniture which looks tired after just a couple of months. Maybe I'm odd, but if I spend money on something, I tend to get attached to it. It's depressing if your 'new favourite thing' breaks or doesn't look good any more. I need quality. That's what you get with the very best of modern design, and more affordably - with vintage. It's an over-used word I know - last year's high street offerings are not vintage whatever oldtat99 on Ebay would have you believe - but there's a reason why some things survive the decades. My dressing table is teak (try buying that new, without guilt about the rainforests), made in the 1940's, and the drawers are solidly constructed with dovetail joints. It looks gorgeous, and the patina of age just enhances it.

I'm also a sucker for 'pieces' (sorry, poncey fashion/interiors mag speak!) with a story, and preferably not one that goes 'pesticides, sweat-shop, container ship, shopfloor, bin'. A chair doesn't have to be a Chippendale to be valuable - anything that fulfils my interest in social history can have a place. And hey, even if a charity shop buy is neither top quality, particularly old nor historically interesting - at the very least it will be cheap, benefiting someone other than a huge retailer, and a valid form of recycling.

Don't worry though, sadly I'm not yet one of those people who populate Sunday supplements and the interiors pages of glossy magazines. Unless you're an interior designer, work in a salvage yard or are fortunate enough to live right next to a great flea market, the accumulation of an individual look is likely to be a long process. It's all very well trying not to buy new, but if you've just moved into a flat it can be a long time with no furniture if you're waiting for the perfect chest of drawers. This is one of the reasons Ikea does so well. Most of our boys' bedroom furniture (the eldest is not yet 6), bought new and out of necessity, came from some 'pine warehouse' type place on the outer reaches of a retail park, and is made of pine (well, duh) and chipboard. The drawers are already bowing under the strain of keeping a few pairs of pyjamas tidy. 

Furniture is a bit daunting though, and less readily available in the local charity shops. Smaller accessories and kitchenalia are easier to come across, assuming you can pick them out of the dross. For Christmas my aunt and uncle bought me three different sized plates to add to a collection I've started. I imagine they hunted them down at an antique shop, but it's still worth a look in the charity shops. I bought my first piece of 'Homemaker' china at a carboot sale from a lovely old couple who had received the set as a wedding present back in 1957. Most had broken over the years, and they were amused to discover it was now considered a design classic. Homemaker was cheap and cheerful back then - but massively popular and sold in Woolworth's from 1958 right up until 1970. I love the fact that its quintessentially 50's designs (Ercol kidney tables, spindly legged furniture) and monochrome palette now look completely at home in my modern black and white kitchen. 

A return to writing...

I've always been a writer, but I'd better admit now that I'd never really felt suited to blogging. Small and hopefully humorous Facebook updates was as much 'sharing' as I could cope with - the very idea of constantly posting photographs of myself or updates on my life on the Internet makes my toes curl (I was the bride hiding from the uncle with the video camera). And I think I always felt that bloggers were either - documenting some big life event;"Adopting our triplets from Romania", boring all and sundry; "Chad and I have been married 5 months now, here we are buying a pineapple LOL!!!", or setting themselves some peculiar goal with a weather-eye on a book deal.

However, it's been ages since I wrote as much as a book review, and as it's a new year it's time for a new approach. So, I've decided to photograph and blog about all my charity shop, vintage store, market type buys  and prove to myself that sharing your enthusiasms online isn't that scary after all, and that you can have lovely surroundings on a budget. If you're doing something similar - please do comment and share.