Friday, December 7, 2012

The Victorians

Some weeks ago we received an unexpected hand -me - down from friends. They had cleaned out their attic and were ready to ship some old, decrepit furniture pieces off to the Salvation Army. But for whatever reason they ask us first if we had any use to fill our house with some more furniture... My husband actually wanted to decline but then asked me if I perhaps should have a look?

You must know, this is always dangerous, for I am known to rescue old abandoned pieces from curb sites, and dig through dumpsters for treasures without a moment's hesitation!  I went over and was confronted with two small, sad looking curio cabinets, literally falling apart, one missing a door in the hinges, tops loose and lining ripped. But I also saw some potential...
What was I to do? I liked them regardless of their situation and in my mind I played out a couple of scenarios.

I'll take them, I told our friends and they were happy when I drove off with them. Problem solved. As I discharged them at home, I was pondering what in the right mind possessed me to get them and what I was going to do with them. They were in no state to be brought into the house and needed serious repair. Which would be expensive, something we could barely afford these days, with a huge bill ahead of us, due to Sandy....
Although I had a fairly good idea where they came from I googled them up. They were indeed about 140 years old English made curio cabinets, for china display or various collections! Not book shelves. Their velvet lining is perfect in its faded beauty to hold on to slippery china.

There they sat, a reminder of my foolishness. Every time I entered the garage they stood there, looking mournfully, silently pleading with me...
I finally spoke to my husband. After all, he put me on their track, he must have known what he unleashed when he asked me to look at them. We decided to have a craftsman looking them over and see what's needed and if there was any hope.
Eric Clingen of Tarrytown Woodworks is a man after my own restoration heart. He is a non-invasive, gentle restorer, trying to leave pieces as original as possible. No need for extensive repairs, he told me. Great, I thrilled inside!
I have worked with him many times before for clients or our own needs. We will glue them back together, clean the fine wood and metal trimmings, we'll leave everything else alone. They will be beautiful! Do you know, the glass in the doors is the most valuable of the pieces? Hand blown... I was happy!
We finally came to a good deal, the price was right and we drove them over to his workshop! 
Yesterday I got them home and after a few trials and errors regarding their placement I found their perfect spot!

I pulled out the few valuable pieces of china I own, things I have had inherited and some I have collected over the years, some Astier de Vilatte and some Meissen.... Some knick knacks and some small pieces I love to see displayed.....

Even the toaster fits right there, close at hand at the dining table....

A few details have to be taken care of, I do not like dangling extension cords for example....
The small painted sideboard moved around and holds now, like many years before, the coffee maker and an additional lamp.

The old chest of drawers, in which I kept my table linens for a few years will have to find a new home, there is no way that I clutter this beautiful dining room with that unfitting piece. I am eclectic, but not messy!

After we marveled at the beauty of these Victorian cabinets for a good while I had the strangest thoughts. You must know, that I come from a family on my mother's side, where wonderful old furniture have been always appreciated, even after the war, when money was short. My parents bought themselves at their wedding an original chippendale dining set, something people were shaking their heads about it at the time, being the sixties and everybody trying to be modern. We love the regal curves of the large buffet, which, until today, holds everything of the china my mother treasures. Christmas displays are highlighted at that piece every year, as far back as I can remember. Do I digress?
Maybe, but hang on! Back to what I was thinking. Now there runs a connecting string in the family, something which also unites me with my grandmother and great grandmother. 
As I finished the set up, I realized, how traditional these pieces looked, something I could perhaps not have embraced a few years ago, when I was younger and wanted to be more contemporary and eclectic. Which still I am I believe. Perhaps this is the first moment of wandering off into the older generation, I thought, laughing to myself.... All I'll need some day (soon?) are admiring grandchildren, which will stand in front of these cabinets, asking about this piece or that, just as I did when I was young and begged my grandmother to share the stories of the pieces behind her glass cabinets, which came directly from the Victorian era, being the time in which she had grown up!
Have I come full circle? If yes, I am happy!
I feel I do not own them, but rather take care of them for a few decades until I'll pass them on, then even older and more beautiful, for they will then have belonged to our family and will have collected memories and carry something which is more then wooden walls and a glass door. By then they'll contain some more stories as well.

I wish I could find out where they have been earlier in their existence and how the ended up on this side of the pond....Who owned them before our friends got them in an antique shop many years back. Who ever had these cabinets, must have loved them too and their spirit is carried on....and well kept with us!

A happy weekend to you all!


All images by V.Zlotkowski


  1. Hello Victoria

    My heart skipped a beat when I first saw them. You definitely found a treasure and the restoration is perfect. I share you love for beautiful furniture that was previously loved. I believe I saw these cabinets before in Ireland at friend's of my parents. Enjoy being the custodian of these twins.


  2. Wow they are gorgeous! So happy you saved them and everyday you get to look at those beauties and the treasure that are stored in them. Happy weekend!

  3. I love that those curio cabinets found you. I wonder if they might have sat on a base at one time or one stood on top of the other. I would love to know the history and origin.
    Are they Flemish? They look Dutch, but most definitely European.
    I would love to see them raised higher up with legs or a chest as a base. I love all the pretties you have so artfully displayed. No balls in the dining room.

  4. was a pleasure reading this! how much you have been and still are enjoying the process of giving new life to old pieces is something i can totally relate to. also the unknown-origin-issue about used furniture, vintage fashion, etc. - it can be a thrill or at times even a little spooky... ;)

  5. Beautiful! LOVE how you styled the piece! Happy Holidays to you!

    E + J

  6. Beautiful dragon table set and I like that vintage cabinet too. I want that.... I is really beautiful. Only this I can say.

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  8. I love the blue velvet in the curio cabinets. The crisp white china with the read details, contrast beautifully against the rich blues. I must say, it has inspired me to make a paintings using the color placements. THANK YOU for all the inspiration!


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