Saturday, March 23, 2013

Old vs New


For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by old things – antiques, books, jewellery, newspapers, letters and clothes from a bygone era.  I’m not really sure why, but I’m always drawn to them and modern items never seem to affect me the same way.  While I can see that modern architecture and décor can be attractive, I would hate to have to live in a newly built house for example.  And minimalist chic and clean lines leave me cold – to me they look sterile and unwelcome, instead of warm and inviting.  I want old, worn and with unexpected twists and turns or nooks and crannies.  Perhaps that explains why I write historicals!

Looking back, I was probably influenced by my grandmother who had a flat full of furniture and bric-a-brac she’d inherited from various ancestors.  I spent a lot of time with her and she told me stories about each item – who had owned them and where they came from.  The fact that they had a history made them seem more precious somehow (and it was a great way of remembering the family tree too).  And while my parents visited the newly opened IKEA store (yes, I’m that old – we used to regularly go to the very first IKEA store ever opened in southern Sweden), I was admiring my gran’s Rococo style sofa with its ornate feet and green silk damask upholstery.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could prefer ugly, square settees to something so pretty!

Rather than hankering after new sets of duvet covers, I asked my gran to make me traditional sheets, complete with handmade lace edgings and embroidered initials.  And I badgered my mother into giving me her “bridal chest”, a large oak chest for storing linen and other things I might need once I married.  A very old-fashioned notion that really appealed to me, but which now seems lost.  These days couples who are getting married just go to the nearest department store and make a list of what they want, they don’t save up for years beforehand just in case.  I never told my friends about this as they probably would have thought I was weird, but I carried on hoarding – sheets, table cloths, towels, napkins, all old or made the traditional way.  I still have them all.  And porcelain, lots of it!

So what is it about old things that fascinates some of us so much?  After all, they are really just second hand furniture and objects that are often used, damaged or at least a little “tired”.  To me, it somehow feels as though they were made with more care and perhaps even love.  It took a lot of effort to create them without the use of modern machinery and it also made each piece individual, different from anything else.  They give the impression of comfort and warmth, and a house furnished with antiques feels loved and lived in.  Maybe it’s just me being fanciful, but I feel a link with people in the past by using and caring for the same things as they did.  Owning my great-great-aunt’s sewing box gives me a connection with her and every time I open it, I think of her.

My children think I’m taking things to extremes by striving for a so called “shabby chic” look in our home, even going so far as to take lessons in how to use various paint effects to make furniture look old.  But I enjoyed this so much, I’m now eyeing up everything in the house wondering how to “improve” them.  To each his own, I suppose, and if I can’t convert my children into antique-lovers, I’ll just have to try with the next generation when it (hopefully) comes along!

As fans of historical fiction, do you all love old things too?  I'd love to know!

Christina

12 comments:

Lynne Connolly said...

That's one reason I make and fill doll's houses. I can have them exactly how I want them!

Helena said...

I definitely prefer old to new. Not to the extent of distressing things so they will look old, though! Like you, I've felt like this since I was a child, although in my case I think it might have been due to my reading and love of history. Now, it's a combination of liking certain styles as well as loving the fact that each object has its own history, even if I don't know it. For furniture, Regency is my favourite (unfortunately, given its cost).

Christina said...

I love doll's houses too, Lynne, and I have one I inherited from my mum. You're right, it's lovely to furnish them exactly the way you want to!

Christina said...

Helena - glad it's not just me! And yes, the cost can be a stumbling block, but sometimes you can be lucky and find things at a reasonable price at auctions. At the moment I'm into heavy Victorian furniture, which isn't to everyone's taste, so I can actually afford some of it!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Oh, how I sympathize, Christina! My house is definitely shabby chic - rather more shabby than chic, I fear.

And I do love the original Barbosa covers for Georgette Heyer's novels in your top photo. They are just right!

Christina Courtenay said...

Thank you, Elizabeth! I don't mind how shabby, it's still 'chic' to me. And I prefer 'well loved' to the word shabby anyway :-)

And yes, the original GH covers are lovely, aren't they?

Louise Allen said...

I'm all in favour of the antique and the used. Far more romantic (and I find I can get away with less dusting too!)

Lesley Cookman said...

Oh, yes, yes, yes! I have kept most of my parents' books as well as my own - and I have some of those lovely GH covers. I'm more shabby than chic, too,and I've done a bit of the distressing (improving). Sons gave me complete Winnie-the-Pooh (still have originals, even shabbier) and two Rupert Annuals to add to my collection. I think Nostalgia Rules OK in my house.

Jan Jones said...

Oh, I hate new sterile lines. I have a houseful of old furniture passed down from one family member or another.

I have lots of old GH books too!

Liv Thomas said...

Definitely old. You can sense the history, especially with places - a new town or Stonehenge? There's no contest. Admittedly, there are times I'd choose a new shopping centre, mind.

Jane Odiwe said...

Christina, you're a woman after my own heart! I love nothing more than a rummage for old china or old books in a junk or antique shop. And it's fatal if I allow myself to go onto ebay. I'm just as happy looking as buying though it's fun to find a bargain.

Fenella Miller said...

I lived for 37 years in a 400 year old cottage - now thrilled to be in a modern, warm, convenient house - but do miss the peace and the birds.
I also have a large collection of old books - including Enid Blyton etc from my childhood.