Saturday, 21 September 2013



Green is unlucky! Go slow on green!

Examples taken from one of my books!
Having collected old French fabrics for thirty years or so, I was surprised to discover how few green patterns and plain fabrics were in my collections, although I have nothing against green as a decorating colour! When I asked why this was so, I was told that French women did not like the colour green and thought it was unlucky. I put this down to the fact that dyeing cloth green was usually a problem as the dyes were very fugitive and green things became dowdy and mousey with light and sun and I must agree that faded green tapestries are very drab and uninspiring, however fine the weaving and decoration. It was while watching a recent TV programme about the dangers inherent in Victorian decorating, which was a matter of taste, fashion and expenditure, that I realised there was yet another hidden danger in green.  Scheele's Green as it was known, was used in wallpapers and paints, in cloths and clothes to give the brilliant shades of emerald and all the time it was a very dangerous and invisible killer, producing alarming symptoms and invalidism and death.   England was one of the last countries to ban the use of arsenic in paint and it went on for a very long time in the last century.   I do remember reading about the American Ambassadress, Clare Luce, who found out that her repeated illnesses in one Italian palace were eventually traceable to the use of arsenic on the walls, and no doubt her health was severely damaged. This was a sad and bad case of suffering for beauty.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


Norfolk blanket chest 1890s, red paint

An old school trunk converted with casters and 2 handles, a tab to lift the lid and a chain inside to hold it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               nsformation    
another volte face

WHERE TO KEEP THE EXTRA BLANKET, THE SPECIAL VISITORS' SHEETS AND PILLOW CASES - WHERE TO PUT THE GAMES CLOTHES, THE SKI GEAR, THE TENNIS STUFF? An extra trunk or blanket chest is so useful at the bottom of the bed for surplus belongings - but ottomans are expensive to buy and not always covered in nice fabric - have a look at mine which sits in the bathroom, a handy seat for taking off shoes and stockings and it holds lots of spare bath towels. I don't think you would know that it was originally a solid school trunk which I brought down from the attic and gave to my clever upholsterer with a French ticking and a couple of drawer handles. She padded it well, lined it with some Toile de Jouy wallpaper remnants, close -covered it with brass tacks and gave it four little sliding casters. I have just got another from her which was probably no more than a plain wooden lidded box and that will sit at the end of my spare room bed with that extra blanket one sometimes needs in the middle of the night in a strange house! These boxes often turn up amongst the 'chattels' of house clearance sale rooms and of course can also be painted as Sailors Chests if you have artistic talents.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


The French furniture makers have always produced many different shapes and styles to suit every kind of house and room, from cottage to palace. They seem to have had a gift for designing the most comfortable easy chairs that were good to look at and a joy to sit in, all during the second part of the 19th century. There
was plenty of horsehair and wool to provide a warm and well stuffed seat and in the 1880s the back often featured a deep bulge known as the 'lumbar swell', which fits neatly into the small of your back and gives wonderful comfy support! I buy them in pairs as often as I find them - I think I have had about 25 of them in the last 8 years. My super upholsterer strips them down, renovates them completely and then re-covers them in some interesting, attractive traditional French textile, ready for sale - above models available now SOLD One is black/white ticking with buttoned back, the next a striped oxen coat from the Pyreneese area, SW France, and finally a copy in linen of an old French print by Robert Kime. now SOLD. They sell for about £500 each. A small pair in the pipeline - will show their new overcoats when they are done! They are to be covered in a Sanderson type linen in pretty floral mix that will go with any scheme and resist wear and dirt.(All now SOLD this week. early Sept)

Sunday, 15 September 2013


A lovely roomy pre-war  armchair with feather cushion and carving on back, arms and legs in original pinky red velour fabric.   Top quality workmanship and fine patination on the woodwork. £345              
    At our fair here in Bradford on Avon last Saturday, we had a very good crowd of eager buyers, trade was good and there was a pleasant buzz of conversation as old friends met each other as they did the round of the old Mason's Hall and checked through the wide range of goods on offer.  We had Olga Verschoor here from France and you may have missed her big 18th century damask tablecloth - a rare item, or on another stall, a really beautiful country smock in excellent condition, both snapped up by canny trade visitors!  I myself had a happy first shot at my new business, Chairs for Seniors, and was able to sell some to people wanting just such useful, attractive chairs at reasonable prices - luckily I have quite a wide selection of all sizes and shapes, but all with good back support and good traditional covers, to carry on and help people find what they need.   I am pleased to have a new interest and outlet and can see my old friends again rather than shutting up shop completely.
A small cosy nursing chair

Sackcloth from the Ukraine

Sunday, 8 September 2013


N.Y. designer, 4 extra long

6 pale blue with borders
C. & F.   7 curtains,

French vintage print
Now is the time to th7ink about keeping warm next winter and making your rooms as cosy and draught-proofed as you can.  Avoid the rather horrendous prices of new materials and their making up, and consider the economy of ready- made good second hand curtains which can give a lift to the rooms and, if properly made with interlining, can cut out those chilly areas of windows and doors.   I am selling, at truly knock-out prices, the remaining stock from my travels through France and I can assure you that they are all in good condition, ready for use (with any adjustments to size, of course.)   Examples:  6 unlined pale blue curtains with pretty borders, 8'10" drop, £50.  Pr. interlined  birdcage design 4'6 drop, £75. Some are almost new and all are either good vintage designs from the grand chateaux in France or designer- made from this country and the U.S.. INCLUDING SOME VERY SMART ONES FROM FIFTH AVENUE,N.Y.  Bring your window measurements and grab a bargain!--  PIERRE FREY, COLEFAX, GREEF, to name a few!
 Tweet, tweet, pr. £75
       Above is one piece of a whole group of vintage French print drapes for  a canopied four poster bed.  Very charming with pink and blue ribbons amongst the flower bouquets. £75 the lot.

  All these curtains and many others will be on sale at the Mason's Hall, Church Street, Bradford on Avon on Sat. 14th. Sept next  Find me in my garage next door and look at my new Chairs for Seniors (previous Blog)

Friday, 6 September 2013


cane and tapestry Now SOLD
damask and show-wood now SOLD
velvet, buttoned
This is the new business |I have started up.   It is quite difficult to find the sort of chair that
is comfortable, supportive and attractive enough to mix in with traditional country house furnishing.  I have finished with soft, spongey easy chairs for my own use - too low and very difficult to heave out of without a helping arm and hand!  If you know what I mean, you might be interested in the collection of traditionally upholstered armchairs I have collected during the last few months, either late Victorian with good springs and horsehair under, or others, more elegant, often with polished show-wood and a little inlay, from the Edwardian period.  All have been up-graded, dry cleaned, polished and re-upholstered where necessary and are ready for use.  The colours range from pinky red to deep wine, or pale Spring green to deep bottle velvet, with plenty of newly designed cushions in traditional heavy materials for constant use and support. The prices range from £150 upwards and the new cushions will be £30, so if you have been looking in antique shops for these sort of chairs, you will realise that these prices are very reasonable.  I can have chairs covered bespoke with your own materials by my very skilled upholsterer who only uses traditional materials - no foam!.  Those who know me well, know that I like turning over my stock as fast as I can and my interest and pleasure is to find more!.  ~All chairs can be seen in 2 very cosy welcoming showrooms carpeted and with fires, so you can get a good impression of how they might fit in your own sitting/dining/drawing room.  Just give me a phone call  01225 866136 to make an appointment to view at Bradford on Avon. nr. Bath.  If you visit my garage next to the Mason's Hall, Bradford on Avon on Saturday, Sept 14th, you can see, and sit in, a good selection, and view a big batch of period chateau curtains, the last remains of my textile collection which I am closing down as |I can no longer travel to France to get new stock. Very sad!!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


              ?                             ?                          ?

 Have you ever come across pastry napkins?  or got any info. on them?   I have had a query from an historian who has come across this description in a stately home inventory of a kitchen - She would be very grateful for any help in identifying them and hearing how they might have been used.  Despite having dealt in many hundreds of fine linen ones for dining tables from France, I have never heard of them, by this name.  To me, it sounds as if they were used for pre-war  'le 5 o'clock' as it was known in France, and they had probably moved from the pantry where they were kept with the porcelain tea sets and tea-knives all in the care of the house parlour maids who passed the sandwiches, Victoria cake and little scones around and looked after the silver kettle and teapot! Thank You.
I have now heard from two readers who both think these were probably tea-time napkins, small and dainty.
I now remember that I once had 24 tiny squares in  Basque linen and I did wonder, as they were in fairly coarse linen, whether they were used by wine drinkers!  I also had 8 very pretty white damask squares with a border of blue ribbons and bows and deep silky fringes,  and I used them to make soft little bedroom cushions, backing them with plain striped damask and a zip and filling them with a pad of soft white pure down, removed from my grandmother's old drawing room sofa .  I could even make good use of the fringe. No waste there!
                                                       Sweet slumber!

Monday, 2 September 2013


 We are holding our usual autumn fair at Bradford on Avon, in the Mason's Hall, Church Street, on Saturday, September 14th.  Amongst those showing textiles of all kinds and sourced from many countries is Olga Verschoor, a highly respected dealer from France where she had a long career selling top quality fabrics and decorations for many years.
  I met Olga a long time ago, dealing in her special things, in London at the Little Chelsea Fair on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Chelsea Town Hall.   She stood with Olivia Dell at the front of the stage with an amazing selection of long curtains and drapes, fine lace and exquisite bed and table linen which she brought all the way from the Loire where she lived.  She was very expert, and the London decorators and dealers gave her a great welcome and her stock soon disappeared.  I once bought the entire decorations from a grand chateau bedroom;  hangings and drapes for two tester beds, covers and valances, and five pairs of curtains all festooned with fringes and cords and tassels, all in a rich silky mulberry fabric, too much to carry up to the Town Hall gallery and hastily transferred from her estate car roof rack to mine.   We were not supposed to do any dealing outside the selling rooms.Those were the days when everything seemed very affordable and it was not difficult to find buyers for good quality French decorations!
     Later on Olga joined Olivia and me in Tetbury to start the very first show of Talent for Textiles, and was an inspired organiser who went on to run prestigious fairs at Le Mans in France.  Olga was a very successful business woman and her name was passed on by the chateau owners who had surplus to get rid of and did not want to deal with indiscreet  local dealers.  Her charming husband Eric was a great asset and at the Fairs at my house in later years, he doubled as an excellent host and sommelier when it was time for a little celebration!  Olga published an excellent book about the dowries of the French brides, Les Trousseaux, showing fine examples of the many textiles which were part of them, so if you have any enquiries about your own treasures, bring them along and she will explain.  Welcome Olga, it will be so good to see you!
These sheets are typical of the beautiful fine linen sheets that Olga Verschoor used to sell