Playing with fire
Why antique chimneypieces are the new rock ’n’ roll
IMAGINE you’re one of those modish souls who has expended considerable effort and money paring back the interior of your drawing room: radiators replaced with underfloor heating, rugs and carpets with limed-oak floors, saggy old Chesterfields with L-shaped sofas, clusters of paintings and prints with a few Twomblyesque canvases and a tired old fireplace with a Minimalist void.
But then you look at the room in all its discreet loveliness and you realise that it looks like every other house in your fashionable postcode or Cotswold village. Worse still, you realise that something vital is missing—its heart.
It’s this startling revelation, I suspect, that sends people grabbing for their ipads on a journey around the websites of Chesney’s, Jamb, Westland and Thornhill Galleries and leads them to the conclusion that a room without an interesting chimneypiece is like St Paul’s without its cupola. The result is that the trade in interesting, unusual or just plain beautiful chimneypieces is currently at an all-time high.
‘They create an immediate sense of an established environment,’ explains Will Fisher of Jamb, ‘and the best examples have a unique capacity to distill materials, craftsmanship and history.’
The appeal of beautiful, intricate and exquisite materials is proving irresistible to a growing roster of A-listers: it was at Jamb where John Taylor, bass guitarist of Duran Duran, and Gela Nash-taylor, founder of Juicy Couture, bought the magnificent early-18thcentury chimney piece for their London apartment designed by Robert Kime (COUNTRY LIFE, November 9, 2016). Provenance is also important: the Taylors’ chimneypiece incorporates the crest of the family who commissioned it for their Hackney home.
An impressive history is much of the appeal of the chimneypiece currently at Westland London that was made for Brook House on Park Lane, built by Thomas Henry Wyatt in the 1860s. In the 1930s, it was transferred to an apartment in the block that replaced Brook House and, later, to a shop nearby.
The highly decorative nature of many chimneypieces also makes them a magnet for interior designers. ‘With the current fashion for eclecticism, there’s a growing trend for juxtaposing antique chimneypieces with modern art and furniture,’ says Paul Chesney, founder of Chesney’s.
With this in mind, anyone wanting to pair their B&B Italia sofas with a glorious chimneypiece in the manner of Sir Henry Cheere—which includes a tableau of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf—need look no further.
‘They create an immediate sense of an established environment ’
Get them while they’re hot! Left: The chimneypiece at Brook House is for sale at Westland London. Top: Chesney’s tableau of Romulus and Remus. Above: John and Gela Taylor’s mantelpiece, from Jamb