My VINTAGE world
Jonathon Holder of Welsh Vernacular Antiques shares his love for primitive furniture
What defines Welsh vernacular style?
The term simply means something that has been made by local craftsmen using local materials and techniques typical of the region. The design brief of ‘function first’ resulted in humble, practical pieces with beautiful simplicity. That said, the
idiosyncrasies and traditions of each area has lead to great design variation. Strong tables of oak and elm, stick chairs of ash, and dairy furniture of sycamore are particularly sought after.
What appeals to you about the genre?
I love the fact that they were everyday items used by our Welsh ancestors. My wife Yvonne and I moved into our late 18th-century Welsh cottage when we were just 18 and became fascinated with its history and how it might have been furnished. We visited museums and talked with local historians, and from there started collecting original pieces. As a young apprentice at the time, our first purchases were modest, but as our budget grew we fell in love with stick chairs and primitive designs. By that time I was a trained Welsh harp maker with the skills to bring tired pieces back to life.
What tips do you have for collecting?
The best place to buy is from a specialist dealer. Often there are hidden restoration costs when buying from an online auction. Smaller stick chairs start at around £800, with older and more rare pieces, such as the comb back, fetching up to £6,000. A simple stool can be as little as £70 – a great way to start.
From left: Welsh Vernacular Antiques co-owners Jonathon and Yvonne; primitive 19th-century hoop back chair with sycamore seat; the showroom in Ceredigion; a rare Cardiganshire primitive oak stick chair with thick slab seat and single piece yolk arm