A Cer­tain Vin­tage

The art of an­tiquing gives new life to all things past

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS -

BLAME IT ON the ro­man­tic i n me, but I’ve al­ways had a pen­chant for pre­cious old ob­jects with their own sto­ries to tell. Per­haps it’s be­cause, grow­ing up, we never had any heir­looms in my fam­ily: as sur­vivors of the Holo­caust, which claimed both sets of my grand­par­ents and most of my aunts and un­cles, my par­ents im­mi­grated to this coun­try in 1948 with noth­ing more than a wooden chest packed with a cou­ple of ei­der­down quilts, some fine Ger­man china, a Czech crys­tal fruit bowl, and a sil­ver Sab­bath can­de­labra – all ac­quired while they were liv­ing in an Aus­trian dis­placed per­sons camp. While th­ese trea­sures now rank among my most prized pos­ses­sions, I yearned for a sense of ma­te­rial legacy when I first set up my own home. And so, when my hus­band and I bought our cot­tage – a charm­ing, rus­tic place built in the ’30s – we were de­ter­mined to fill it with in­ter­est­ing old items that harkened back to a more in­no­cent time. We be­came par­tic­u­larly ob­sessed with royal col­lectibles, for both their kitsch­i­ness and the way they ex­em­pli­fied tra­di­tion. With my hus­band’s Bri­tish-Ir­ish back­ground, monar­chy mem­o­ra­bilia felt ap­pro­pri­ate, and when the kids were small, we turned the “thrill of the hunt” into a fun fam­ily pas­time. Our Muskoka week­ends were filled with trips to lo­cal an­tique stores and flea mar­kets, with our two girls ex­cited to ex­plore the shops and stalls in the hope of find­ing a “roy­alty” trea­sure. From Queen Vic­to­ria mugs to Ed­ward VII plates and Queen El­iz­a­beth cups and saucers, our vin­tage china stash grew and grew, and once shelf space dis­ap­peared, we be­gan hang­ing our trea­sures on the walls. Our col­lec­tion soon ex­panded to in­clude a plethora of corona­tion and royal visit ephemera, from flags and bis­cuit tins to but­tons, match­books and other ob­scure para­pher­na­lia. We’d never spend too much on any of th­ese finds of course, al­ways ask­ing sell­ers for their “best price.” Most deal­ers are pretty ne­go­tiable any­way, and since hag­gling wasn’t ever some­thing we sub­scribed to, if the price was too high, we’d just walk away. Even­tu­ally, we out­grew our pas­sion for roy­alty fare, but the col­lec­tion it­self is still in­tact and serves as a lov­ing tes­ta­ment to old fam­ily times, spent to­gether, on a sin­gu­lar mis­sion.

When my mar­riage broke up in the late ’90s, I was de­ter­mined to get a coun­try place of my own where the girls and I could start col­lect­ing new cu­rios. Hap­pily, I found the per­fect 1842 stone house on a farm in Rose­neath, Ont. One of my first fur­ni­ture shop­ping sprees was a trip to nearby Port Hope in search of the per­fect old pine har­vest ta­ble. My friend Bruce Bai­ley, a sea­soned art dealer who also resided in the area, told me that Smith’s Creek An­tiques had some of the best Cana­dian an­tique fur­ni­ture for miles. Sure enough, I found the Que­bec har­vest ta­ble of my dreams there, and now, 18 years later, it con­tin­ues to grace the farm­house din­ing room. That clas­sic ta­ble has brought us great joy over the years, hav­ing shared count­less meals around it with friends and fam­ily. I al­ways think of all the other fam­i­lies that once sat at that gor­geous ta­ble – a kind of touch­stone of to­geth­er­ness and qual­ity times.

Th­ese days, my el­dest daugh­ter and her hus­band call the farm­house home, and my part­ner, Iain, and I spend about half our time at the 1850s coun­try house we bought a cou­ple of years ago in Wark­worth, a tiny idyl­lic vil­lage nes­tled in the rolling hills of Northum­ber­land County. We de­light in our week­end out­ings, ex­plor­ing neigh­bour­ing towns and vil­lages and check­ing out the an­tique shops along

the way. Iain, whose her­itage is Scot­tish, shares my love of in­ter­est­ing old pieces, and we’ve al­ready col­lected many for our Wark­worth home. Our first trip to Smith’s

Creek An­tiques to­gether re­sulted in a beau­ti­fully carved Nova Sco­tia pine van­ity for our guest room. And sub­se­quently, we found a de­light­ful folk art hooked rug there in im­pec­ca­ble shape that hangs in our front hall. Though we can’t be sure of its ex­act vin­tage, we es­ti­mate it to be from the 1940s and, at $125, it was a steal.

AN­OTHER great spot for fur­ni­ture, es­pe­cially Que­bec pine, is Mar­i­ons

An­tiques in nearby Brighton. Chat­ting with the shop’s en­gag­ing Ir­ish pro­pri­etor, Jack, is worth the trip alone. When we were fur­nish­ing our din­ing room, we found the most fab­u­lous Welsh cup­board there – per­fect for dis­play­ing many of the vin­tage dishes I’ve col­lected over the years. Jack’s prices are good, but don’t be shy to ask him what his “best price” is. I can al­most guar­an­tee he’ll give you a deal. That’s the case with most deal­ers, es­pe­cially if you’re pay­ing with cash or a cheque.

There are some amaz­ing bar­gains to be had at Col­lec­tion Co, in Northum­ber­land County’s Camp­bell­ford. Lo­cated in an 1850s stone house in the cen­tre of town – which also serves as a wee hair sa­lon – the stash here is ex­tremely eclec­tic and al­ways chang­ing. Poke around the small rooms on two floors, as you’re sure to un­earth some lit­tle gem at a very rea­son­able price. One of our most quirky finds came from Col­lec­tion Co: an old cop­per zoetrope fea­tur­ing a wa­ter­fall scene en­ti­tled “Na­ture’s Splen­dor” with a bab­bling brook that ap­pears to move when lit up. Talk about a con­ver­sa­tion piece!

We of­ten drive to Peter­bor­ough, and along the way, on Hwy. 7, is a fan­tas­tic 6,000-square-foot mul­ti­ven­dor an­tique mart that’s pro­vided us with hours of en­ter­tain­ment. Strolling through the var­i­ous “stalls” is a to­tal trip down mem­ory lane, with loads of vin­tage kitchen wares from the ’30s and ’40s, and enough old books, toys and board games from the ’50s and ’60s to take you right back to your child­hood.

A lazy Satur­day or Sun­day of­ten in­cludes a visit to Mey­ers­burg Flea

Mar­ket and An­tiques on Coun­try Road 30. It’s an­other multi-ven­dor op­er­a­tion, sit­u­ated in a huge barn, with a crazy mixed bag of stuff, al­ways worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing. The East­ern Euro­pean Deli on the ground floor is the pièce de ré­sis­tance though: from home­made pep­per­oni sticks to baked poppy seed rolls, there’s noth­ing like a tasty treat when you’re on an in­trigu­ing trea­sure hunt.

Of course, there re­ally is no place like home, and our sweet Wark­worth fea­tures two gor­geous an­tique stores on Main Street named Winker’s Nook and The

Nook Gallery, which we never tire of pop­ping into. Owner Lana Tay­lor has an ex­quis­ite eye, and her stores are packed with a well-edited as­sort­ment of fine pieces. I bought a beau­ti­fully pre­served bas­ket-pat­tern quilt there last year, and this past Christ­mas, scored a rare 1867 hand-coloured Cur­rier & Ives print en­ti­tled “The Pas­ture in Sum­mer: The Drink­ing Trough.”

While many of us may be at an age where we’re try­ing to di­vest our lives of “stuff,” there’s still some­thing to be said about the comfort of sur­round­ing our­selves with those unique pieces that speak of sim­pler times, have an air of fa­mil­iar­ity and don’t break the bank. The sheer fun of scour­ing th­ese en­chant­ing lit­tle em­po­ri­ums, just wait­ing for some­thing from our past to pop into view or dis­cov­er­ing some fab­u­lous find at a bar­gain price can be a most sat­is­fy­ing, even thrilling, coun­try pas­time. I don’t think Iain and I – or my daugh­ters and I – will ever tire of it. But be­yond the mere fun fac­tor, the sport of an­tiquing also feels eco­log­i­cally cor­rect: re­cy­cling th­ese ro­man­tic vin­tage pieces that so de­serve to be ap­pre­ci­ated and cher­ished anew is good for the planet and a def­i­nite sign of the times.

The au­thor’s 1940s hooked rug folk art find

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