Finding a special treasure for my home in a store or studio or market or junk shop or auction is pure joy. Especially if that ‘objet trouve’ is unexpected, and has literally been waiting for you to find it.
After being interviewed twice recently about various things Small Acorns and interior and my home, I have decided that the thing most people want to know about are my collections and my seemingly disparate bits and pieces. And not necessarily just about the actual collections, but actually, how do you go about collecting ‘things’ and where do you find them, and how do you know what to bring home and what not to?
I’m not sure that there is an easy answer to this (and I hate to think how my garbled answer will translate on paper!) But I can certainly see, as I literally cast my eye around my living room while I write this, why I would get asked this sort of question.
There are so many eclectic bits and pieces that I’m sure, given a different context, or transported back to their original junk shop habitat, could easily be overlooked or dismissed. But for various reasons, or serendipity, have ended up here, where they are cherished. So the best answer to the question about what to bring home and what to leave behind is another question – Do you love it? Are you drawn to it? Was it calling your name from somewhere in the depths of that store/market/junk shop/auction? Because at the end of the day, this is what matters the most. You have to love it.
Secondly, and this is sometimes easier said than done, especially when it comes to second hand treasures – imagine that funny old painting or chippy chair or kilim rug away from the multitude of its current surroundings, and instead picture it in your home, where it will have a little breathing space or hang on a fresh white wall, or sit alongside your more contemporary furnishings. I know this isn’t the easiest thing when you are deeply lost inside the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, surrounded by fifty thousand Turkish rugs, and seemingly there are ten salespeople for every one rug, and they all want you to buy from them. Been there, done that, have the rug to tell the story and, what’s more, no regrets!! Was there a nicer/better/bigger/cheaper rug I could have bought? Quite possibly. But do I love the one I did buy? Absolutely. Could I imagine that rug back home, away from its fifty thousand rug brothers and sisters? Yes, and no. I didn’t know where it was going to end up, but I knew I loved it enough to be certain that it would be at home in my home.
My collections have grown organically, over time. I can’t think of any particular piece where I would have consciously set out to buy it. As in ‘I’m going to go and buy some old kokeshi dolls today’. Collecting isn’t like supermarket shopping or buying from a store that sells mass-produced items, and that sort of thinking just sets you up for a never-ending quest for something that you may or may not come across. Instead, you must always be ready for when fortune strikes. When you see a particular piece that you love, sieze the day, and buy it. Budget allowing of course. Vintage pieces, handmade pieces, antiques, artwork – by their very nature these are one off items. You won’t see it again. He who hesitates is lost. Isn’t that how the saying goes? It’s true.
Similarly, if you’re lucky enough to travel, bring some mementoes home with you. They may be a dime a dozen in their country of origin, but away from a dusty roadside in India, my huge truck tassels are totally unique. And my beautiful antique bowls from Vietnam may be a little chippy, but in my eyes, this only adds to their appeal, and made them a very affordable souvenir. Travel memories by way of a special piece picked up along the way and then brought home, will instantly take you back to the time and place where you acquired it or bought it.
Look beyond the mass market and think outside the generic use of an item. I use Crown Lynn NZR railways saucers as soap dishes in the bathroom; canvas camp stools as side tables, ball mason jars as light fittings, filing cabinets as general tidy up stuff it in the drawer hiding places, old doors as table tops, old signage as artwork, old drawers as trays, old builder’s planes as coat hooks, and so on and so on. This kind of thinking means your home will be individual and eclectic and personality filled.
A collection can be many, or it can stop at one. It’s up to you.
(styling and photography by Amanda Holland for perfectly imperfect living)