Feeling up the furniture

I mentioned ‘leg love’ a while back. I have this passionate, almost uncontrollable fixation on the legs of tables and chairs. (I realise this sounds rather weird and even kooky.) I find unusual leg shapes utterly fascinating. I basically bought the big table in the studio because I found its chunky, dark coloured, segmented legs irresistible.

Like most extremists I have specialist tastes. I only like wooden legs. I don’t find marble legs, or cast iron legs at all interesting.

It is something to do with the warmth and richness of wood, which is wildly unfashionable at the moment.

You only have to drone the word ‘brown’ with a kind of nasal sneer in your voice to allude to the concept that wooden furniture has had its day.

Pooft! I say. Lemmings, take a jump.

I adore wooden furniture for its rich warmth. I actually love the fact it came from a tree – something real and living. I love the fact there are so many different woods in the world and as a lover of furniture you have to look at any piece carefully to note what kind of wood it is.

I come from a family of wood merchants, so that probably predisposed me to look at and appreciate the sheer colour variations, tonal complexities and lustrous beauty of wood.

One thing that really amuses me about the ‘brown’ brigade (people who sneer at wood furniture): you can almost guarantee they will be searching out organic food, drinking a certain sort of coffee and wine. Yet their interiors are peopled with, basically, the most inorganic crap by way of furniture.

If you look closely at those horrible uniform houses in so many contemporary ‘nesting’ magazines, you will see – maybe – some plywood, but the rest is a dreary mass of concrete with harsh looking furniture, basically created for stick-people. These stick insects drone on about their love of the organic, the environment, all things natural (usually incorporated into the ‘design’ of their incredibly expensive ‘holiday homes’) but they would feel distinctly uncomfortable being surrounded by furniture which comes from trees.

Funny that.

I love trees, I love wood, I love wood in furniture.

Now here’s a tip. Turn your back on expensive design stores. Go to an auction and feel up the furniture.

I can almost guarantee, money back, that in ten years time what you bought at a knockdown rate at the auction, given a little study, will be worth more than the fortune you paid at a design store.

This is from William Cottrell, the doyen of New Zealand colonial furniture:

‘For $50,000 – about what you pay for a quality contemporary work of art – you can still put together an absolutely first rate collection of New Zealand colonial period furniture – top level, almost museum quality.’

Makes you think.

So go on … go and feel up a bit of wooden furniture soon.


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