A DIY house renovation blogger whom I follow (Victoria Elizabeth Barnes) is hosting a link party (check out her blog and see her amazing favorite find!). What’s a link party? It’s when a blogger invites other bloggers to share posts about a certain topic, thereby increasing everyone’s blog exposure … and if there’s anything a blogger craves, it’s more exposure.
The theme for this party is “my favorite find,” my one favorite item—bought, found, salvaged, stolen … or, in my case, inherited.
My absolute favorite item is our house itself. Built in 1913, in my stewardship since 1984. (No, I didn’t inherit the house.)
But, assuming the entire house is not what’s meant here, what’s my favorite item in it? What one thing would I grab if I suspected the house were about to fall into a giant sinkhole caused by rampant mole activity? Besides one boxer and six rambunctious cats? That’s such a hard question, I’m going to push the envelope and see exactly how many things in my living room alone make my favorites list.
I found all of my “finds” in my parents’ house—I grew up with them. My parents have been gone for some time now, and the stories that go with these pieces are getting foggy, which is unfortunate … and kinda sad.
So c’mon in and look around. Here’s exhibit A, hanging on the wall in the foyer.
My grandfather bought this Navajo rug when he worked in a mining office in Montezuma, New Mexico around 1914. It’s a simple two gray hills design in natural-colored wool. I love the striations in color and the irregular design (the diamonds on the left are elongated by one square). It’s a little frayed at the corners because we actually used it as a rug for most of its life. (Sigh … the truth is, it’s not really hanging on the wall, but I wish it was. It desperately needs cleaning after a century of use and abuse … and one of these days I’ll get around to taking it to a rug-cleaning specialist so I can display it in the manner that it deserves.)
Careful! Don’t bang your shin on this beast. No, it’s not a gramophone. It’s a late-1800s foot-operated fire horn, used by miners to send signals. This thing, with its leather bellows, makes the most mournful sound, somewhere between a foghorn and a braying jackass.
The manufacturer is Siebe Gorman and Co, Ltd, London. I’m unsure how it came to our family. My dad, who was a kitchen designer, may have bought it from a client. (He occasionally came home with interesting finds, himself.) Funny thing is, the guy who used to own the house across the street also had one of these in his living room!
And over here, next to my easy chair … this lamp is the first thing I thought of, and is my truly favorite piece.
I remember seeing it in my paternal grandparents’ flat in Milwaukee as a very young child. It’s made by Classique, a Chicago lamp company, and dates from around 1910. The heavy “chipped ice” glass shade is handpainted on the reverse side. The two pull chains end in cute little acorns. It needs rewiring—only one of the sockets work—and someday I’ll get around to that. I have a couple other antique glass lamps courtesy of my parents, but both were damaged when the cats threw a big party while we were gone on vacation (picture a feline “Risky Business”). Fortunately, they’re repairable … when we get around to it. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Tucked away in a bookcase is a fun item that belonged to my dad when he was a kid. The Hoot-Nanny is a design toy (forerunner of the Spirograph) from about 1930. Insert a pencil and paper, choose your settings, turn the crank, and create a cool looping, swooping design. I played with this for hours as a child, and I loved it because I knew my dad had also played with it way back when.
Since I already have one foot in the dining room and all my kitchen stuff is IN the dining room because of our renovation, let’s check here for kitchen treasures. (Pardon me while I rummage in this box.) Here’s a piece from my mom’s family: a Joseph Heinrichs copper coffee samovar from the early 1900s. I don’t think it’s particularly rare, but I’ve always admired its coppery curves.
Make me stop!! I have to save treasures in other rooms for another post. This exercise has been illuminating for me because as I picked these pieces, I looked them up online and learned a lot. I’ve lived with them forever, and, while I always knew they were special, I’ve taken them somewhat for granted. Before the Internet there was no way to know what you had without finding a reference book or an antique dealer. Now, here I sit in my jammies, learning about the interesting oddities that have surrounded me all my life.