The Cambria Emporium:
A Brief Guide to Antiques and Resources





 

Growing up, I though antiques meant Victorian. My grandmother's house was filled with walnut furniture, and we were constantly being reminded to not put our feet on the loveseat and not put cold glasses on varnished surfaces. As an adult, I collected antiques, most of which were either cottage Victorian or Arts and Crafts...the stuff I grew up with. Very few of the objects I picked up over the years, most of which dated from the turn of the century until 1925 (the heart of the Art Deco Movement) would actually have qualified as antiques.

For most people, collecting starts with the familiar...but what was familiar 40 years ago is not what is familiar today. What was familiar in my grandparents houses in the 1960s were objects passed down. The "new stuff" was Haywood Wakefield and Cushman...neither of which comes close to the revered antique status.

The truth is that very little of what people collect would qualify as a true antique. Under the commonly accepted definition, antiques are items that are at least 100 years old. The stuff I bought from "antique shops" in the 1980s weren't antiques; some still have a few years to go before the earn that august distinction.

Very few antique stores specialize only in antiques. Go to your local store, including here at the Emporium, and do a quick survey. There are antiques, especially in the booths specializing in Colonial and Federal and Duncan Phyfe. There are also the myriad of collectibles and vintage objects: objects that are older than the desk top computer, but younger than 1910.

My mother had a three basic rules about collecting: 1) collect what appeals to you and don't worry whether everything comes from the same generation; 2) tastes skip a generation; 3) antiques and new stuff are not mutually exclusive (mhd).

With all of this in mind, we've put together a list of links where you can learn about furniture styles (newer and older), the decorative arts, and the art of collecting.

Reference Guides to the Decorative Arts.

Connected Lines: Furniture Style Guide. A good starting spot.

Jacobean (1600 to 1690). A whole lot of Jacobean furniture was made by cabinetmakers for homeowners who were seriously jonesing for the Medieval period, although not a whole lot of furniture was being produced 1000 years earlier and the majority of what was produced was seriously crude. If you like light-weight or fine spindles and turnings, you are probably not going to be a fan of a style known for straight, unadorned legs. That is not to say that the furniture is unadorned. Jacobean furniture is known for some really nice carving (especially acanthus leaves, carved panels, and geometric designs. The furniture tends to be fairly heavy and sturdy (which explains why it has held up rather well over the years).

Victorian (1840-1910) (Keeping in mind that Victoria sat on the throne for 64 years, a period of which covers a multitutde of styles). The Victorian period technically lasted from 1840 to 1910 (which means the last of the Victorian era stuff finally achieved "antique" status in the last couple of years. The definition of Victorian furniture has expanded over the years to encompass a number of different styles, including the Cottage Victorian, Rococo Victorian, Italiatate, and so on. While Victorian furniture can be gorgeous, their interior design could be rather cluttered and, as one critic was prone to say, horrific. If you can find it, a great guide to the Victorian interior is Tasteful Interludes.