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The Queen Anne House
by Janet W. Foster

Queen Anne–style houses are arguably the most charming and picturesque of all Victorians. In this first-ever book on the American Queen Anne style, you’ll learn about their places in the history of American architecture.
                                   
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Beauty From a Snowbank
by Bob Brooke


 

This is the story of how I acquired my very first piece of antique furniture. Up until I discovered this piece, I had admired antiques but couldn’t afford them. .

Even back in the early 1980s, antiques were still a commodity owned by the wealthy—at least that’s what I thought. I had only seen fine pieces in my rich uncle’s home when I was a young boy. When my family went to visit him over the Christmas holidays, I was told to look but don’t touch. So I figured antiques were something to be valued. They were nothing like the hand-me-downs I had grown used to in my childhood.

After graduating from college, I got married and lived in a home with more or less contemporary furniture. I still thought antiques were something that only the wealthy could afford to own. What I didn’t realize was that during the 1970s a sort of antiques revolution had begun to take place. Pieces of Victorian Era furniture had started to appear on the market. To the higher-end antique dealers, these were no more than pieces of used furniture, for they only considered ones that had been made before the Industrial Revolution began with the invention of the steam engine in the 1830s.

After graduating from college, I got married and lived in a home with more or less contemporary furniture. I still thought antiques were something that only the wealthy could afford to own. What I didn’t realize was that during the 1970s a sort of antiques revolution had begun to take place. Pieces of Victorian Era furniture had started to appear on the market. To the higher-end antique dealers, this was no more than used furniture, for they only considered pieces that had been made before the Industrial Revolution began with the invention of the steam engine in the 1830s.

My marriage wasn’t going anywhere. It was then that I met another person in the same sort of situation. He liked old things and knew a lot about these “newer” antiques. Both he and I were in the process of getting divorced from our wives and decided to move in together. But neither of us had much money to furnish an apartment. It was he who taught me how to be resourceful and to look at pieces of Victorian furniture with a eye to fixing them up and using them.

We began by searching used furniture and thrift shops for pieces we needed. Even though the antiques shops nearby had pieces we liked, we still couldn’t afford them.

One day, after we had been snowed in for a time, we took a ride around the neighborhood. Snow had been piled high on both sides of the streets. As we drove along, I noticed something sticking out of a snow bank. It seemed to be a dark board with a carved crest on it. “Slow down,” I yelled. As we did, I noticed another dark board with the same carving. We stopped to investigate.

As we were pulling some of the pieces out of the snow, a short older woman with wire-rimmed glasses came out of the antique shop in front of which the snow bank and its half-buried treasure stood. “You can have those pieces as long as you take these,” she said in a commanding voice as she disappeared back into the shop. A few minutes later, she appeared with a beautifully carved leg with lavish acanthus leaves, then ran back in. Again she appeared with another matching dolphin. She went back in two more times and came out with assorted pieces.

My friend and I loaded all the pieces into his car, and we drove back to our apartment.

After unloading all the pieces, we sat there and stared at them. What could this be? We didn’t have a clue as to how all the pieces fit together. I went about some work I had to do and left him to fiddle with the pieces.

Three hours later, he had somehow figured how a few of the pieces fit together. And after a couple more hours, an unusual cabinet began to emerge from the pile of wood. My interest peaked, and I joined him in assembling this three-dimensional puzzle. Soon a magnificent piece of furniture began to appear.

What we had found and rescued—though we didn’t know it at the time—was a Renaissance Revival cabinet-on-stand, made to hold pieces of silver and silver plate, of which we had neither. The interesting thing was that the cabinet didn’t seem to connect to the base but just rested on top of it.

The base consisted of what looked like a desk with one long drawer, held up by the beautiful carved legs with lavish acanthus leaves. This led us to believe that we had found two unrelated pieces of furniture. So we set the cabinet on the floor and used it as a server in our dining area. We placed the bottom portion in the living area and used it as a desk.

It wasn’t until about three years later, when we were rearranging the furniture in our living room, that we set the cabinet on top of what we thought was a desk. That’s when we realized we had found a silver cabinet. And the strange thing was that any silver I stored in the cabinet from then on never tarnished.

It wasn’t until preparing this article that I discovered that the true name of this piece, which I still treasure greatly, is a cabinet-on-stand.

Cabinet-on-stands were popular in the 17th century. Cabinetmakers sometimes decorated them in lacquerwork or marquetry. In Renaissance Europe cabinets often rested on chests and were lavishly decorated. A silver cabinet traditionally held the domestic or ceremonial plate of a European royal and aristocratic family.

During the Renaissance Revival period of the Victorian Era, running from approximately 1855 to1875, someone or some company chose to combine the cabinet-on-stand design from the Renaissance with the utility of a silver cabinet. From my research, I’ve discovered that my cabinet-on-stand is most likely European, perhaps from either The Netherlands or Germany. The result is one of the most unique pieces of antique furniture I own—and it didn’t cost me a cent.


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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

Read an Excerpt

Provided by: News-Antique.com