Antiques Blog

The Color ‘Blue’

I’ve always loved the color blue. It can be formal or very relaxed depending on the shade. But the color applies to one of my all time favorite foods. The ‘blueberry’. Chocked full of flavor and those ever so important ‘antioxidants’ it’s worth having blueberries almost every day of the year.

You may think it odd that I’m writing about blueberries. But I discovered something quite wonderful this week that I felt I just had to share with all of you.

This year, like most years, we travel up to the Shuswap and stay my great friend Brian who has a wonderful place on the lake near Blind Bay. He was buzzing about this super place he loves called ‘Onninks Farm’. When he mentioned all they farmed was blueberries my interest suddenly peaked.

Brian suggested we stop in on our way back from the Shuswap. And that’s exactly what we did!

When we arrived at the farm the first thing I loved was the blue fence surrounding the property! The drive up to the sorting house was like discovering something special that we’d only see in Europe. We were greeted by the proprietor below (who’s from Rotterdam) who proceeded to tell us how her blueberries were washed, sorted, ( by an amazing computerized sorting and cleaning maching you can see right there ) and then packaged in boxes that were freezer ready.

 

antique discoveries

The charming owner ‘Arina’ of Onninks Farm. (Everything was spotlessly clean and new) She also told us she loved our store and had purchased many things in the past.

The boxes are only $26/box for all these organic pre-washed blueberries!

antique discoveries

The ‘Birgit’ Berry is one of her best and in season now. Large, plump and very sweet!

They also sell these fabulous blueberry bonbons. ( I bought a small box and they are delicious!)

 

antique discoveries

These delightful little creations are boxed in the cutest little boxes that are so pretty they could be given as gifts.

Sadly I discovered their ‘blueberry tea’ after I left. I will definitely be ordering bottles of this!
No added sugars, no preservative and chocked full of antioxidants!)

 

antique discoveries

Blueberry Iced Tea!

So if you’re a blueberry lover as I am, it’s worth the trip to Abbotsford just to take advantage of these wonderful berries. Click on this link to see the Onnink’s Blueberry website for more information.

Enjoy the rest of our fabulous summer in beautiful British Columbia no matter where you are!

P.S. our antiques 25th Anniversary Sale is ending soon….if you haven’t stopped by do it soon before it’s too late!

Cheers,
Mark

Should I Reupholster or Buy a New Sofa?

That all depends if you purchased a quality sofa to begin with!

According to Suzanne Dimma, editor in chief of House and Home Magazine, investing in the best sofa you can is her advice. If you invest early in the best, a sofa can be recovered for years and years to come.

 

Suzanne Dimma of House and Home Magazine

Suzanne Dimma of House and Home Magazine

“Invest in the best and start early. I still have the same sofa I bought for my first house. I chose one that was well built and the design I knew would be timeless. I’ve even had it re-upholstered time and time again, and still love it” says the doyenne of style.

If your sofa wasn’t all that great to begin with, consider buying a vintage or antique piece. The quality (particularly the European made) is usually superior to anything made today. From the construction, to the detailing, vintage pieces excel in almost every area. And lets face it, when you recover, you get exactly what you want. So start with good bones, and consider a vintage or antique piece.

How much fabric will you need? Here’s a guide below that can help you predetermine that.

A sofa from 76″ – 84″ Wide will need approximately 16 – 20 yards of fabric.

Classic Louis XVI French made sofa

This Classic Louis XVI French made sofa is timeless in design and when recovered will last for years and years to come. C.1930, the detailing is gorgeous (something you won’t find on a new piece) and will cost less than a new sofa. This piece will probably need around 12 – 15 yards of fabric.

 

Elegant and modern fabric on a classic Louis XVI Settee

Imagine this lovely fabric on this classic Louis XVI Settee. Elegant and modern.

For chairs, here’s some quick figures to help you out.

A wing back French Louis XVI style chair

A wing back like this French Louis XVI style chair will require about 6 – 7 yards.

 

French 20th Century Louis XVI Style Armchair

This chair, while almost 60 years old is a style that’s copied and manufactured today. You can buy this chair for less than $500! It will take probably 5 – 6 yards.

 

French Empire Chairs C.1800.

One of the French Empire Chairs C.1800 will require 4 yards. Times that by 2 for the pair. They’ve last over 150 years now. They’ll be good to go for another 150.

(Everything above is available at the Antique Warehouse). If you don’t see what you’re looking for, remember not everything in our 12,000 sq.ft. store is online. You can also sign up for our weekly acquisitions. You’ll never know what’s coming down the pike. This is Mark LaFleur signing off from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

Have fun!

An Extraordinary Encounter in France

Hello from France!

Just this past week, Larry and I had the great pleasure of meeting a very important lady in the world of early 20th Century furniture designers.

This extraordinary lady’s name is ‘Francoise Siriex’. Mdm. Siriex was the director of the ‘Maison Leleu’ from 1950 until it’s close in 1973.

What was Maison Leleu? It was the atelier of reknowned modernist designer ‘Jules Leleu’ (1883 – 1961).

In case you’ve never heard of Jules Leleu let me fill you in. He was one of the greatest art deco and modernist furniture designers of all time whose beautiful furniture commands several thousands of dollars to this day.

A very close Parisian friend of ours knew how much we loved Leleu and just happened to mention in fact she knew the former directrice. Brigitte, our friend, kindly telephoned Mdm. Siriex and asked if we could meet her. Much to our delight Mdm Siriex agreed.

Larry Adams and Mdm. Siriex at the exhibit of modernist designers at the Espace Landowski

Larry Adams and Mdm. Siriex at the exhibit of modernist designers at the Espace Landowski just outside of Paris.

It was a rainy blustery afternoon that day, in fact, I thought I might spare the lady our meeting by organizing a more ‘weather friendly’ day. When I telephoned her she remarked that a little rain was not a problem and she’d meet us at our arranged time and place.

Madame Siriex well into her later years, met us at the Espace Landowski, a gallery in Boulogne Billancourt and proceeded to tour us around the exhibit that featured Leleu’s work and other super star designers of the time.

We were later invited back to her apartment and chatted with this dynamic woman for over three hours about her past and her work at the Maison Leleu. We learned this incredible lady had recently published a book on the Maison Leleu in 2008.

The House of Leleu by Francoise Siriex Book Cover

The House of Leleu by Francoise Siriex available on Amazon.com.

She spent years assembling this magnificent book, which is available through amazon.com for anyone who’s interested. Be aware however, this book will set you back over $300. If you saw the book you’d know why. It’s one of those fabulous over sized ‘coffee table’ books that’s large, impressive and beautifully put together with loads of information on this incredible designer. In fact, this dynamic lady still flies back and forth to New York doing book signings and guest appearances.

At one point during our visit I remarked if she had any of the original designs from the famed designer. The gracious Mdm Siriex brought out a file of hundreds of original designs that she’d kept for decades. As I carefully leafed through the amazing collection she asked me if I’d like one. Thrilled, of course I said yes. She remarked she couldn’t leave Larry out for fear of rivalry between us so a grateful Larry picked out a wonderful sketch done for a bathroom designed in 1930.

An original pen and ink sketch by Leleu C.1940

The original pen and ink sketch that I chose by Leleu C.1940.

Brief history of Jules Leleu

French superstar designer 'Jules Leleu' C.1940

French superstar designer ‘Jules Leleu’ C.1940.

Jules Leleu was born in Boulogne sur Mer (North of Paris near Calais ) in 1883. Raised in an artisitc family, the young Leleu studied applied arts and in 1918 went into furniture design. He moved to Paris in 1924 where he lived with another famous designer Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann.

The House of Leleu prospered and later became a family business. By the late 1930s, Leleu’s sons, André and Jean, and his daughter, Paule, were active partners. The famous atelier had an elite clientele including the Prince of Monaco, The Emperor of Japan, and President Eisenhower.

Commode by Jules Leleu C.1930

Commode by Jules Leleu C.1930

The furniture of Leleu is often compared to that of Jacques Ruhlmann. Each liked simplified shapes, the use of exotic woods, marquetry and inlay of ivory.

Leleu outlived Ruhlmann, and his style evolved. He grew adventurous, adopting new materials like artificial lacquer, fiberglass, plastic and aluminum and continued his prolific career designing.

Along with the interiors of industrialists’ houses, Leleu designed sleek salons for ocean liners like the Ile-de-France and the Normandie, corporate offices and interiors for public institutions (the League of Nations in Geneva), and the Elysee Palace in Paris.

SS Ile de France cost over $10,000,000 to build

SS Ile de France cost over $10,000,000 to build.

1st class suite in the SS Ile de France

1st class suite in the SS Ile de France.

Lean Horne and Rita Hayworth

Lean Horne and Rita Hayworth were among frequent voyagers on this luxurious liner.

The Main Foyer of the SS Ile de France

The Main Foyer

Leleu died in 1961, leaving a legacy of elegant, refined and often surprisingly original work, and his pieces are highly sought after today. His family and loyal staff (Mdm Siriex included) continued his work until 1973 when the Maison Leleu finally closed it’s doors.

Beautiful sideboard 'attributed' to Jules Leleu

This beautiful sideboard is only ‘attributed’ to Jules Leleu and sells for $28000.

The Antique Warehouse and ‘Leleu’

A curious remark was made during our visit with Mdm. Siriex. She stated that “Pas tous de Jules Leleu meubles a été signé” which in English means “not all of Leleu’s pieces were signed.” We’ve had signed ‘Leleu’ pieces sold through the store before, but we’re sure we’ve had some that were unsigned. In any event we’ll pay careful attention to the detail and craftsmanship that is unmistakable ‘Leleu’ in the future. Have a look at this French art deco cabinet that’s unsigned and currently in the store.

We have several ‘modernist’ pieces arriving to the store over the next several months. If you’re a lover of this style, please keep tabs on our ‘new container‘ announcements. ( One expected in about two weeks )
You can sign up for our newsletter and product updates if you’ve not already done so. We’ve not picked up any signed pieces of Leleu, but you never know… That’s what makes our business so exciting!

A bientot, from Paris France.

Cheers,
Mark

Celebrity Sighting | Antique and Vintage Fashion

Celebrity Sighting | Antique and Vintage Fashion

My old dear friends, Simon and Julie just sent me this photo of Pierce Brosnan in their store. He graciously offered to stop for a photo which Julie quickly sent to all her friends.

Antiques and Vintage Fashion

Pierce Brosnan at an Antique Store

French Nobility Home Untouched for 50 Years

It was a cold rainy grey January afternoon when we entered through the massive gates of a once elegant 19th Century  house. It was a hotel particulier ( city home ) located about 2 hours north of Paris. We’d received a tip from a close friend that a descendant of French Marquis and Marquesa ( the last remaining inheritor in the bitter family feud that lasted over 70 years) wanted to sell the house and all it’s contents, including several pieces of antique furniture. The only problem was the house was left untouched for over 50 years. The prospects of such a find intrigued us so we’d made arrangements to see the house the next day. What we saw and experienced shook us to our very core.

Upon entry, the first thing we noticed was the bitter cold. The dark, damp interior chilled us to the bone. There was dust an inch think, cobwebs, broken floor boards, peeling 19th C. wallpaper and paint. Decay and abandon was everywhere we looked. Armed with nothing but flashlights and daylight streaming through the windows to help light our way, we continued guardedly on.

Climbing the Stairs in an Untouched French Nobility Home

“No one has stepped in the place for over 50 years” said our friend creeping along beside us “so be careful. C’est tres dangereuse.”

19th Century Hallstand in French Nobility Home

This is a shot of the 19th Century hallstand in the main entry foyer. We bought this even though it needs some minor repair. Notice the beautiful tile work in the entrance. Typically late 19th Century C.1880.

Beautiful furniture gone to waste in a French Nobility Home

The beautiful parquet flooring was all bent and broken from moisture from the ground. Documents, old papers, china, objets d’art lay strewn about everywhere. Furniture was everywhere, some still in it’s original place. Notice the beautiful gold gilt furniture ( which was sadly too far gone ) against the broken floor boards and the sad lamp and shade. I just shook my head in disbelief and wonderment. What insanity could possess any family to become so bitter as to let a beautiful home like this fall into such a deplorable state.

French Nobility Bedroom in Disarray

A staircase led to the second floor which had four bedrooms, a full bathroom and separate WC and a sewing room. Closets, armoires and chests of drawers were literally stuffed full of linens, old clothing, documents, and more. Even the bathroom cupboard was full of old prescriptions for the Marquis and his wife intact, from the turn of the Century.

But ours wasn’t to judge. We were in the enviable position of assessing the contents and purchasing whatever we wanted. And we purchased a lot. Amazingly enough, the furniture was all ( well most of it ) in good condition. Very dirty, covered in dust and cobwebs, but in good condition.

All the photos I took are with my iphone so the quality lacks. Hopefully you’ll be able to see past the rubble and dirt to recognize the grandeur that was once this lovely home.

Antique Pram

Antique Fireplace Insert dating from 20th Century. C.1900

This fireplace insert dates to the beginning of the 20th Century. C.1900. It was in perfect condition and one of the loveliest examples of Art Nouveau we’d seen in awhile. (It’s on our next container due to arrive shortly.)

Destroyed Hunters Antique Table

Sadly this fabulous Hunters table did not make on our next container. It was located in the Dining room and had 12 matching chairs, 8 which were in decent condition.

Early 20th Century dress form C.1920

This is an original early 20th Century dress form C.1920. We bought this too as these are very very rare and highly decorative (this was located on the second floor in one of the bedrooms.)

One of the three bedroom suites that we bought. Remarkably in excellent condition. C.1900.

Antique Armoire and Prayer Bench

A prayer bench that we bought along with everything else in this room. The Armoire you see behind was full of untouched clothing.

Main Dining Room Floor and Antique Wallpaper

Another shot of the main floor dining room. Note the elegant wallpaper C.1900. Typical to the late 19th Century.

Antique Mirror, Newspapers and Documents

The mirror wasn’t for sale. Note the piles of old papers that were over 100 years old. Newspapers dating 1910 and older.

Empty Antique Cupboards in the Library

Empty cupboards in the library on the main floor. You can see how beautifully designed this house was and how elegant it must have been in its day.

Typically French mouldings of an elegant home C.1900

Typically French mouldings of an elegant home. All C.1900

Dirty China Piled Up in French Nobility Home

Dirty china just piled up for decades untouched. ( we didn’t buy any of this ) No gorgeous limoges in this pile.

Beautiful French commode from the late 1800's

A beautiful French commode from the late 1800’s. We bought this too. (located in the main entrance of the house)

Antique French Buffet Hutch

A French Buffet Hutch we bought that went along with the dining table and chairs ( all in the dining room )

Dusty Attic of Untouched French Nobility Home

The attic. It was literally buried in dust and dirt. There were four servants rooms on this floor.

Larry Debating Purchase of the Antique Chandelier

Larry in deep thought quietly considering if he’d like to buy the chandelier or not.

It took us three hours to complete the tour and assessment. Happily for us, much of the furniture was salvageable so we made an offer and bought everything that interested us. It was experience we’ll never forget. A peak into the insane world of a family gone mad with greed and grief.

Keep an eye out for pieces of this antique furniture to be available in our showroom at the Antique Warehouse.

Know what a Jarret de Porc Roti Ancienne is?

If not, I’d be delighted to tell you.  Why mention it? Because it’s a traditional French specialty dish sought after by all Antique Dealers when going to a twice yearly Antique and Ham Fair at the Island of Chatou.

What’s Ham got to do with Antiques you might ask? We failed to see the connection ourselves. It was our dealer friend Simon that first introduced us to the fair, and to this dish, where upon he explained that the Island of Chatou was famous for it’s porc in the 19th Century.

Jarret de Porc is nothing particularly fancy or haute cuisine, but it’s the flavor that is incomparable. The crackling is crisp and fire roasted, and the ham is tender.  Larry tried to convince me that all the fat had long since disappeared in the roasting process, however, I think that was more wishful thinking than fact.

In any event, I ate the ham and the crackling. And loved every bite.

In fact, even if we don’t find anything at this fair, we’ve never been disappointed as the Jarret de Porc makes the trip worthwhile just the same.

What exactly is a Jarret de Porc? In simple terms it’s a open fire roasted hamhock. But it’s the way they roast this delicious piece that makes it irresistible to refuse.  Even for confirmed calorie counters who are on strict diets.

The Roti Ancienne is the method that it’s prepared which is literally roasted the old way over an open fire on a spit. The result is pure heaven.

There is two ways, to eat Jarret de Porc.  One is on a bed of ‘choucroute’ or ‘sauerkraut’ or simply with fries. The dish in the foregound was mine. Larry opted for the fries.

Either way, you take dijon mustard and smear it on the plate, either to dip the fries, or add to the hamhock for flavor.

Eating Jarret de Porc

I’ve included this photo for you to see how delicious this dinner is. I am as weight conscious as the next, but this rare treat is something I never pass up.

Plate full of Jarret de Porc Roti Ancienne

These are photos from the Antique Fair at Chatou, which by the way, was freezing cold.

Antique Fair at Chatou

More photos from Chatou.Antique Fair at Chatou

Antique Fair at Chatou

Christmas Inspirational photos and more

My apologies for not blogging for many weeks now but things have been super busy.  I’ve just returned from France on a six week buying trip and have chocker blocked 2 full jumbo containers full of wonderful French things.  From 17th Century Antiques to present day Decorative bits.  The first container is slated to arrive towards the end of November (fingers crossed). In any event, please see below some inspirational photos I have collected over the past few months.  All Christmas decorations from the simple to the sublime!  If any of you have beautiful Christmas photos please send them along. I’d love to see them!Christmas Antique Interior Dining Room

Art Nouveau Doorway in Paris

Nothing particularly Christmasy about this photo except that I love it. Fabulous Art Nouveau at its best in Paris.

Christmas Dining Room with a French Buffet, Mirror and chair peaking out

I like this photo because a French Buffet, Mirror and chair are peaking out from the left side of the photo. And oh, the tree’s nice too!

Peacock topping a Christmas tree

That’s a peacock on top of that tree!

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

We have chairs like these at the Antique Warehouse

All White Christmas Tree and Interior Design

Not particularly fond of ‘all white’ environments…but this tree is especially pretty.

Lanterns and Christmas StockingsBeautiful Antique Interior Design with ChandelierChristmas FireplaceIcy Wreath Christmas Designs

Charlie Brown Christmas

I LOVE the non cultivated tree. It reminds me of Christmases as a little kid when those ‘perfect’ trees weren’t invented and everyone had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Christmas Decorated Living RoomChristmas Decorated Living RoomPeacock Wreath Around a Doorframe

Antiques for your Bathroom?

Antiques for your bathroom?  Yes indeed!  Antiques can give charm and warmth like nothing else can.  The possibilities are endless….antique vanities, washstands, tables etc. Antiques are used by designers and decorators with great abundance in the 21st. Century Bathroom.  And what’s more, the costs are way less than something custom built and with double the style.

See the following photos to see how some designers have transformed an otherwise austere environment into something warm and charming.

Iriss Cottage Bathroom Tub

Studio Peregalli Naples Apartment Bathroom

Antique Inspired Bathroom

Victorian Inspired Bathroom

Antique Bathroom Vanity

Antique Bathroom Vanity

Antique Inspired Bathroom

Antique Inspired Bathroom

Antique Inspired Bathroom

Antique Inspired Bathroom

Off Gassing and Out Gassing of New Furniture

Outgassing and off-gassing of furniture

Outgassing (sometimes called offgassing, particularly when in reference to indoor air quality) is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen, absorbed or adsorbed in some material. It can include sublimation and evaporation which are phase transitions of a substance into a gas, as well as desorption, seepage from cracks or internal volumes and gaseous products of slow chemical reactions. Boiling is generally thought of as a separate phenomenon from outgassing because it consists of a phase transition of a liquid into a vapor made of the same substance.

The reports that you’ve been reading about off-gassing of new furniture are correct. In many cases, the offending products are indeed made in China and swathed in formaldehyde, although this isn’t always the case. China often takes the blame because so much is made there and quality control is often lacking, but when it comes down to it, the manufacture of off-gassing furniture knows no geographic boundaries. And formaldehyde is a common culprit because it’s used to cure particleboard, pressed-wood and plywood, all manufactured composite woods. In reality, a stinky smorgasbord of chemicals can off-gas, not just formaldehyde, so while it’s good to be aware of the “F” word, don’t restrict yourself to it.

Outgassing can be significant if it collects in a closed environment where air is stagnant or recirculated. This is, for example, the origin of new car smell. Even a nearly odourless material such as wood may build up a strong smell if kept in a closed box for months. There is some concern that softeners and solvents that are released from many industrial products, especially plastics, may be harmful to human health. Some types of RTV sealants outgas the poison cyanide for weeks after application. These outgassing poisons are of great concern in the design of submarines and space stations.

HEALTH EFFECTS

Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness. The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.

Ways to prevent toxic outgassing in your home:

  •  Avoid furniture made from formaldehyde-treated composite woods and opt for “real” (preferably sustainable) wood furniture. In this day and age, this may prove to be difficult, so always consider going the vintage/secondhand route.
  • Consider buying a floor model, if possible. This way, the furnishing has had an ample amount of time to off-gas before it enters your home. Plus, you’ll probably save a few bucks.
  • Some furniture manufacturers/retailers give you the option of letting your purchase off-gas in their warehouse for a few days before you receive it. The extra wait may not be fun but if you’ve suffered adverse reactions from new furniture before, it’s well worth it. Just ask if this is possible.
  • Although the looks and dimensions of a piece of furniture are paramount when making a purchase, it does help to see where exactly it was manufactured. China should set off alarms although, again, furniture made anywhere can be treated with chemicals.
  • Ensure that any paints, stains and finishes used on the furniture are low- or no-VOC.
  • If shopping for upholstered furniture, make sure it’s not treated with toxic flame retardants (PDBEs) or are marketed as being “stain-resistant.”

An Introduction to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study” (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. TEAM studies indicated that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.

Sources

Household products including: paints, paint strippers, and other solvents; wood preservatives; aerosol sprays; cleansers and disinfectants; moth repellents and air fresheners; stored fuels and automotive products; hobby supplies; dry-cleaned clothing.

Basic Information on Pollutants and Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Asbestos
Biological Pollutants
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Formaldehyde/Pressed Wood Products
Lead (Pb)
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Pesticides
Radon (Rn)
Respirable Particles
Secondhand Smoke/ Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, and Chimneys
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Read “Care for Your Air: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality”

Levels in Homes

Studies have found that levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.

Steps to Reduce Exposure

Increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs. Meet or exceed any label precautions. Do not store opened containers of unused paints and similar materials within the school. Formaldehyde, one of the best known VOCs, is one of the few indoor air pollutants that can be readily measured. Identify, and if possible, remove the source. If not possible to remove, reduce exposure by using a sealant on all exposed surfaces of paneling and other furnishings. Use integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for pesticides.

Use household products according to manufacturer’s directions.

Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.

Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.

Keep out of reach of children and pets.

Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.

Follow label instructions carefully.

Potentially hazardous products often have warnings aimed at reducing exposure of the user. For example, if a label says to use the product in a well-ventilated area, go outdoors or in areas equipped with an exhaust fan to use it. Otherwise, open up windows to provide the maximum amount of outdoor air possible.

Throw away partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals safely.

Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step could help lower concentrations of organic chemicals in your home. (Be sure that materials you decide to keep are stored not only in a well-ventilated area but are also safely out of reach of children.) Do not simply toss these unwanted products in the garbage can. Find out if your local government or any organization in your community sponsors special days for the collection of toxic household wastes. If such days are available, use them to dispose of the unwanted containers safely. If no such collection days are available, think about organizing one.

Buy limited quantities

If you use products only occasionally or seasonally, such as paints, paint strippers, and kerosene for space heaters or gasoline for lawn mowers, buy only as much as you will use right away.

Keep exposure to emissions from products containing methylene chloride to a minimum. Consumer products that contain methylene chloride include paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints. Methylene chloride is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, methylene chloride is converted to carbon monoxide in the body and can cause symptoms associated with exposure to carbon monoxide. Carefully read the labels containing health hazard information and cautions on the proper use of these products. Use products that contain methylene chloride outdoors when possible; use indoors only if the area is well ventilated.

Keep exposure to benzene to a minimum

Benzene is a known human carcinogen. The main indoor sources of this chemical are environmental tobacco smoke, stored fuels and paint supplies, and automobile emissions in attached garages. Actions that will reduce benzene exposure include eliminating smoking within the home, providing for maximum ventilation during painting, and discarding paint supplies and special fuels that will not be used immediately.

Keep exposure to perchloroethylene emissions from newly dry-cleaned materials to a minimum

Perchloroethylene is the chemical most widely used in dry cleaning. In laboratory studies, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. Recent studies indicate that people breathe low levels of this chemical both in homes where dry-cleaned goods are stored and as they wear dry-cleaned clothing. Dry cleaners recapture the perchloroethylene during the dry-cleaning process so they can save money by re-using it, and they remove more of the chemical during the pressing and finishing processes. Some dry cleaners, however, do not remove as much perchloroethylene as possible all of the time. Taking steps to minimize your exposure to this chemical is prudent. If dry-cleaned goods have a strong chemical odor when you pick them up, do not accept them until they have been properly dried. If goods with a chemical odor are returned to you on subsequent visits, try a different dry cleaner.

Standards or Guidelines

No standards have been set for VOCs in non industrial settings. OSHA regulates formaldehyde, a specific VOC, as a carcinogen. OSHA has adopted a Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) of .75 ppm, and an action level of 0.5 ppm. HUD has established a level of .4 ppm for mobile homes. Based upon current information, it is advisable to mitigate formaldehyde that is present at levels higher than 0.1 ppm. Levels in Homes

Studies have found that levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.

Click here to read a story from an individual who bought a cabinet from Crate and Barrel

‘French Kids Eat Everything’ by Karen Le Billon

I happened to catch an interesting interview on Global T.V. this morning about a Vancouver woman named ‘Karen Le Billon’ who’d relocated to France with her husband and kids.  Karen and her small family spent a year there in a small village where her husband grew up in the northern part of Western France.

She noticed quickly the difference the way French parents were rearing their children from the way North American families do.  What surprised her the most was the way French children ate.  French children were not picky, fussy or difficult eaters.  In fact, French children began eating the way adults do, from the very young time they began to consume solid foods.

She commented that even at school, the cafeteria was not called ‘ cafeteria’ but school ‘restaurant.’  The children were fed with chef inspired and cooked meals that would be comparable to any 4 star restaurant here in Vancouver. Every meal was different and none were repeated.  The children were never allowed to snack between meals.

My own close friend Jean Francois and his wife Helene who live in Paris have two little boys, Louis and Constant.  Louis is now 3 and the way that little boy has been eating surprised even me from the time I could remember him beginning to walk.

During our evening visits to Jeff and Helenes, little 2 yr old Louis would come to the coffee table and join us eating hors d ouvres like Oysters on the Half Shell, bulots ( tiny snail like crustaceans ), pate de fois gras, Mussels, etc.  Never grabby or rude, Louis always asks his father for permission before taking anything!!

His proud father would remark  “my son is a gourmand from a very young age.”

An uncharacteristically bearded Jean Francois and son Louis (refusing to pose for a photo)

An uncharacteristically bearded Jean Francois and son Louis (refusing to pose for a photo)

I would always comment that’s only to be expected seeing that he’s named after the Kings of France. Jean Francois always beams at that comment! (To be honest, I always feel like were dining like King’s of France when I’m at Jean and Helenes.)

In any event, Ms. Le Billon has written a book ‘French Kids Eat Everything’ and while I have not read it, I think it’s worth a read.  Particularly for those who have children that are difficult and picky eaters.  ( hmmm…..that would include just about everybody I know with kids here in Vancouver )

Note* (Ms. Le Billon commented that French children are taught table and how to be quiet and polite during dinner.)

Please click on the link below to see where to buy the book.

Enjoy!

French Kids Eat Everything Book Cover

Click on the book to see where to get it.

Pourhouse Restaurant Loves Antique Warehouse

Back in 2009 the award winning interior designers of Gastown’s ‘Pourhouse’ restaurant chose Antiques from our very own Antique Warehouse.  It’s not the first time designers have chosen Antiques from our store.  They’ve been doing it for over two decades now.

But it wasn’t until this week that Larry and I happened to be in Gastown and decided to stop into Pourhouse to have lunch (and to check out our Antiques.) (We also heard from several clients including our own Manager Gareth that the place was ‘cool’ and fun)

The two Ceiling fixtures flanking the bartender were from The Antique Warehouse

The two Ceiling fixtures flanking the bartender were from The Antique Warehouse. They are Brass 19th Century Chandeliers from France.

Pourhouse opened it’s doors in 2009 and quickly grew popular for its fun and unique atmosphere.  Fashioned after the prohibition speakeasy’s of the early 1920’s  the waiters run around attired in ‘theme’ appropriate wear…from the vests and suspenders to vintage style ‘newsboy’ caps.

The menu consists of mouth watering comfort foods like ‘Braised Beef over Egg Noodles and Sour Cream’, ‘Steak and Frites’, ‘Spaghetti and Meatballs’, ‘Steelhead Trout with Braised Red Cabbage, Fennel and Orange Salad’ and much more savoury selections.

Newsboy Cap C.1920

Newsboy Cap C.1920

Our waiter ‘Mark’ was an affable chap and most helpful in suggesting some unusual drink combinations to start. Larry chose a Whiskey Sour with whipped egg white.  I stuck to a ‘Stout’ beer which I have no idea what brand it was, but it was great nonetheless.

For starters, we ordered ‘Oysters on the half shell’ with an excellent ‘mignonette’ sauce ( just like in France ).

For the main course I selected a ‘Country Sausage on Sauerkraut’  (In France that dish is called Choucroute) and Larry had the ‘braised beef on Egg Noodles and Sour Cream.’  Both were decent sized portions without being ridiculous and both were excellent savoury choices.  (Something extra was added to that Choucroute because it had an unusual lovely flavour unlike the usual run of the mill Sauerkraut dishes.)

We took a ‘creme brûlée’ for dessert trying to find some fault with this restaurant’s cuisine.  Sorry, the creme brûlée was just as good ( if not a bit better ) than anything you could find in France.

We saw many of our Antiques placed throughout the restaurant.  The most notable being that gorgeous French Hallstand C.1900 they purchased through us.  We found that rare and beautiful piece in France and it looked beautiful displayed proudly in the special alcove the designers built for the piece.

Early 20th Century French Hallstand from Paris. C.1900 at Pourhouse

Early 20th Century French Hallstand from Paris. C.1900.

We always like to support clients but this was well worth the visit to Gastown. Would we go there again? Most definitely!

If you’re looking for something with atmosphere and heritage charm ( you probably wouldn’t be reading my blogs if you weren’t ) I suggest trying Pourhouse for your next dining destination.

Check out Poorhouse at there one location on Water Street in Historic Gastown at 162 Water St.

They are open 7 days a week.

http://www.pourhousevancouver.com/

Antique Furniture Joinery

Antique Furniture Joints – Determine the quality of your antique furniture.

mortise and tenon joint

Recognizing different kinds of furniture joints can help you determine the quality of antique furniture.

If you discover that a chair is constructed using mortise and tenon joints as opposed to dowel construction you can be sure it’s a high quality chair. The same is true about furniture with dovetail construction on the drawers as opposed to rabbet joint drawers. Dovetails are a better joint and will last indefinitely.

A basic knowledge of antique furniture joints is also important in antique furniture repair for a number of reasons. If joints are loose on a piece of furniture, you’ll probably have to disassemble the piece to re-glue it.

When you look at the exterior surface of a joint, you may only see a line where the two pieces of wood meet. Your knowledge of antique furniture joints can give you understanding of what’s hidden below the surface of that line, enabling you to work the joint loose without breaking it. If you have a broken joint or pieces are missing, knowing the type of joint you’re working with allows you to repair it properly.

Butt Joint

A butt joint is made when two pieces of wood are butted together and glued. Boards are commonly joined end grain to edge grain, edge grain to edge grain, or edge grain to face grain, although other configurations are possible. When you glue an end-grain surface of one board to another wood surface, the joint won’t hold unless it’s reinforced with dowel pins or some other reinforcement. The reason for the reinforcement is that the end grain of wood doesn’t provide enough solid surface for the bonding process to take place. When magnified, end grain looks much like the end of a group of drinking straws bunched together. Consequently, the open end of the grain fibers absorbs most of the glue you apply to the joint and doesn’t leave enough on the surface to provide a good bond.

When you use the butt joint to glue two or more boards side by side, or edge grain to edge grain as when making a wide top for a table, however, the joint can be quite strong. You must make sure that the joining edges are planed smooth to form a perfect fit, though, and that the joint is glued and clamped sufficiently.

butt joint

Lap Joint

Lap joints are created when two pieces of wood overlap one another at a right angle. Usually at least one piece of wood is notched out, allowing the other piece to fit down into it. This kind of lap joint is called a full-lap joint. Both pieces may also be notched to half of their thickness, allowing them to fit into each other. These lap joints are known as half-lap joints.

lap joints

Miter Joint

miter joint

The miter joint is formed by cutting corresponding angles, usually 45 degrees, on the ends of two pieces of wood and joining them together. The most common use of the miter joint in furniture is in mirror and picture frames. The miter joint may be reinforced with pins or dowels or with the installation of a wooden back panel, often 1/4-inch plywood.

Rabbet Joint

rabbet joint

When you notch the end or the edge of a piece of wood and use that notch to join two boards, you’ve created a rabbet joint. You can also make a rabbet joint by notching both pieces of wood. The rabbet joint is not a strong joint in itself and is usually secured with fasteners like nails or screws. Sometimes drawer sides are joined to the fronts with rabbet joints. Rabbet antique furniture joints are used in casework furniture like chests or in some drawers to join the sides to the front and/or back. Cabinet backs can also be joined to the case with rabbet joints.

Dado Joint

dado jointA dado is a groove cut across the grain of a piece of wood. A dado joint is formed by cutting a dado in one piece of wood the exact size as the square-cut edge of another piece. The square-cut edge of the second piece is then inserted into the groove of the first piece to form a tight, secure joint. This type of joint is also usually glued. Dado joints are commonly used to join wood at right angles, as in bookcase shelves. Sometimes the dado is hidden because the groove is not cut all the way across the board to the front of the bookcase. This kind of dado joint is called a blind dado.

Mortise and Tenon Joint

mortise and tenon jointThe mortise and tenon joint is one of the strongest antique furniture joints, and its use usually signifies quality furniture. The mortise and tenon joint is normally formed by cutting a square tongue (the tenon) on the end of one piece of wood and an equal size square hole or slot (the mortise) in another. The tongue of the first piece is then inserted into the slot of the second. Although not necessary, sometimes a pin or peg is also inserted through the joint, perpendicular to the tenon, locking the joint together. Mortise and tenon joints have been used not only in furniture but in the construction of centuries old wooden bridges, barns, and houses. Many of these structures still stand today, a testimony to the strength and stability of the mortise and tenon joint.

Dowel Joint

dowel jointDowel joints are basically substitutes for mortise and tenon joints. Many modern pieces, particularly chairs, are constructed using dowel joints. A dowel joint is made by fitting a butt joint and then drilling corresponding holes in the two pieces of wood to be joined and inserting the dowel pin or pins before joining the pieces. Glue is used in this type of joint, and the dowel pins serve as round tenons, holding the two pieces together. Although dowel antique furniture joints are commonly used and are easier to make than a mortise and tenon joint, they usually aren’t as strong.

Dovetail Joint

dovetails jointsThe dovetail joint is one of the most distinctive and best antique furniture joints used in furniture construction to join wood at a right angle. Easily distinguishable by its multiple flared tenons, which interlock like fingers and look like doves’ tails, the dovetail forms a strong, durable joint. Most commonly used to attach drawer sides to drawer fronts, dovetails joints almost always indicate quality furniture. Antique and handmade furniture were built using hand-cut dovetails created with fine-toothed saws and chisels. Modern manufactured dovetails joints are cut by machine and are usually distinguishable from the hand-cut type because the interlocking flared tenons, called pins or tails, are exactly the same size and are evenly spaced. Hand-cut dovetail antique furniture joints usually have tails that differ slightly in size and may vary in spacing. Machine-cut dovetails joints are excellent, strong joints, but the old hand-cut variety is still hard to beat.

Dovetail joints can be constructed using either “through” dovetails or “half-blind” dovetails. Through dovetails are cut all the way through the thickness of both joining pieces of wood, with the “fingers” visible from two sides. Half-blind dovetails are cut so that the dovetails are visible only from one side. An example of a half-blind dovetail joint would be where a drawer side is joined to a drawer front with dovetails that are not visible on the face of the drawer front.

Thanks for reading!

Mark

You’re seriously going to paint your Antiques?

Yes, folks.  People are now painting their antiques at breakneck speed. White seems to be the color du jour, but already that look is tiring quickly.

While most Antiques lovers consider painting an antique a sacrilege, I’m a little less of a puritan than that. If that’s what you want, then go right ahead. But consider reading my blog carefully before lifting that paint brush!

Believe it or not, some antiques actually do look better when painted. I examine each piece on a case by case scenario before deciding to paint or not.

These are the factors I consider!

1.  How old is the antique?

If it’s 50 years old or less than it’s usually a good candidate for a lick of paint. However, a 100 yr old broken down French Antique Henri II piece could be painted.  And look quite wonderful too. These pieces are usually made of Oak, and oak takes paint nicely.

2. How valuable is the antique?

I wouldn’t paint any antique I paid a lot for. We have lots of pieces in our store that are cheap and cheerful and would look amazing with a coat of ‘antique french white’. In fact a cheap antique once painted can double in value if done right. You wouldn’t believe how many people come in and purchase an expensive antique and then announce they are painting the thing!  It happens way too much and I always suggest a less expensive alternative.

3. What is the design of the antique?

If the design of the antique is quite linear and is dependant on the veneering or inlays for the design than painting such a piece may disappoint. I have found that an antique with lots of carving is the best candidate for paint. The carving ‘pops’ when painted and looks sensational.  Like the antique Henri II piece I mentioned above.

Antique Buffet Hutch

An antique like this buffet hutch on the left, while it a shame to paint, would take a coat of paint quite nicely and change the appearance dramatically.  All the carving and detail would literally ‘pop’ off this antique!

We recently painted a lovely early 20th Century antique French Commode with simple lines but veneered with lots of exotic and rare woods. I wouldn’t have painted this antique for the world, but the client wanted it.  Because the design of the antique was simple the piece ended up looking less exciting than a highly carved antique. This was a mistake as far as I am concerned but the client was thrilled. And I was happy he was satisfied.

4. How interested are you in reselling or handing down the antique in later years.

You should know that once a good antique has been painted, that’s virtually the end of the line for the piece. That’s why I highly discourage anyone from doing anything to a higher end antique. So many lower priced alternatives are out there.

Once paint has been applied to the antique the original patina of the piece is obviously gone,  but even if you change your mind months or years later and decide to restore the finish you will never regain the original patina of the antique. You can NEVER restore an original patina that took years of oxidation to develop.

Consider the wood of the antique?

If the antique is a beautiful piece of Mahogany made furniture, paint it if you want, but consider this…..you will NEVER be able to change your mind and get the original finish back.  You could get something close, but it will cost hundreds maybe thousands of dollars to restore a mahogany finish that would please you.

Is the original finish shot?

If it’s a very old antique and the finish is completely gone, than a painted finish could do the trick. It’s going to need refinishing anyway, so painting may be a reasonable alternative.

We had a 19th Century French antique games table with a completely ruined finish.  Every square inch of the piece needed refinishing. It would have taken hours, and frankly, wasn’t really worth it. We painted it a matte black ( it was mahogany too ) and it sold within days. It was gorgeous!

However, this is a story that sickens!

We had a client who bought an absolutely gorgeous burled walnut veneered antique bookcase/china cabinet that she paid a lot for. The piece was an early English 20th Century high end piece with a patina to die for.  We almost choked when the client told us she was painting it white.  I suggested maybe select something else, but no, this client was insistent.  And so it went, this absolutely stunning antique China Cabinet, to the painters. That was sad.

I also had a client who was nuts about silver.  She silver leafed everything. She bought a beautiful 19th Century antique French Settee with it’s original walnut patina.  It was gorgeous and expensive with beautiful detail and carving.   She told me she was going to ‘silver leaf’ the thing and I shuddered with disbelief.

Hey I’m in the business of selling antique furniture, so if someone wants to silver leaf an antique period Louis XV piece than go right ahead.  It’s sacrilege in my opinion and I’d love to say I won’t sell you the piece.  But business is business and I wouldn’t be open for long if I started shoving my values down people’s throats. I ALWAYS recommend another alternative but if a client is insistent than what can I do.

Thankfully this client decided against painting the piece! I sighed a deep breath of relief when she told me she took my advice.  Good thing too…because three years later the lady had to resell her antique.  She got almost full value because she hadn’t touched the integrity of this fine 19th Century antique!

So my advice about painting Antiques.  I wouldn’t unless it’s something you feel would look better painted.  If you need advice in this area contact us first for a final evaluation. We will definitely help stave off a mistake you may regret down the road!

Happy 2012 to all!

Click here to visit our website to contact us for information

To Strip or Not to Strip….That is The Question

It’s amazing how many phone calls I get from people wanting to know how to strip their antique furniture because the finish is damaged in some way.

After a brief discussion with the person we can sometimes determine that a total strip and refinish may not be necessary at all. Some expert touch and minor repair up is all that’s required.

If the original finish is damaged and beyond redemption, than stripping may be your last resort. In this week’s blog we’ll explore how to determine whether a total ‘strip’ is required or not.

We’ve all heard experts tell us daily, altering the finish can destroy the furnitures value. In most cases this is true.  For example, a 17th Century hand painted finish on a rare American or Continental piece can spell disaster if stripped.  People hunt and pay dearly for those ‘distressed’ finishes that were done by hand over 250 years ago.  They are rare and should never be touched, other than with a light cleaning.  And even a cleaning can be touchy unless you know what your doing.

We’ve also heard of the person ‘cleaning’ or ‘polishing’ up a piece of furniture and completely destroying the original patina and devaluing the piece many thousands of dollars in some cases.  This is true in more cases than not.

Then there are the people that decide they want to refinish a lovely old piece to make it look ‘better’.  I see wonderful tables that come in to my store, where the client has totally refinished the piece.  The original color, depth and patina has been destroyed, devaluating the piece to a fraction of what it might have fetched.

Many finishes that look absolutely horrible may be salvageable with a little oil and wax.  It’s amazing what we do with pieces that come in from France that look like deaths’ door and after a little TLC they end up looking wonderful.

I would only strip a piece of furniture if the following applies.

A. Deep dark water marks have burled there way into the wood

B. The finish has chipped off in some way over the entire surface.

C. The finish has deep cigarette burns or fire burns.

D. You want a different color.

I would suggest either contacting us first, or sending a photo and we can let you know whether a little touch up will do the trick or if a complete ‘refinish’ or ‘restoration’ is necessary.

If you notice I have used the word ‘restoration’.  We do much restoration to finishes without totally stripping a piece.  This keeps the integrity of the piece intact, and leaves the original finish which is always preferable.

If you’ve scrutinized the finish and determined it’s beyond help, you may want to strip and refinish the piece.

Another prime candidate for stripping and refinishing is a piece that was originally finished in a wood finish but has since been painted over within the last 50 years. Usually you’ll find that the paint was applied directly over the original finish, making it easier to strip because the paint pigments have not been able to penetrate the wood grain. Stripping and refinishing this kind of piece often exposes beautiful wood hidden under an opaque finish.

Keep in mind, however, that some pieces were made to be painted; stripping them usually uncovers inferior or mismatched wood pieces that will not finish well. If the paint has been applied to raw wood, it’s usually an indication that the piece was meant to have a painted finish. In such cases you may still want to strip furniture paint to repaint the piece, or you may be able to simply repaint over the old color. To find out whether the paint is directly on the wood surface or atop another finish, scrape the paint or apply solvent to it in a small, inconspicuous area. If the paint pigment remains in the wood grain, it was probably painted originally; if not, the paint is over a natural wood finish and refinishing may be in order.

You may want to consider joining one of our French painting classes held at the store and conducted by painting guru Kathy Van Gogh.  She will show you how to produce a ‘faux finish’ that will look many decades old.

Another case for stripping is if the finish is so far gone or damaged that it simply cannot be renewed. Old finishes can become brittle or flaky as a result of age and mistreatment. Finishes can also be damaged by water or fire and often can’t be restored without stripping and refinishing. Water can make some finishes lift and discolor permanently, while heat and smoke can blister or blacken finishes.

Yet another reason to strip and refinish a piece: You don’t like the finish color or shade. For example, if you’re putting a piece in a particular room or with another piece of furniture, you may want to blend or match the room’s other furniture or the area’s decor. But again, before deciding, consider the piece itself: If it’s a valuable piece blessed with an original finish, you’d be better off saving the finish and buying another piece of furniture to fill your need!   To me it’s like buying a piece of artwork to match the color combination of a room and not for the artworks sake itself.

Remember, it’s easy to strip a piece ( with a lot of elbow grease involved ) but it’s quite another to ‘refinish’ the piece.   There are so many types of finishes to choose from that it can be daunting.  But I can almost guarantee you, unless you’re a pro you may regret ever trying to refinish a piece yourself.  This is where you definitely need to consult a refinisher.  And even then, there are good and bad refinishers.  I know of one who simply sprays a lacquer finish on pieces.  So many times, more often than not, I see this done to furniture. The look is dull, flat and plastic.  I hate this finish, unless its a super high gloss clear coat on an art deco piece or something very modern.   And be careful about putting a high gloss clear coat on an antique.  The look is simply awful.  The antique looks too new, and looks like it should be in the showroom of an Ethan Allen or some other new furniture vendor.  Dont do it!!  It will devalue and ruin the piece for ever.

My advice, go ahead a strip the piece if you want, but let a professional apply the final finish unless you are truly confident you know what you’re doing.

For more information on stripping furniture click on the link

How to remove Candle Wax from your Antique Furniture

Christmas Tree Fireplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Christmas Time.  The most wonderful time of the year.  I personally love Christmas and getting together with friends and family.

This is also the season for candles. And lots of them. Either on your beautiful dining table to create a warm and charming ambience, or placed throughout the home infusing holiday scents into the air.  Whichever it is, candle wax can get on furniture. And removing it can damage your antique furniture if you’re not careful.

The first thing to remember that candle wax must be left to harden before attempting any removal of any kind.  Follow these simple steps outlined below and removal will be problem free.

Tools and Materials you’ll need.

• Soft cotton rag

• #0000 steel wool

• ice cube

• credit card or plastic scraper

Removing Candle Wax from Furniture

1) Freeze the wax

Use an ice cube to harden the wax drippings, making them brittle.

2) Scrape the area

Use a plastic paint scraper or the edge of a credit card to scrape all the wax from the furniture finish surface as gently as possible.

Removing Candle Wax from Furniture

3) Rub out the affected area

Apply a cream polish to the furniture surface using #0000 steel wool. Rub with the grain of the wood; this will remove any remaining wax residue.

4) Polish the area

Buff the repair area to a luster similar to that of the surrounding finish using a soft cotton cloth.

Please note, that neither I nor the Antique Warehouse accept any responsibility if you damage your furniture.  This blog is meant as a suggestion only.

Wine Bottle Candle Holders

Removing Water Marks from your Antique

The upcoming blogs are going to be about the care, restoration or repair of your precious antiques.  While it’s always best to let a professional handle these delicate matters, these blogs should answer some questions about whether a piece is salvageable or ready for donation to your local thrift store.

First we are going to investigate the ‘water stain’.  While usually all water stains are treatable, some can be much more difficult than others.  If a water stain is white, that’s a good sign.  If it’s dark, well, that’s a different story

Water and other kinds of liquid can cause ring stains in finish and wood. Shellac finishes are more susceptible to this problem than other types. Stains that are in the finish are usually white, while stains that have gone through the finish and into the wood will appear dark or black.

Dark water stains can’t be removed without refinishing, and even then, they are difficult to get out. You may be able to remove the finish, bleach the stain, and refinish the surface.

White water stains, or those still in the finish, can often be removed without stripping the finish. The longer the stain is in the finish, the deeper it will penetrate into the surface. The deeper moisture penetrates into the surface, the harder the stain is to remove, so it’s important to remove water stains as soon as possible.

Finish discoloration that’s caused by moisture is a result of moisture being trapped in or under the finish. To remove water stains, you must get rid of the trapped moisture. This can be done in one of two ways: Use a chemical called an amalgamator to soften the finish long enough for moisture to evaporate before the finish hardens, or use an abrasive to cut into the finish to the depth of the moisture, allowing moisture to escape and causing the stain to disappear.

Remove water stains using amalgamator

Amalgamator is an alcohol-based mixture sold by finish and touch-up supply stores to soften an area of the finish and cause the moisture stain to dissipate. The technique for applying the amalgamator to the finish surface is similar to that used for French polishing. If you can’t get amalgamator, try using denatured alcohol instead, but be careful not to cut too deeply into the finish.

Removing Water Marks from Antiques

1) Apply amalgamator to a pad
Use a soft cotton rag to make an applicator pad. Ball or roll up the rag in a comfortable size to hold in one hand (about the size of a large egg). Smooth out the part of the rag that will make contact with the finish surface. There should be no wrinkles or creases. Apply amalgamator to the pad, allowing it to soak into the rag.

2) Disperse the amalgamator
Tap the padding rag into the palm of your other hand, causing the amalgamator to spread into the rag until the surface of the rag is damp, but not wet.

3) Pad the stain
Pad over the surface of the finish on top of the stain with a pendulum-like stroke in the direction of the wood grain. Briefly touch the padding rag to the stain surface, and then lift it off, keeping the pad in motion when it’s in contact with the finish surface. The water stain may not immediately disappear, so continue to pad the area, adding more amalgamator to the rag if necessary. The trick is to keep your padding rag damp enough to soften the finish but not wet enough to cut through the finish to the wood surface.

4) Blend-in the repair area
When you finished to remove the water stains, allow the area to dry. Next, rub the finish down with #0000 steel wool to blend the sheen. Paste-wax the finish if necessary.


Remove Ring Stains Using Abrasives

You can use any of a number of fine abrasives to remove water stains from the finish, including #0000 steel wool, rottenstone, pumice, and 600-grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Adventuresome refinishers have even used toothpaste or cigar ashes as abrasives. The depth of the stain will determine which one will work for you. Start with a mild abrasive. If that doesn’t work, go to sandpaper. However, the less cutting into the finish to remove water stains, the better.

Removing Water Marks from Antiques

1) Rub the stain area using steel wool 
Rub #0000 steel wool over the stained area of the finish, rubbing with the grain and using firm pressure. If the stain is shallow, this may remove water stains. If not, go to Step 2.

2) Rub the area using sandpaper
Use 600-grit wet-or-dry sandpaper and a felt block to sand the stained area if steel wool doesn’t get the stain out. A little soapy water or mineral spirits will work as a lubricant for the sandpaper. Use firm pressure and sand the area well, rubbing in the direction of the grain. If the stain doesn’t disappear, go to a coarser wet-or-dry paper (500- or 400-grit), but remember that coarser papers may dull the sheen in the repair area and can even cut through the finish to the wood, so be careful. If you use a coarser paper, follow it by sanding with 600-grit paper to try to bring back the sheen.

3) Rub the area, again using steel wool
Rub out the finish using #0000 steel wool and paste wax, if it’s needed to blend the repair area with the rest of the finish.

As a last word of advice, all these techniques require skill and a delicate touch.  While I have posted these methods, I assume no responsibility if you damage a piece.  Consult a professional and let them do the work.

At the Antique Warehouse we can fix almost anything.  If you like, send us a photo by email no larger than 100K, and we can estimate how much it will cost to have your piece looking great again.

Happy Holidays to you all.

Mark LaFleur

Can You Spot a Fake Antique?

Spotting a fake Antique is no easy task.  We know. We spend all our lives separating the real from the fake.  We have to do it in a split second at times, particularly when we’re buying in France.

When I first got into this business I was making mistakes all the time.  Larry of course, was in it much longer than I, and was constantly pointing out the areas of ‘newness’  or ‘fakeness’ that had tricked me.

Almost nothing gets by me now.  It took years to train my eye, so don’t expect to become a ‘pro’ after reading my blog.  I will point out things to watch for,  but a trained eye will always have an edge over someone who is a novice.

Reproduction antique style mirror

This may look old, but in fact it’s brand new. We’re Okay with that. We bought it! But we also sold it for what it was. A good quality reproduction produced within the last 20 years. It also sold for a fraction of the price of the good antique ones.

TRUST YOUR SOURCE

This may sound odd, but the first thing I consider when looking at a piece is who or where am I getting it from.  There are people and venues I trust, and those that I don’t.

That doesn’t mean I let my guard down completely, but I can relax a little more. However, this is not always the case.

I remember trusting this one dealer.  I had bought many things from him the past and been pleased with my purchases. That is, until I bought what I thought was an old 19th Century wooden Chandelier. It looked gorgeous. I thought it was a wooden hand carved ‘Italian’ piece from the 19th Century or earlier.  It was red on gold and really stunning.

He had it hanging quite high in his warehouse and I asked if it was old. He said it was.  So I bought it quickly without any hesitation, trusting him at his word.

It wasn’t until it arrived in Vancouver that I discovered the grim reality.  It was a fake, a big fat fake.  The worst kind.  An expensive fake. I had paid a lot for this piece and I would have had to retail it for around $5000.

Not only was it new, it was plaster painted to look like wood.  And broken to boot!  Unfixable, unsellable ( except for a huge loss ) and unbearable.

Mistakes like that cost me big time.  Not only in money, but also in sourcing. It’s hard to find honest Antique dealers anywhere, but particularly in France. And now, with the economic crises it’s become much worse.  You really have to know what you’re doing.

I called the French dealer who duped me,  and had a heated exchange with the guy.  He told me I never asked if it was old.  That’s the thing I hate the most. Challenging my intelligence.  I knew what I had asked and I am not that old that my memory’s slipping that much.

'French' fake armoire spotted in a Vancouver Store

This ‘French’ fake was spotted in a Vancouver Store ( Not ours of course ) Look at how poor the carving looks and the plastic like finish. Not a great look and this Armoire was over $5000!!!

Suffice it to say, I never bought a thing from him again.

I would have let it go if he had offered me a refund or credit, and above all not challenged my mental faculties.

But refunds in France ( except in large department stores ) are unheard of.  NOTHING is exchangeable.

So trusting the source is paramount on my list.

Larry and I did a Research trip around the world about 6 years ago.  We purchased an around the world airline ticket so stopped in many ports of call. Buenos Aires was the first stop, Thailand was the last.

We saw so many reproductions in Thailand that I seriously have no idea what a real Thai antique would look like.  We liked Buenos Aires but decided we couldn’t trust the shipper and heard horror stories of complete containers disappearing without a trace.

Fake Antique Chairs in Bangkok

These chairs were being sold as Antiques. The only problem is every dealer in this Antique Mall had the same ones. Upon closer examination NONE of them were old!

In Bangkok, we hired a guide took us to some antique dealers who didn’t have one piece that was old.  In fact several dealers were selling the same thing, the EXACT identical piece all claiming it was old.  Like these chairs featured in the photo.  Every dealer had this exact same chair, and upon closer examination all these chairs were NEW.

This same guide insisted on taking us to stupid things like jewelry dealers and tailors who virtually pounced on us like unsuspecting lambs.  The guide insisted that we get clothing made, and buy jewelry, because he got a kickback.  Needless to say, we cut our tour short and bolted for our Hotel.

Frankly, the poverty and child begging was so disturbing that we could hardly wait to get out of Bangkok.  My impression of Thailand, particularly Bangkok was not good to say the least. We are truly blessed to live in Canada.

OVERALL APPEARANCE OF THE PIECE

Second most important thing after trust, is the overall appearance of the piece.  If it looks too perfect there must be something wrong.  Perfection in a piece is not a good sign unless it’s very very expensive.  Something in fabulous condition is rare and you and I will pay a good penny for perfection.

Fake Antique Armoire

Looks at how the overall appearance of this looks too perfect. It has an almost ‘plastic’ appearance. This Armoire was spotted in the same store as the Armoire above.

Antiques are old, and age does things to furniture.  Age warps, splits, and wears down wood, etc.  You want to see all that when you buy something.  It’s called the ‘patina’

That doesn’t mean because it’s warped it’s old.  Warping can come from new furniture not being aged properly.  I mean a warp, like on an old table that is solid plank.

Splitting usually occurs on solid woods as well.  It’s almost inevitable that a split will occur on anything that’s solid wood and over 100 years old.  In fact, you should seek out splits.  They’re a good thing, and do not harm the integrity of the piece.

GENERAL RULE
Real antiques are imperfect and the flaws are inconsistent due to natural use and human construction. Reproductions are symmetrical, smooth and the flaws are contrived rather than authentic.

Example of Distressed or Faked Aging

Here is an example of distressed or faked aging. Wood would simply not go white like that and be so consistent. Also the carving is poor and not detailed.  And the price?? Are they kidding? Incredible for a poor quality reproduction.

WOOD: Look under chairs and drawers, anywhere unexposed, to see if those parts are constructed with a different type of wood than the rest of the piece. Real antiques are usually made with more than one type of wood. In the past, carpentry materials were harder to obtain, and it didn’t make sense to use expensive wood in places where no one would see it. On the other hand, reproductions tend to be made from the same type of wood from top-to-bottom.

SIGNS OF WEAR: Genuine antiques will show signs of wear in places that would naturally sustain the most contact. For example, the bottom end of chair arms should be more worn than the upper part or underside of the arm. Scratches, stains and dents will be unevenly distributed on a piece whose flaws are the result of normal use. If the patina is too perfect, there’s a good chance it’s a reproduction.

CONSTRUCTION: The use of modern materials like fibreboard, staples and Phillips screws all indicate a reproduction.

GLUING: Older antiques have reinforced joints in addition to gluing. Look for dowels, mortise or tenon. If a piece is exclusively attached by glue, then it might be a reproduction.

ODOR: Real antiques will smell musty and sometimes mildewed. Reproductions might smell fresh with the scent of the wood still discernible

Chinese antiques are among the worst to determine authenticity.  Absolutely a nightmare in some cases.  Dealers will have a real Antique, then break it in parts, and re attached the severed parts to several new pieces to create several ‘antiques’ instead of just one.  They know where a specialist will scrape or flake a tiny piece to see if it’s old.  They do this even to sculptures. You know those lovely Chinese terracotta horses you see.  99% are not old. Decorative but not old.

I remember having a client introduced to me as a ‘Chinese Collector’ with lots of money and interest in collecting high quality antiques.  I spent tons of time with this guy, emailing him photos from Parisian dealers I knew,  touring with him, showing him my sources ( in Vancouver ).  We went to a store, Panache, who is owned by a lovely dealer Joan Bilchik who is an expert in the area.  He hummed and hawed at her pieces but said nothing.  I asked him after we had left if he liked anything she had and he said he’d think about and suggested that some things were probably fake.

I asked Joan about the authenticity of her collection and she assured me they were all authentic.  I know Joan so I know she was telling the truth.

Then this same client and I went to an auction to see some Chinese antiques. The auction house had evaluated one particular piece for $50,000.  It was a Chinese scroll painted by a Chinese artist.  The client told me it was a fake and wasn’t worth more than $200.

I immediately called the owner and alerted him to what this supposed ‘collector’ and expert client of mine had said.  He was frantic, turned the whole place upside down trying to authenticate the piece.  Turns out it was real.

I felt like a complete ‘you know what’, and immediately dropped this client. That was the end of my dealing with individual Chinese collectors.  Please don’t get me wrong. I do have some lovely Chinese clients who do buy furniture, not necessarily Chinese Antiques, but are great clients whom we have a great relationship with. It’s just that there are so many fake Chinese antiques out there that it boggles the mind.  And even the experienced dealers have a difficult time separating the real from the fake.

Chinese 'Antiques'

These are supposed Chinese ‘Antiques’ that you see all over Vancouver. They are NOT old, and not good quality.

We come across Antique Chinese furniture in France and if we are lucky enough to get it at a good price we buy it.  Other than that, real Chinese antiques are few, rare and very expensive.

Any dealer who claims to have ‘real’ Chinese antiques at a cheap price is lying through his teeth.  They DO NOT exist.

This photograph on the left is example of ‘Chinese Antiques’ that simply are not old.

I hope this week’s blog helps shed some light on the tricky business of fakes vs. real Antiques.

You’re best bet… leave the spotting of fakes to the pros.  They can do it with ease now so you don’t have too.  If you trust your dealer, that’s all you should concern yourself with.

Happy Hunting!

Mark LaFleur

Buying Antiques at Flea Markets while on Holiday

I am writing this blog today from the fabulous city of Paris.  I have been in France for just about 10 days filling up the last of a container.  ( It’s finally done! )

This weekend is a statuatory and religious holiday for the French.  November 1 is known as ‘All Souls Day’ and this year falls on a Tuesday.  So what do the French do, they take the entire four days off!

So as doing business was out of the question, I decided to head back to Paris and spend the weekend enjoying the sights and sounds of this magnificent city.  I could be a tourist for a change!

At the same time I just happened to stumble across a couple of Brocantes or Flea Markets.  My tour of this Brocante prompted me to write this week’s blog!

Antiquites-Brocante Flea Market in ParisThe photo to the left is the Flea Market I was at today.  It was held between the Madeleine Church and the Paris Opera House.  Approximately 8 blocks long.

I did manage to buy a couple of things but the selection was limited ( in real antiques that is ) and not all that great either.

While these Street Fairs or Flea Markets can be fun, it’s buyer beware more often than not.  At this particular Flea Market the booths were flooded with cheap reproductions from Asia and the Middle East.  In fact I’ve been to two street markets in Paris since my arrival and both times, the same reproductions appeared.

I decided to test the honesty of some of these small dealers just for the fun of it.  I had no problem posing as an American tourist as most of the dealers spoke some English.  I saw everything from elaborate gold gilt Mirrors from Asia to highly polished ‘Art Deco’ from Egypt.  Most of the dealers ( not all ) were honest when I asked the key question ” Is it old?”

Capucine Flea MarketThis photo illustrates a typical booth put together by a French Dealer.  It looks appealing and is displayed very nicely.  Priced and labelled.

This particular booth wasn’t too bad and had a lot of older pieces.

The next photo below was an entirely different story.

Fake Art Deco Desk

The desk that the dealer was sitting at is a reproduction design of an Art Deco piece.  It looked stunning and in fact would fool most anyone. In fact every piece of furniture and decorative accessory in this dealer’s booth was new!

I was interested to see just how old this desk was.

I examined the piece and immediately discovered it was fake.  How?

By pulling out and examining the drawer for starters.  No dovetail joints, plywood bottoms on the drawers, stained wood to look old.  This piece had a life span of maybe two years at best.  My examination ended there.

The minute I examined the drawer, the dealer knew I was another dealer.  Most tourists would never do that.  The dealer gave me a dirty look so I knew I didn’t even have to ask whether it was old or not.  I moved on from this booth too.

Now in this next photo I came across a real Art Deco piece.  While this ‘desk’ probably started out as a vanity, at least the piece had some age.

Antique Desk

I asked the dealer if it was old and he assured me that it was. I asked if the hardware was original and he again assured me that it was.  So what I did is pulled out a drawer and in fact it was old.  Beautifully done dovetailed joinery along with solid wood ( not plywood ) bottoms of drawers.  And the hardware had not been replaced.  The leather top had been glued on to the top of the peice rather than being inset.   This indicated that the piece did not start out as a desk but was most likely a vanity.   The dealer had polished it up to a high gloss so the piece looked gorgeous.  His price, however, was way out of line.  I would have had to ask over $6500 for this ‘former vanity’ piece if I decided to buy it and ship it home.  So I passed on this piece too.

Parisian Antique Dealer and DaughterThis dealer photographed here with his lovely young daughter,  had a small very pretty Louis Philippe Commode which interested me at first glance.  He also had a gold gilt mirror that also interested me at first.  Immediately he started talking price ( I told him I was a dealer ) and telling me what a deal I was getting.  ( The proverbial  ‘car salesman’ type )

This gregarious guy kept on side tracking me from examining each piece by inviting me to date his daughter etc. etc.  ( Also his price was coming down minute by minute )

Unfortunately the commode, while nice, did not have its original marble top ( which I pointed out and he agreed )  But I’m quite sure if I hadn’t spotted the marriage of marble to antique, he would have never volunteered the information.  And the mirror was of very poor quality, although old.

So I thanked him and told him I’d think about it while he kept dropping the price if I bought the two together.  ( They were now 40% of his original asking! ) Again I moved on.

Chinese Antiques?  I think not.

Chinese Antique FakesThese dealers are among the worst offenders.  Most of these dealers ( particularly in Vancouver ) represent this stuff as ancient!  When I asked this French dealer whether these pieces were old she shook her head slowly and gave me a ‘get lost’  face.

I didn’t even have to examine these pieces as they’ve been flooding the market by one particular dealer in Vancouver for years now.  He still represents them as ‘Antique’.  It’s amazing to me that this guy still gets away with it.

If you like the look and are not concerned whether it’s old or not than go right ahead.  They can be decorative and inexpensive but bear in mind you get what you pay for.  Expect problems with these pieces sooner than later and when it comes to re-sell value, don’t expect anything near to what you paid.  ( Unless you trick some other non suspecting person )

Real Chinese Antiques and they look nothing like these pieces.  We’ve come across one or two pieces that we’ve sold in the store, but they are rare and very costly.  ( Anyone remember that gorgeous Rosewood Palace Gong we had about two years ago? ) It was beautifully carved, with intricate detailing, crisp and fine.

Bronzes and Art Deco Statues etc.

I see reproduction Bronzes and Art Deco statues at every Flea Market.  In fact absolutely every one that I saw at this Brocante was a reproduction.

How do I know they’re fake?  Because good Bronze will cost you many many thousands of dollars.  At a Street Fair like this, no one is going to market a real antique bronze for $15,000 minimum price.  There is also a simple test you can do that I will discuss later.

Most of these pieces are made in Asia and can look very good at first glance.  So how do you know if it’s the real thing or not.  Just scratch it with a key or another metal object.  ( Not while the dealers’ looking of course )

If the scratch is copper color it’s bronze.  If it’s grey it’s spelter.

Spelter is a pot like material that is softer and the poor cousin of bronze.  Now, many great bronze casters used Spelter all the time.  They did this because of cost.  And because it was affordable to the masses.  The asking price of a piece usually indicates whether it’s bronze or not.

I have a rather pathetic story about a client who is an avid collector of Art Deco.  This man and his wife absolutely loved all Art Deco and had thought they had bought a rare and valuable piece out at the former Cloverdale Antique Mall which closed down last year.

Now, these people had a good eye, and had collected pieces for years so when I saw this supposed ‘Bronze Lamp’ I couldn’t believe that these collectors could be fooled like this.

I explained to them that what they had was not bronze but spelter.  We did the scratch test and sure enough.  But worse, the piece was not old.  In fact it wasn’t less than 2 years old if that.

Also I pointed out the rather crude workmanship of the piece. The detailing wasn’t crisp, proportions were awkward etc.  The wiring was also new.  So many things jumped out that I was surprised that these people didn’t know.

In any event, they were extremely disappointed that their purchase wasn’t a great find.  I asked them what they paid, and in fact the price they paid was right for a cheap reproduction.  Albeit it was misrepresented, the old adage rears its ugly head yet again.  ‘You get what you pay for’

To sum it all up, Flea Markets and Street Fairs no matter what country are always fun to wander through.  But don’t expect to find ‘rare’ or ‘valuable’ pieces.  These dealers may be small time, but they do know their stuff.   Be very careful about spending your hard-earned cash.  And always ask the key question ” Is it an Antique”  or ” Is it old ” .  Go ahead and pull out drawers and examine them carefully.  The dealer will think twice about trying to pass off a fake!

I will be home next Friday and look forward to seeing you all then but until then, it’s La vie en Rose in Paris for the next few days.

A bientot,

Mark

Furniture Timelines

Mark LaFleur Furniture Timeline: A complete summary of antique furniture history.

Have you ever wondered what ‘time period’  the various styles of furniture were created?

If so, see the chart I have set up this furniture timeline for a quick overview on antiques and their origin. Of course you should keep in mind, that every style continuously gets rebuilt after the original was born. So for example a Baroque bed isn’t necessarily 300 years old! But then on the other hand an Art Nouveau buffet can never be 200 years old.

You will notice some time periods highlighted as a link. Click on that link to see furniture examples on our website.  Please note, not all furniture is ‘period’ but only the manner or style of the period.   We usually state right on the piece whether it is period or style so there is no confusion. Click the desired style for more information and illustrations.

Mark and Larry are on TV!   Click on the link to see what they have to say about some of the amazing finds at the Antique Warehouse.

Date British Monarch British Period French Period German Period U.S.Period Style Wood
1558-1603 Elizabeth I Elizabethan Renaissance Gothic Oak period
1603-1625 James I Jacobean Renaissance
1625-1649 Charles I Carolean Louis XIII Early Colonial Baroque
1649-1660 Commonwealth Cromwellian Louis XIV Renaissance/Baroque
1660-1685 Charles II Restoration Walnut period
1685-1689 James II
1689-1694 William & Mary William & Mary William & Mary Rococo
1694-1702 William III William III Baroque Dutch Colonial
1702-1714 Anne Queen Anne Queen Anne Early mahogany period
1714-1727 George I Early Georgian Régence Rococo
1727-1760 George II Louis XV Neo-classicism Chippendale Neo-classical Late mahogany period
1760-1811 George III Late Georgian Louis XVI Early Federal
Directoire
Empire American Directoire Empire
Empire American Empire
1812-1820 Regency Restauration Charles X Biedermeier Late Federal Regency
1820-1830 George IV
1830-1837 William IV William IV Louis Philippe Revival Eclectic
1837-1901 Victoria Victorian 2nd Empire Napoleon III Victorian Arts & Crafts
1901-1910 Edward VII Edwardian 3rd Republic Jugendstil Art Nouveau Art Nouveau