Incorporating Mirrored Furniture by Margaret Chambers

If you've ever shopped in Dallas and seen mirrored furniture on display, you may have wondered: is mirrored furniture in style? Or out of style?

Back in the 90's, mirrored furniture was overused in interior design, so it went out of style for awhile. However, mirrored furniture started to come back steadily in the early 2000's. Most interior designers now believe that it's a trend that's here to stay. 

To some people, mirrored furniture has a classic look that will always bring a touch of glamour and elegance to a room. Others believe that these pieces work best when they're used with restraint.  By following some basic guidelines, you should have no trouble finding the perfect place for these pieces in your home.

History of Mirrored Furniture

The earliest examples of mirrored furniture date back to the 18th century. At that time, mirrored woman’s dressing tables were especially popular. However, most of the new mirrored furnishings you find today are actually inspired by pieces from the Art Deco period in the 1920's and 30's. 

That's why when people see mirrored furniture, they might think of old Hollywood interiors. Mirrored furniture can feel both glamorous and retro at the same time, so it works best when mixed with other styles.

Pros and Cons of Mirrored Furniture

One major benefit of introducing reflective surfaces into a room is that it gives the illusion of extra space. While a wooden armoire with dark staining feels visually "heavy," the same armoire with mirrored panels will actually "recede" by reflecting what is around it.

Although mirrors can bounce light around a room, they also make a room feel cool instead of warm--much like metal furnishings. The high sheen of this furniture can serve as a bridge between classical and contemporary elements in a room.

The downsides to owning mirrored furniture include their cost of repair. Fixing any damage made on mirrored furniture can be a challenge. Also, keep in mind that you'll need to wipe away fingerprints, dust, splashes, and stains regularly. While cleaning may be frequent, however, it is also much easier to clean than wood. For instance, a wet glass that would leave on ring on wood furniture wouldn’t do the same on mirrored furniture.

Where to Put Mirrored Furniture in Your Dallas Home

The best kind of mirrored furnishings for bedrooms include wardrobes, chests, side tables, and dressing tables. A bed with mirrored frames makes an especially dramatic, more contemporary statement. For your living rooms, consider having a mirrored coffee table, end tables or sideboard. Mirrored folding screens can also add a touch of style to a large room.

Of course, you don't have to commit to a large statement piece. Chairs with a band of mirrored glass around the frame, or a small mirrored bedside table, can also add just a touch of sparkle.

On the other hand, you'll want to avoid putting this kind of furniture in busy rooms that already have a lot going on. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than one or two pieces in the same room.

Don't forget that mirrors can also be made with gray finishes to tone down their shine, while antique patinas give mirrors a unique "smoky" look.  Unless you're after an antiqued patina, there's no need to track down real period pieces, however. Antique mirrored furniture was often cheaply made, since it's easier to glue on mirrors than staining or carving a wooden piece of furniture. We have the ability to help you find newer pieces that have this same, antiqued look.

As you can see, mirrored furniture is surprisingly versatile. When placed with care, these captivating pieces can make the whole room feel larger, bridge the gap between classical and modern, or add a glitzy shine. If you want to make sure that you're bringing out the full potential of your mirrored furniture, here at Chambers Interiors we often use mirrored pieces in contemporary, transitional and traditional spaces. If you're starting from scratch, we can also help you locate a wide variety of mirrored pieces in the Dallas Design District that are perfect for your interior.

Buying Your First Antique Grandfather Clock by Margaret Chambers

Although most people nowadays use their phones to keep time, there are always going to be people who appreciate the beautiful design, and charming sounds, of an antique clock. After all, a clock is one of the only kinds of antique furniture that can still be used and enjoyed as it was originally intended.

The following guide is an introduction to the tallest and most impressive kind of clock, the grandfather clock. Whether you're trying to start a collection, learn more about your family heirloom, or buy the perfect grandfather clock to complete your interior design, this guide can help you get started.

History of the Grandfather Clock

In the 1660’s, English clockmakers discovered that a long pendulum could keep time more accurately than a short one. This new kind of clock needed to be at least six feet tall to hold the three-foot long pendulum and weights that made it work.

Today, English longcase clocks that were made during the "Golden Age" of clock making (from the 1660s to 1730s) are extremely valuable. These early clocks were made in London for the wealthiest nobility, so their craftsmanship is particularly beautiful. Only a handful of these become available for sale each year, so most English clock collectors buy clocks made in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Eventually, tall clocks were produced in America as well. Metal was scarce before the Industrial Revolution, so in 1815, clockmakers in Connecticut developed wooden gears that were a less expensive alternative to traditional brass gears. As tall clocks became more popular and affordable, American clockmakers designed unique regional varieties that remain very collectable today. 

In 1876, Henry C. Work, an American songwriter, published a popular song that begins, "My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf / so it stood ninety years on the floor." This song, "My Grandfather's Clock," is why longcase clocks are often referred to as grandfather clocks.

England and America weren't the only countries that produced grandfather clocks. Other varieties include the French Comtoise clock, which has a rounded "port belly" case, and the Danish Bornholk clock, which usually has a square head and tall, boxy case. 

The Benefits of Owning a Grandfather Clock

Grandfather clocks can have a high investment value as long as they are maintained and restored carefully. A high quality, working antique grandfather clock rarely costs less than $3000. The rarest grandfather clocks, such as those made during the aforementioned Golden Age, can be worth as much as $100,000.

That said, most people who are interested in buying a grandfather clock simply enjoy having a clock in their home. While an antique clock will never be as accurate as a modern digital clock, your grandfather clock should keep good time each week, with a difference of maybe a few minutes.

Since purchasing or restoring a clock requires careful research, clock collecting can be an excellent way to learn more about history. Most grandfather clocks can be dated to 10 or 15 year periods by their design alone. Each decade of clock making was influenced by the design styles and taste of that period.

Because of their regal appearance, grandfather clocks also make excellent centerpieces to your room's interior design. Finally, many homeowners enjoy the musical chimes that announce each hour, while for others, the quiet ticking is enough to add life to an otherwise silent room.

How Grandfather Clocks Are Priced

If you browse the online listings for clock shops in Dallas, you might be surprised by the dramatic price differences between one clock and the next. Like other antiques, grandfather clocks are priced by age, condition, and rarity.

Almost all antique clocks have been altered in some way. By the late 1800s, grandfather clocks were not considered the valuable heirlooms that they once were, and those who inherited them felt free to replace the inner workings or repaint the dials. 

When a clock is sold with replaced parts, it is referred to as a "marriage." This kind of clock may be great for your interior design, but not for investment. Collectors see a marriage as a "collection of parts" rather than a valuable antique. This is why it's important to do your research before you go to an auction house or clock shop in Dallas. Research can help you learn to ask the right questions and avoid clocks that are an unwise investment.

When a clock stops working, it's either because of neglect, damage during moving, or poor repairs with ill-fitting parts. If you buy a "project" clock for cheap with the intent to repair it, be prepared for the possibility that repairs may cost more than the clock itself is worth.

Starting Your Collection

The best way to start your search is by asking yourself, "Why do I want a grandfather clock?" Is this the start of a new collecting hobby? In that case, you'll want to spend some time looking at clocks across history to see if one particular clockmaker or regional style, attracts you. Do you just want one for aesthetics? Choosing a clock that harmonizes with your interior design style will help you narrow down your options.

Or, are you buying a grandfather clock as an investor? Clocks of this quality will never be made again, so buying the right clock is important to making a great investment.

An investor and a collector will each approach clocks from different angles. Once you've identified your reason for buying clocks, the next step is to connect with clock shops, antique dealers, or interior designers, whether in Dallas, around the country or overseas. Whether you want to get a great deal on an antique or complement your home's style, Margaret Chambers and her team can provide you with the guidance to find the perfect clock. 

Decorating with Chinoiserie by Margaret Chambers

What is Chinoiserie?

Chinoiserie, a French word for "Chinese-esque," refers to European decorative art that was inspired by objects and stories brought back from the Middle East and Asia. It was most popular during the 1600s and 1700s, but there are many Dallas interior designers who are fans of this style to this day. Although Chinoiserie sounds like it should be primarily based on Chinese design, the style also owes its look to Indian, Persian, Korean, and Japanese art. 

History of Chinoiserie

Trade between Europe and Asia was open through the Silk Road beginning in the 1200s. Hand-painted porcelain, wallpaper, silks, and lacquered furniture were among the items brought back. In the year 1292, Italian merchant Marco Polo left China, where he had lived for 17 years, to return to Venice. Although Marco Polo was not the first westerner to travel to China, he was the first person to publish a manuscript about what he saw there: The Travels of Marco Polo. Europeans were astonished by what they read.

For westerners, owning expensive fabrics and ceramics from Asia became a status symbol. The demand for Asian imports outstripped the existing supply, so European artisans learned to make their own imitations. These pieces were a mixture of actual Asian design features and pure European whimsy. One example would be pastoral scenes, which are typically a Rococo motif depicting European nobility; in Chinoiserie, the artist would illustrate the Chinese Emperor and court instead. Since Chinoiserie was in vogue during the same period that Rococo was, the two styles share some similarities: asymmetry, scroll forms, and fantastical imagery. 

The earliest examples of Chinoiserie were Italian, such as the silks produced by Lucca factories. Over time, different countries in Europe popularized different kinds of Chinoiserie. Germany specialized in porcelain figurines. The Netherlands are still famous today for their Delft pottery factories. Meanwhile, England produced silver, tapestries, and embroidery with Chinoiserie motifs.

Chinoiserie's popularity reached its height in the mid 1700s, eventually giving way to neoclassicism's cool restraint. One hundred years later, the style made another comeback during the Rococo Revival. European nobility commissioned interior designers to create entire rooms for displaying their Chinoiserie porcelain and fabrics.  

How to Spot a Chinoiserie Piece

There are many different images and motifs that characterize Chinoiserie. In patterns and painting, you will often see scenes of Chinese men with Fu-Manchu beards and long robes, and courtly Chinese women, in water gardens or pagoda pavilions. Landscape paintings were mountainous and misty, with bamboo, lotus flowers, and weeping willows in the foreground. The most popular animals in Chinoiserie art were a mixture of real and fantasy: fantastical birds, peacocks, elephants, foo dogs, and dragons of all colors.

Chinoiserie is not all flowers and dragons, however. Geometric designs are important to this style too. Thomas Chippendale, an English cabinet maker, took inspiration from Chinese fretwork when he made his famous lattice-back Chippendale chairs. Furniture makers also incorporated pagoda shapes to their designs--for example, in headboards, bed canopies, chests, and secretaries.

Though black lacquer and white porcelain are common in Chinoiserie interiors, this style can also be extremely colorful. Red, orange, teal, turquoise, pink, burnished gold, cobalt, and green can all be found in Chinoiserie interior design.

Decorating with Chinoiserie Today

Chinoiserie blends well with other styles because it brings a touch of worldliness and history into a room. Since this style is considered to have a feminine touch, and is maximal rather than minimal in detail, it's best to use it with restraint by using a few well-chosen Asian accessories. If you want to go bold, an accent wall with Chinoiserie wallpaper will transform the whole look of a room.

Blue and white porcelain is beautiful in both traditional and contemporary interiors, so it's one of the easiest ways to add a little Chinoiserie. Since these ceramics share the same colors, you can mix and match different patterns without worry. 

While lacquer furniture is typical of Chinoiserie, not every furnishing in your room needs to be coated. Some pieces with Chinese fretwork will look best with their natural wood. Mixing natural wood and painted or lacquered furniture helps to create more visual variety in a themed Chinoiserie room.

If you're going for a more subtle touch, focus on details and accessories rather than furniture. Examples include tableware with bamboo-styled handles; small lacquered boxes; ginger jars, or lamps shaped like ginger jars; figurines of Chinese characters or foo dogs; or decorative mirrors and chandeliers with pagoda shapes.

Although over-the-top Chinoiserie rooms are not as popular today as they were in the 1700s, interior designers are still often asked about incorporating Chinoiserie in a room. If you need help tracking down the perfect antique pottery, wallpaper pattern, or Chippendale furniture to complement your contemporary or traditional space, Chambers Interiors - a Dallas-based interior design firm – can help you achieve the look.

Swedish Design by Margaret Chambers

Achieving the Swedish Design 'Look'

When most homeowners in Dallas hear the words, "Swedish interior design," they probably think of the internationally successful furniture chain, IKEA. Of course, there is more to Scandinavian design than just modern-style furniture.

Among interior designers, Swedish style is known for its soothing colors, painted wood furniture, and lack of clutter. This style became more popular in the US during the 1950s, because it shared traits with midcentury modern design. Today, Swedish design style still has plenty of fans. Younger homeowners are often attracted to the style's marriage of "shabby chic" and traditional elegance.

The Style of Swedish Interiors

Swedes live with long daylight hours in the summer, and long, dark nights in the winter. During the winter especially, they want to bring as much light into their homes as possible. Floor-to ceiling windows, crystal chandeliers, and gilt mirrors help reflect light around the room and make winter days a little more cheerful.

Another design choice that helps make Swedish interiors feel more open and airy is wood flooring. The wood is almost always either white, pine, or birch. Carpeting is nowhere near as common in Swedish homes as it is in other styles that can be found in Dallas.

Although Swedish design is best known for its palette of whites and grays, many Swedish interiors have an accent color as well. Robin's egg blue is a popular color throughout Scandinavia. The preference for blue is one thing that makes Swedish style stand apart from American midcentury modern.

Swedish Antique Furniture

To design a Swedish style home, especially a traditional or transitional home, it helps to know about Swedish antique furniture. These pieces are often referred to as "Gustavian furniture," named after King Gustav III, who reigned in Sweden from 1771-1792. Gustav spent a lot of time in Versailles with King Louis XVI, which is where he was exposed to the neo-classical style growing popular in France. 

Gustav loved what he saw and brought elements of it home with him. Swedish handmade furniture produced during his time borrowed forms from the French and English, but left out hand-carved Rococo details. The result is furniture with artful, but clean lines. Gustav's taste trickled down to the gentry, who in turn influenced the lower classes.  Swedish country homeowners would paint their wood furniture because they could not afford the expensive woods Gustav used in his palatial homes.

Many interior designers associate Swedish style with white and gray painted furniture, however some true antiques were actually painted in pale blue or green. Blue and white gingham was the usual pattern for upholstery and linens.

There are a few furniture styles that were unique to Sweden. One of these designs was the iconic Swedish Mora clock. Mora clocks were produced in the town of Mora, in the Dalarna province, from the late 1700s through the 1800s. Some desks were produced with a built-in Mora clock on top, but these are hard to find today.

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Buying Swedish Antiques

Be warned that Swedish antiques can be difficult to authenticate because some of them look newer than they actually are, or have been repainted since they were first built. That is why having an expert in antiques and buying from the best dealers is so important. If you do want to start collecting authentic, high-quality Swedish antiques, connecting with a dealer in Sweden can help you secure them.

At Chambers Interiors, we offer a European buying trip service called Tour Decor we use our close relationships with top dealers overseas to help you find the best antiques at wholesale prices. With an itinerary just for Scandinavia, Margaret Chambers works alongside her partner, Lea Barfield, to find the perfect pieces. If you are interested, visit Tour Decor's site to learn more and see photos from our latest trip - www.tour-decor.com

Antique Tea Caddies by Margaret Chambers

Today, you can inexpensively buy tea from China, India, Vietnam, or Africa even here in Dallas. But when tea was first brought to Britain in the 1600s, it was an incredibly expensive commodity. This is because the Dutch East India Company held a monopoly on the tea trade from China.

Among those who could afford it, tea was popular for its taste, therapeutic quality, and the ceremonial way with which it was prepared. It's understandable that after paying a hefty price for these rare leaves, people would want to store them with special care. This is how the tea caddy came to be.

The First Tea Caddies

The very first tea caddies only had one compartment, and were shaped like a bottle. The cap on top was removable and could also be used to measure out the tea. As for the caddies themselves, they were often made of silver, china, enamel, glass, or metal covered with straw-work.

 

Tea Caddies in the 1700s

In the 18th century, the British government issued a tax on tea which made it even more costly to keep. Tea caddies from the 1700s had a lock, paper lining to protect the leaves from moisture, and two to three compartments. It was popular to offer guests either green or black tea, hence the separate compartments. Sometimes a glass bowl was set between them; historians believe this bowl was used to either mix the different teas or store sugar.

Unlike the early bottle-shaped caddies, 18th century caddies were commonly made of wood, usually mahogany, walnut, or pine. Excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum inspired designers to use more straight lines, concave and convex shapes, and motifs such as urns, flowers, and festoons.