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A life in antiques - Satire and symmetry

PUBLISHED: 11:10 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:07 20 February 2013

The distinctive black and white French chest

The distinctive black and white French chest

Owner of The Packhouse antiques centre in Farnham, Alison Hougham explains why inspiration can be found in the strangest of places

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2009

Owner of The Packhouse antiques centre in Farnham, Alison Hougham explains why inspiration can be found in the strangest of places


Find out when and where upcoming Surrey antiques fairs are taking place




If we suggested that you started buying furniture for your home that had been inspired by comic characters of the 1600s, I can imagine that many of you might think we had gone slightly mad.

There are times, however, when we all need a simple injection of fun in our lives - and when we came across this fabulous French trunk, painted in a classic harlequin design, we couldn't resist!

Mind you, judging from the reception it received from the group of avidly-bidding antique dealers, it soon became clear that this was certainly no joker in the pack...

As much as we all seem to have fallen in love with neutral backdrops and eclectic collections of painted furniture in various subtle shades, it is clear that there are still moments when a room just cries out for the introduction of one key statement piece to give a calm scheme a new lease of life.

Dating back to around 1890, this particular chest is an original piece with the exception of the handles and paint finish. Decorated in a stunning black and white harlequin design, it would look equally wonderful against an all-white backdrop or on a warmer-toned stone or wooden floor.

The search for space

Made out of pitch pine, which is darker and harder than modern pine, as the trees used were allowed to grow for many years (unlike modern forests where fast-growing pines are cut before they are mature), the chest has three deep drawers, which will be excellent for storage.

These days, we are constantly finding customers searching for chests of drawers that work for a host of storage reasons - bedding, towels, clothing, secret present stores, home office stationery - the list is endless.

Indeed, the demands of modern day storage leave many of us desperate to source pieces that have both practical and decorative appeal.

This chest certainly has both of these in droves, and the combination of its versatility and charisma will, I am sure, mean that it will prove a much-loved piece.

So, despite taking its design cue from the costumes of many long-running comedy performers renowned for their zany slapstick appeal, such as Punch and Judy, this delightful chest should not be laughed at but instead celebrated as a fine example of symmetrical monochrome splendour.

One thing is certain, the piece will make a bold and versatile statement, and so, whatever its future new owners decide to use it for, I am certain Mr Punch himself would shout: "That's the way to do it!"

Find out when and where upcoming Surrey antiques fairs are taking place


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