Antiques, Old Memories, and Me

May 20, 2011
If you would happen to take a drive along a certain county road, you would eventually come to a large white Victorian farmhouse neatly situated behind a line of tall old trees. If you drive by this stately old home slow enough to get a peek into the narrow upstairs windows, you would most likely see the silhouette of a young man busily shuffling back and forth between two rooms; his arms full of things not quite discernable from the road. The young man in this scene would be me, doing what I love: relaxing and sorting in my “antique room”.

My “antique room” is actually comprised of two rooms in the upstairs of my Grandma’s well kept but quirky Victorian era farmhouse. Although the downstairs of the house has been tastefully renovated and redecorated with the passing years and “in” styles, the upstairs hasn’t been touched since the house’s last major remodel, which was performed circa 1970. The upstairs foyer - which leads into the main part of my antique “room” - is carpeted in an odd, bright orange carpet that is like a foam sponge in texture. This abominable carpet is in deep contrast to the dark, worn faux wood paneling that covers the walls like a heavy black veil. This dark paneling adds a somber, proper air to the otherwise colorful and cheerful room. The air in this room is thick and musty, as the air in older homes tends to be. The room’s temperature fluctuates with the season. In the winter, it is often unbearably cold. In the summer, the room’s temperatures are often reminiscent of Death Valley. The adjoining closet is much worse; one particular summer, my Grandma, who was sweating horribly while she moved some things around in the closet, coined it - quite appropriately - “the Heck Hole”. On the walls of the foyer hang dozens of colorful framed prints, drawings, advertisements, phone books, collages, and other things that have come from estate sales, garage sales, and even the occasional trash pile. There are only a few pieces of furniture in the foyer – most noticeably the worn bookcase, battered desk, and the carefully restored 1920’s telephone chair, which are all second hand, but all the pieces add to the vintage feel of the room. The reproduction record player that sits in far corner plays nothing but – you guessed it – oldies music.

Upon entering the former bedroom that now serves as a storehouse for my antique wares, one is immediately astounded by the variety and amount of things that are inside the room. Stacks of smooth china saucers sit next to piles of rough and musty newspapers from days gone by. On the walls hang weathered advertising signs, framed art, and the three gaudily gilded corkboards that I use to hold the myriad of articles I clip and save. The parts of the wall that are not covered with pictures and other items show a neat geometric wall paper design. Although at first the room seems to be a mess of unorganized junk, as you look closer you realize there is actually an organizational system in play. A quartet of bookshelves that hold the gaily painted pottery I collect stand straight and tall on the back wall of the room. Shelves and bookcases full of sparkling and shining antique glassware fill another corner, while well worn paper goods sit squarely on a shelf in the closet. Dainty porcelain and the more fragile and expensive glassware pieces live on a favorite rich finished Arts and Crafts book stand, while a display of fiery and spicy antique Fiesta Ware dishes (with accessories, of course) sit boldly on a pool table turned dining table. Favorite pieces from the varied collections are displayed separately from the others on dark, rich finished plant stands and other bits of archaic furniture. Things that are not used often - like my horribly “retro” 1950’s aluminum Christmas tree AND matching ornaments - are carefully packed away in the industrial quality Banker’s Boxes and clear Rubber Maid totes that I have a strange obsession with. Although the floor covering in this room is not the dreaded orange foam disaster of the foyer, alas, it is no better. Since my Grandparents could not afford a single piece of carpeting for this room, my antique room is a checkerboard of shag carpet samples – no two are quite alike. Although this interesting use of carpet samples does attest to my Grandparent’s strong work ethic and thrifty habits (they were financially savvy long before Suze Orman even learned how to count), I simply can’t stand to look at that floor too long.
Whenever I enter my antique room, I feel like I’m wrapping myself into a thick, warm blanket. The area is comfortable and charming – my various antiques seem to greet me with a chipper smile every time I enter. Everything in the room seems like it has always been there; nothing ever seems foreign or out of place. New additions to my collections, which are brought in almost daily, seem to be welcomed with open arms; the new vintage flowerpot I brought home from an estate sale last week blends in perfectly with the five others I have had for years. Memories seem to fill the room – not only my memories, but also the memories of the people my objects once belonged to. The everyday pieces of their lives – their dishes, bowls, plates, photographs, and wedding invitations – are all here. These items mix and mingle, join and combine, until there are no single objects – only the whole.

Although many people would call my antique room (as Clayton Vrieze often tells me) “nothing but a bunch of worthless junk that needs to be burned”, it is extremely special to me. It is a place where I can express myself in the mix of displays and dioramas that fill the room. It is a place where I can relax and indulge my obsessive, organizational side. It can be whatever I want to be. It is a place all my own. It is my oasis, my shelter from the hectic world we populate. It is mine.

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