One bright day two weeks ago, we piled into the car and headed for Ardingly, which periodically hosts one of Europe’s largest vintage & antiques fairs. It’s an annual pilgrimage for me; a hunting ground for treasures and improbable, beautiful finds. We have clearly defined roles; I spot something I adore and then shriek, loudly, before bouncing around distractingly in the background whilst my husband attempts to negotiate the price, and to create an impression of casual interest. Often, I am dispatched for coffee as a way of removing me from sight entirely.
Prices anyway are low; this is predominantly a dealers’ event, and bargains are many. Whether you are looking for a set of tiny vintage patisserie tins, a 20ft high reclaimed, columned stone porch for your country manor or a turn-of-the-century copper bathtub, you will undoubtedly find it here. Sellers come from all over Europe and it’s as much a reunion as a business event; currencies, embraces and gossip are all freely exchanged and there’s a festive air.
I gave myself a strict budget of £100 and went rummaging. Here’s what I bought; firstly, an armful of vintage French linens; monogrammed tea-towls and a long, hand-woven length of heavy linen which will work beautifully as a rustic table runner. They’re perched on a £5 old milking stool, which will make a lovely bedside book table once I check that the woodworm, too, is definitely vintage…
My unexpected find was a collection of huge 19th Century tin stencils of deer and stags – including the ‘inner’ cut-outs, which I love; I’m thinking the inner pieces will look beautiful resting on shelves and mantels at Christmastime, whereas I might actually put the stencils themselves to use to decorate tablecloths and fabric placemats (watch this space…).
I’ve been searching for a while for some little copper pans to use when serving individual puddings or sauces, and at last found these 9cm Mauviel pans which polished up beautifully; I’m picturing hot chocolate fondants with liquid centres, dusted with icing sugar… mmm.
These champagne buckets below will add to one I have already and look good in a row at parties filled with ice & different bottles (wines, beers, soft..); I’m imagining them on my cart once I get around to restoring it…at 2 for £10 it seemed worth it even if they’re only used a handful of times a year.
My next purchase was another surprise find; four vintage postal sacks (Belgian or Dutch, I think), which Harry immediately decided would be brilliant for a sack race (and how right he is..). Once the summer is over I’ll give them a good clean and may turn them into over-sized lounging pillows or even hang them up in a row as laundry bags – though it could be weeks before we manage to fill them up. What would you do with these? They’re incredibly strong and well-made, and the years have made them very soft too… I’m sure there are a myriad of uses for them.
And finally, a pile of naturally-shed antlers to decoratively fill our kitchen fireplace out of season, sold by a charismatic, ancient Scotsman who collects them from across the moors. If you come across antlers and like the look of them as decor accents, check that the ends are rounded and unmarked, which will indicate that they’ve been naturally shed during the spring - hence their prevalence now.
Large antlers and giant tin stencils may indeed be great finds, but they are somewhat hard to manoeuvre safely through crowds, so after inadvertently poking several bystanders we decided to head for home with our boot-load of treasure…. at least until the next year.
Are you a dedicated junk-hunter? I’ve always had a passion for old, reclaimed objects and materials, and now our very old, unusual home gives us the perfect blank canvas for them. Our last house was a minimal, modern space - equally lovely but completely different, and much less suited to battered and worn furnishings. How lovely to have an excuse now…
Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you are doing!