Judith Miller has been collecting since she was a student at Edinburgh University in the 60s. Now one of the world’s leading experts on antiques and collectables, she is also the co-founder of Miller’s Antiques Price Guide, the author of more than 100 books, and a frequent contributor to various newspapers and magazines. If you want to know about iconic design and styling, Judith is your lady.
Most of us will be familiar with the term ‘vintage’, although, in recent years, it has come to mean more than just an item that isn’t quite old enough to be an antique. It’s no longer about thrifted 70s clothing or tat picked up from a car boot and sold on at extortionate prices … Many of us have turned away from the mass-produced, disposable furniture and accessories of the high street, and actively appreciate the recycling and reuse of beautiful items from another era. In ‘Vintage Home’, ‘vintage’ is, as it states on the cover, about ‘20th Century Design for Contemporary Living’ and this book covers it’s many decorative styles.
Driven by the possibilities of mass-production and the development of new materials, twentieth century designers introduced revolutionary components, such as plastics and fibreglass, into design for the home. Where the older generation would make do and mend, the younger generation embraced the “disposable society” and the old was enthusiastically replaced with the new and fashionable. Consequentially, there is an enormous variety of objects available for the collector.
‘Vintage Home’ aims to be both a celebration of the period and a practical collector’s guide. Its remit ranges from designer items “which sell in major auction houses worldwide, to cheerful mass-produced kitsch, which you can pick up in car boot sales, charity shops and flea markets”. Items produced for every taste and budget are included, and here you will find affordable Czech glass alongside not-so-affordable Murano glass. The trick for every collector is to avoid turning your home into a museum, and ‘Vintage Home’ demonstrates that, “when skilfully curated and carefully placed, period pieces from all decades can sit comfortably in a contemporary setting, producing a look that is effortlessly stylish and always individual”.
You may ask ‘What is Vintage?’ and the introduction defines it for those of us who are not so sure. This is followed by an informative and interesting section on Modernism, which begins by stating that, “The historical eclecticism of the second half of the 19th century gave way to a concern for the aesthetic, with cleaner lines defining a new design for the new century”. In other words, from the ashes of eclectic Victorian ostentatiousness and magpie frumpery, rose the beautiful sleek and svelte phoenix of Modernism. The book is split into 3 chapters, each containing 3 subsections.The first, ‘Deco World’, focuses on the ‘Graphic and Decorative’, ‘Industrial Skyscraper’ and ‘Soft Modernism’. Chapter 2, ‘New Look’, gives us ‘Natural Organic’, ‘Colourful’ and ‘Pop and Space Age’. Finally, progressing towards the end of the twentieth century, the third chapter ‘New Moderns’ gives us ‘Post Modern’, ‘Minimalist’ and ‘Reuse’. Each subsection features a synopsis of the style, its leading designers and most influential design pieces, and interiors influenced by and furnished in the style.
Each desirable object presented in this book is given a helpful star rating (out of 6) on pricing. For example, if the decorative chevron vase by Clarice Cliff catches your eye and has a 1 star rating, you’ll know that it’s going to be ‘affordable’ at under £1000. If it’s the Art Deco ivory, onyx and marble statuette with a 6 star rating, you’ll know that you’re probably going have to remortgage your house or at the very least, flog a non-essential body part. The book finishes with a comprehensive ‘Directory of Designers’ and a list of ‘Suppliers and Sources’, if you are indeed tempted to treat yourself.
An informative addition to any design library, this book will also complement your coffee table collection. ‘Vintage Home’ is a comprehensive, well-illustrated guide for anybody with an interest in 20th century interiors and design, and you would expect no less from an author such as Judith Miller. You will find plenty of familiar, lauded names in this book, alongside the unfamiliar, of which there are more than enough to keep any vintage enthusiast busy for a long time.
'Vintage Home: 20th-century Design for Contemporary Living' by Judith Miller, is published in hardback by Jacqui Small LLP at £30.