Antiques Make a House a Home

We follow William Moriss’ tenet that…

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Every room at our new launch Dyffryn has the most wonderful interiors – certainly among our best. This small ‘service kitchen’ is our favourite room, snug with its wood-burning range. The Welsh ‘sgiw’ (settle) has lost an arm at some point, making it perfect for this location, and we love how the farmer accidentally failed to make the stair balusters on the service staircase far from vertical. The bench is an old pig bench. This is where the farm staff would have eaten, and cooked for the main family and it has the cosiest atmosphere imaginable.  A lovely, lovely place. BOOK NOW

Garth Gell
The first thing to greet you as you enter our other latest launch, Garth Gell, is this giant Welsh grain chest. These were often among the most important pieces of furniture in the farm, and the only lockable item (even when there was no door lock), as keeping the grain dry, up off the ground, and free from rodents was essential if you were going to have a good winter.  This example probably dates from the mid-eighteenth century, but you see them from the C17 to C19s. Alas, many have been lost (or cannibalised for their timbers) as they’re simply too large for most modern rooms. Not so at handsome Garth Gell. BOOK NOW

Trehilyn Isaf
When Griff Rhys Jones and family purchased the Trehilyn farm estate they bought as many of the original pieces of furniture as they could, including I think three of the settles. Most farms in SW Wales had box settles, but this one is rarer than most as it’s a piece of metamorphic furniture – a settle table. You get these in Ireland, and in SW Wales, and they can be used as either a table (with the top hinged down) or a settle with the top up (as shown). This one is earlier than most, and I guess dates to the late C18/ early C19 which is when the farmhouse had its last major revamp and enlargement. There’s not a huge amount of them about as they don’t really make great tables (difficult to get your knees under) and they’re often not ideal settles either. Many have broken over the years, and we’re delighted that this one has use by the door to the service kitchen, the perfect place to rest your coat as you enter. BOOK NOW

Here we have the shell of a once derelict Welsh hillside cottage, with a contemporary interior and extension, by master designer Dorian Bowen. Dorian built the poured-concrete kitchen extension himself, with what was possibly the largest sliding glazed door in the country at the time! But here our eye is drawn to the beautiful mid-C18 Welsh mule chest with its ‘cupid bow’ or gothick arched panels favoured in West Wales. These would have been multi-purpose storage units, often with wooden hinges, and house blankets, the bible, anything that was of value and that needed to be kept dry (like salt, sugar, tea). We love that the clean modern kitchen chairs make no attempt to blend with the antique pieces. BOOK NOW

Suffolk House
The red parlour at Suffolk House is a delight, and you just know when walking in that this isn’t a room that has been dressed to be a holiday let, but that it has developed over years of loving use by its owners. Georgian wing chairs from the days when we needed to sit draft-free, and a handsome Empire-style escritoire from the early C19. The paintings of ships remind you that you’re right on the coast in the most beautiful part of Eastern England, and with enough books to outlast any holiday. On a rainy day retreat in here, by the fire, and enjoy. BOOK NOW

Bwlch Newydd
Patina is everything in antiques, and you don’t get better than the wear pattern on the back of this old Welsh sgiw/ settle at Bwlch Newydd in Carmarthenshire/ You can just imagine that its owner always sat in the same spot, for decades, in a coat perhaps that wore the surface gently away. Gradually the old stain that had been applied to make the softwood carcass look like dark oak wear back to its sandy original. The chair is typical of a mid to late C19 Welsh country oak chair, and the dresser a lateish dresser (note the turned legs, perhaps mid-C19) but still in Welsh oak. BOOK NOW

Y Bragdy
There’s amazing oak, new and old at Y Bragdy, including the giant crucks in the roof from 1498 and the newly constructed Tudor screen using oak from the estate. But in the kitchen we have the piece of furniture I covet – this handsome press. Almost French in style (but I’m pretty sure made in North Wales), I’m guessing it dates to around the second quarter of the C18. That ‘Renaissance’ inspired central panel is particularly common on deuddarns, tridarns, cupboards and dressers from Eryri/ Snowdonia – and happily this piece still sits in the Conwy valley that was known for producing the best antique oak. Now a great kitchen cupboard, this probably started life as a hanging clothes press. Often these have false drawers in the top section of the lower chest so that long robes could hang down into that space. Pleasing indeed that it sits facing the kitchen, also handmade by the owners in local timbers, continuing a tradition. BOOK NOW

Bryn Eglur
Built in 1755, but abandoned by the mid-C20, Bryn Eglur has been lovingly revived and brought back into use. Inside you’ll find remarkable new work (yes that fitted screen settle is in fact modern), but there’s no shortage of genuine antiques from the C17 armchair in the rear, the C18 country clock, the spoon rack of Welsh cawl spoons, or the ‘lletwat’ sycamore ladles handing from the upper shelf. Walking into this room you feel like you’ve stepped back at least a century, but fortunately, there’s also underfloor heating, a good modern bathroom and a comfortable kitchen with modern Rayburn. BOOK NOW

Blaen y Buarth
The ‘cwpwrdd deuddarn’ in Blaen y Buarth, Penmachno, is a delight to behold and would date to the very end of the C17. Often when you see court cupboards with carving like this a little ‘red light’ of caution lights up, as the late Georgians and Victorians all loved to carve plain C17 items to make them more decorative. But here I think the decoration is original, and a testament to what would have been a high-status piece of furniture. Fortunately, they’re virtually indestructible, and as you can see here, can last 400+ years and still look as the day they were made. The highly moulded panels of the upper doors here shout quality, and the carved decoration will contain symbols that the original occupants would have understood – often you see tulips (referring to lowland courts culture), stylised ‘trees of life’, and pomegranates (symbols of generosity/ hospitality). BOOK NOW

Cartref Cayo
At Cartref Cayo we have a beautiful main bedroom and a bed that, although bought locally in the Teifi valley, must come from Belgium or (more likely) France. Yet it looks well, and it’s a rare thing to get a good-sized and solid antique bed. The French loved to reproduce their traditional designs, and this is in fact a late example of the style – perhaps about a century old now. As such it’s almost a reproduction of the original, but with beds (and tables) we’ve learned, what really matters is comfort. I’ve slept in too many C17 and C18 tester (four poster) beds that creaked like a door in the wind to know that a good night’s sleep is what really matters, and I can personally testify that that is what this bed provides in this lovely country house apartment. BOOK NOW

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