Once upon a time, Gary Douglas asked me to work at The Antique Guild in Brisbane, Australia. I said to him, “No sorry, Gary. I wouldn’t want to sit in a shop all day. That just doesn’t interest me.” Eventually, I agreed to organize a one-time only event and had so much fun, I relented to going to play around at The Antique Guild for 3 months only. That was nearly two years ago and I don’t think I would even be able to recognize the way my life was before.
It’s funny to me now that I resisted when I was presented with the invitation to totally change my life. I had decided what working in antiques was going to be like and how boring it would be to stand around a store polishing mirrors. What I actually got was the possibility to use my interests, talents, and skills to have fun and make money all from one simple choice.
I remember sitting in classes with Gary and hearing him describe what seemed to be the remote and abstract concept of Elegance. “Elegance is the maximum effect with the minimum amount of effort.” Cerebrally, I could rationally step through what I thought that meant, but choosing to actually live that way has been completely different.
To give a little example of how that relates to actual antiques, sterling silver comes to mind. One of the things that always used to make me giggle with silver is how everything has a very specific purpose. One special serving spoon for jellied cakes, of course a different one for tomato and cucumber slices, and please don’t confuse that with the slotted olive spoon or the asparagus server. (Don’t even get me started on oyster paraphernalia.) It first all seemed so fussy and ridiculous. I mean, really, do you actually need a set of scissors just for cutting grape stems? How is that elegant? Aren’t antiques and silver supposed to be elegant? And how is polishing all that silver even remotely high impact with low effort?
What I have come to realize about this kind of design is that most people don’t live the life these things were made for anymore. People don’t put on a grand table so often, because they are just too busy, right? Very rarely, do they honour themselves with the caring that comes from well-polished silver, pressed linen, and artfully crafted furniture. They have come to adopt the lifestyle of convenience as the substitution for elegance. We have traded decadence, indulgence and hedonism for stainless steel cutlery and furniture built with an allen key.
What if that didn’t have to be the case? Instead of leaving the best china and crystal in a display cabinet, why not throw open the doors and start using them? What if these fussy old bits of cutlery were actually a huge gift to treating you to a joyful celebration of living? For those of you that are willing, there is always room at my dining table for you, and we will be waiting at The Antique Guild to invite you to The Elegance of Living.