Didn’t we do well, again

We had a great Christmas here at Your Vintage Life. And now it’s the clear up after 3 days of children mayhem! Before all the pressies get put away I thought I’d share some of the vintage ones (i.e. the best ones!).

Firstly the kids. Boy did santa bring a lot of toys….and clothes..and biscuits! When Herbie was asked what his favourite present was he thought long and hard. “I love all my presents” he said. “I really liked my biscuits”. Clearly the way to a boy’s heart is through his tummy!

Herbie got a new bedroom from Santa but I will leave that to another blog! He also got a train set (modern one) but there was room for a little bit of vintage. The 1980s Polaroid camera was a real hit. You load it with plastic discs that run over a wet sponge when they fire out. Just like old Polaroids pictures….flap them about a bit until they dry and a photo appears. It’s in great condition having lasted over 30 years….Herbie managed to drop it and chip it after only 3 hours!

Kitty fared much better in the vintage stakes. She got her retro fabric tortoise I blogged about some time back (read about it here). She got heaps of Fisher Price toys….a 1970s television, 1980s roller and the best of all…the 1960s pull along snoopy dog. She loved this, and has walked around pulling it since about lunchtime of Christmas day!

Boxing day the vintage continued with dolls and a lovely 1950s pram. She didn’t seem to get a look in though as her cousins (all boys) spent the afternoon pushing it around the house!

Then there was Mr YVL. The great thing about our job is we find vintage clothes all year round so I have collected 3 polo shirts dating from 50-70s. He put the caramel one on straight away so that was a hit!

He also got a Mucha calendar. Any regular readers will know we have a few Muchas in our lounge. He was an art nouveau artist but enjoyed a resurgence in the late 60s.

Yes, a calendar is a practical present but  with all the vintage fairs next year and inevitable children’s parties it’s probably about time he knew in advance what’s happening!

His last present was a Gaudi diary. We both love his architecture…..

and so we can see more of it as I have booked a very rare weekend off for us both to go away to Barcelona. I wonder where the flea markets are there????

Then for me. I really did well! I received 2 pieces of furniture for the house, one retro, one vintage.

This G plan stool with leather seat it gorgeous and sits perfectly in our lounge. (Read all about it here).

Then this 1950s fold down table is gorgeous and in amazing condition. Not sure where this will go yet but I’m sure I will find somewhere. It reminds me of last years folding 3 tiered table he bought which we featured this time last year (Read about it here)

I am dreaming of a pantry when we get round to doing the kitchen. A small cupboard full of shallow shelves filled with glass jars and tins. I have a huge collection already but hey this pantry in my head needs more! So more I got!

And Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some Taunton Vale. This is the first year that I have been bought some though. It’s a chopping board to match all our storage jars, butter dish, tea towel etc etc!

Then there was 2 vintage dresses including the 10p 1950s dress I have blogged about before. This brown one is a Peggy French dress in mint condition. It has ballooned sheer sleeves, matching belt and a pussy bow neckline.

Finally the best present of all. A DRGM bracelet covered in rhinestones. We have been researching it since and all we know so far is it dates pre 1945 from Germany. It is truly stunning and ones things for sure…..I am a very lucky girl.

Now back to the cleaning and tidying……(not feeling so lucky now huh?)

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Remember, remember the 5th of November

I have had such a great day today.

Thrifting for stock, eating great food with my lovely family, finished off with fireworks in the garden.

Today was auction day…I went to the auction and Mr YVL went thrifting elsewhere (where? I’m not telling!). We have the Furniture Flea next weekend so we wanted to stock up with retro loveliness…and boy did we!

We bought this gorgeous teak and vinyl chair. It goes perfectly with the lounge but will be for sale. I have already cleaned it up and it looks great.

Then we bought this vintage chair..it will be lovely in a little girls bedroom I think.

We also found this Kartell style unit with added orange tray. Now Mr YVL can’t resist anything orange but this one will be for sale! We havent cleaned it up yet..it will be positively gleaming when I’ve finished.

We found some fab accessories too. This pink 60s plastic light shade is brilliant. We’ve found white and orange ones before but never this shocking pink (it’s a lot brighter in real life)!

We have an orange bubble light too. Again, only ever had clear ones before and this colour is so vibrant. I broke the last one at Brighton’s Furniture Flea so must be more careful!

Mr YVL found this 1960s atomic coat stand. Isn’t he good!

Then we also bought a 1950s settee and chair and lots of coffee tables including a 1950s red cocktail topped one! And for us…we got a tiny childs Windsor elm chair for Kitty to sit on. Can’t show you any pics as they are still in the van!

Then we went and ate with the kids, then went shopping for Christmas presents in a  gorgeous independent toy shop…then home for fireworks. Wrapped up warm the kids sat on a vintage hand knit throw and ooohed and ahhhed at the display. Herbie only liked the ones that went BANG!

A really great day.. one to remember!

Lounging around

We have finally finished our 3rd room in our house renovation. The lounge has taken a while as there was so much to do and its a double room too.

So lets cast our minds back to how it used to look.


Red swirled carpet with contrasting walls. The woodwork was all painted dark brown.

An office suspended ceiling with horrid tiles was above the whole room. Why anyone would do that throughout the ground floor of your home is beyond me. It didn’t even mask a bad ceiling.

A hatch and awful huge built-in display cupboard with brick surround was a feature. An old-fashioned gas fire and brick surround took over one half of the room. Overall it was dark and gloomy.

The plus points were the retro wall lights and starburst clock that the previous owner left for us. Check out all the original house in our blog “Our Patterned Palace”


So we ripped it all out (except the hatch). Firstly the display cabinet has become a storage cupboard that doubles up as our filing office space! We have some 70s retro filing cabinets for all our bits and bobs here too.

The walls are white except a large teal wall. We based the colour scheme around 2 Mucha prints. Mucha designed art nouveau advertising posters which became popular in the early 70s when the art nouveau look made a comeback. Homes were filled with his swirls teamed with William Morris prints. We also have one cushion with these 2 colours in, so slowly we planned the scheme.

The floors are painted cream the same as all our rooms so far. Add our G Plan teak furniture, 70s rugs and Italian glass and the rooms almost done.

Our 1960s cream vinyl and teak bar is in between the 2 halves of the room with our modern record player behind. The vintage record player is in a teak box beside it.

The swivel chairs were Mr YVLs grandmas, which she bought in 1968. The footstool goes so well which I picked up earlier this year from an antiques fair.

Some of our 1960s medicine bottles have come out of storage (there’s loads more but we havent got to them all yet!). The amber ones were also Mr YVLs grandmas. The large orange West German pot was a moving in present from me to him back in February. And yes, there’s a modern TV…one of the few modern things in the room!

Our 1950s drinks cabinet houses  my glass collection. Luckily we only had one casualty in the move..I love my collection and wouldn’t be without it! The cocktail shakers are gorgeous!

All our William Morris cushions adorn the sofa next to another Mucha print and our orange rocket lamp. We had a sofa in one of these designs back in my family home in the early 70s.

It is 150 years this year since Morris was born!

The new Arkana table and chairs looks great and take pride of place in the other half of the room. This is the adult lounge so this space is now for me to sit at my laptop in peace away from the kids. It sits under our 3 bulb white space age light and our J.H. Lynch print.

It’s called The Nymph: Herbie asked if it was me the other day!

The fireplace isn’t finished yet..it will have a wood burning stove there soon. The curtains are on order.

We have new bookshelves designed and built by Mr YVL.

I love it. It’s still a little bare but give us time it will look lived in and homely.

Our family Kartell

Yesterday Your Vintage Life traded at the fabulous, award-winning Furniture Flea. It’s a mid century, affordable fair full of furniture and  home wares brought to you by Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair. York Hall, Bethnall Green was awash with orange, funky flowers and more teak than you can shake a stick at.

We arrived early, still very sleepy to unpack our wares. We have collected 60s furniture, mirrors, lighting, coat stands, glassware etc since our last outing here…so at 8.30 we started to set up.

All the furniture was at the front of the pitch with all the lights grouped together at the back. We had some G Plan coffee tables, Chippy telephone tables, side tables from Denmark and Finland including one with a tulip base, picture coffee tables from the 1950s and an adorable kidney-shaped occasional table.

Then a selection of  our smaller items were displayed on the table. (Thanks to my friend Sarah for this!)

Using original 1970s Kartell units our glass and ceramics looked fab.

So, where did you find the AMAZING Kartell I hear you ask. Well, back in the 70s, my mum and dad bought them for their trade shows. Selling new items (that we now collect and sell…funny old world) to independents, all items were lovingly displayed on the units.

Check out my mum, standing next to a chrome coffee table and leather footstool…..also the silver large pear in the background I think is a winner too!

Fast forward into the 1980s…my aunt and mum designed, made and sold jumpers…..and yes, you guessed it..they used the Kartell again within their stands at yet more trade shows.

So who is Kartell? They are an Italian company specialising in plastic. Originally selling accessories for cars in the late 40s, they then went onto sell home accessories in the 60s and still make great chairs today. Their items are very collectable…their lights are stunning. The clear plastic chair designed by Phillipe Starck is a design classic. They made storage units for the home such as the ones we have…….I’m thinking of introducing them into the kids playroom to show off their retro Fisher Price!

But for now…I think I will continue the family tradition and use them to display stock on!

Flat-pack Backlash!

Here is our latest article for Vintage Life Magazine called “Flat-pack backlash”. Why not have a read……

The Flat-pack Backlash!

Today’s modern furniture comes in a flat box with an Allen key and a set of instructions. Often the end result is a flimsy, soulless cabinet which is the same as everyone else’s.  Maybe it’s time for a flat-pack backlash?

As it’s the 60th anniversary of  the Festival of Britain this May, where we showcased to the world that British design was innovative, contemporary and beautiful… lets look back and fall in love again with mid century furniture appreciating it’s history, sturdiness and sleek design.

The 40s:

In 1943, the government outlined the exact specification for furniture made during the war.  In a time when bombed houses were being rebuilt and many newly weds were setting up home, they  formed a committee of influential designers, to create the Utility Furniture Catalogue. They dictated the design, material and even which screw should be used. The designs were simple, functional alluding to the Arts and Crafts movement. Cabinets sat on plinths rather than legs, handles were wooden as metal was scarce and most were made from strong oak and dark mahogany. Even though the committee saw this as their big
chance to influence the country with “good design”, most pieces were plain, looking to the past rather than the future.

The 50s:

Enjoying a growing sense of optimism and freedom, we now demanded a change in our homes. The Utility dark wood was seen as gloomy, the design drab and with aluminium, fabric and light wood becoming readily available again it seemed that a change was needed in furniture design.

In 1951, the Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank was a real turning point.  It’s aim was to create a feeling of recovery and  inspire better design for new towns being built. 8 million visitors came to see contemporary architecture, industrial and furniture design. Room sets were created with modern furniture offset against the new fabrics and prints of the day. The wood had turned light overnight, with English elm and light oak being the favourites. Legs on all furniture were thin and splayed making them seem to float off the
floor. Chairs and tables were curved and traditional styles reworked into the new look.  Ercol was one of the key players with their simple yet elegant Windsor chair, dining tables and sideboards.

Ercol’s elm is a great range to collect now as it sits perfectly in both a modern or classic setting. The iconic butterfly chair (1958), the nest of pebble tables (1956) and the day bed are ones to look out for.

These new styles were labelled “contemporary furniture” and for the first time since before the war the chair you sat on revealed your status. It was quite expensive so in reality only middle class families bought it, with the higher classes preferring Heals and Harrods. Furniture retailers chose not to sell it as traditional styles outsold it, so it was left to the independents.

The 60s:

The 1960s saw the rise of teak furniture from well respected manufacturers such as G Plan, Nathan and McIntosh. They made functional items such as sideboards but gave them a contemporary feel with extra width (some were up to 7 foot), integrated handles and a gloss finish. Adverts sprung up, creating an aspirational world of men drinking cocktails
in the lounge, ladies putting on lipstick in the bedroom. Before this, adverts were about the room set now it was about the lifestyle. Styles were popular through the 1970s with G Plan becoming one of the first companies to sell mass produced furniture.

Teak furniture now looks great in a modern home with it’s clean lines and simplicity. With a cream wall and a stained floor, a 60s sideboard or coffee table will look as contemporary now as it did then.

However, this modern style, whether in elm or teak wasn’t to everyone’s taste. The baby boom generation, leaving the family home in the late 60s rejected this “contemporary furniture” as being outdated. They saved up for one key piece such as a Sanderson sofa with William Morris fabric or a Habitat chrome glass table.

Interestingly they now inherited their grandparents utility furniture and up-cycled it to give it a new fresh, modern look. Tables were painted in black or white gloss which sat perfectly underneath funky coloured glass, proving that the designs had passed the test of time.

What is clear is that through the mid 20th century, furniture kept reinventing itself under the name Contemporary, with each decade and generation rejecting what came before. These pieces have  become collectable and ironically the flat packers are alluding to these
styles now. Whether you up- cycle some utility or hunt down a Nathan, surely its worth the effort to create an individual look that’s not the same as your neighbours!

Beauti-flea retro

We are selling at the upcoming Furniture Flea on 27th March. It is a retro furniture and homeware sale at Bethnal Green. The fair comes from the same team who bring Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair that we also sell through.

The aim is to sell mid century treasures at affordable prices…something a tad rare in London these days. And here is a little taster of some of our beauti-flea retro items that we will be bringing…

Dark elm Ercol coffee table and 60s retro tea set

 60s medicine bottles, Murano glass and chrome coffee tables

50s, 60s and 70s curtains

G Plan coffee table and West German ceramics

1950s room divider and Seaforth homewares

1960s lighting

 Retro telephone table and phone

If you like what you see, come and check out the Flea!

Ercol-lection!

Last week we picked up our latest edition to our Ercol family…a gorgoeus 1960’s elm framed day bed with it’s original cushions. It is simply beautiful with it’s elegant bentwood curved arms and it’s practical design. The back is a piece of solid elm with stunning grain to the wood. The cushions are a deep green colour with gold metal zippers. The base cushion is 1 piece with 3 smaller one at the back. It sits on 4 short stick legs that splay out an angle.

It is a 3 seater…perfect for unplanned (tall) visitors to crash out!

I love this furniture…it is lighter than our G plan teak we have in other rooms, both in colour and feel. I love the way it is based on classic 18th century designs but given a contempary twist with a 1950s styling.

The Ercol brand was established in 1920 by Lucian Ercolani. He was Italian whose family arrived in England in the late 1890s. The company was based in High Wycombe where interestingly, other 20th century furniture greats such as G plan also came from.

In 1944, Ercol were asked to make a huge commission: 100,000 low cost chairs of any design. Lucian had always loved the Windsor chair; admiring it’s simplicity and interestingly had also derived from High Wycombe centuries before. He was concerned about the size of the order for chairs with a bentwood frame so worked hard to master the craft of steam bending. He selected the unusual choice of English elm which wasn’t popular due to it’s problems when it was bent…usually warping under the heat.

The end result was shown at the 1946 “Britain Can Make It” exhibition at the V&A. This was an event to showcase the best of industrial and furniture design, set up by the Design Council.

After the war, they wanted to show the world that industry was important, that England was a design force to be reckoned with and Lucian couldn’t wait to show off his modern Windsor elm chair.

This was a success with the chair and other pieces going on sale the following year. Really, this was the first mass produced furniture….it’s clean lines were modern, the elm was light yet practical especially compared with the pre war clunky shapes and colours.

In 1951, they showcased new designs at the Festival of Britain. Further iconic pieces of furniture were introduced throughout the 1950s and 1960s such as the nest of pebble tables (1956), the butterfly chair (1958) and my lovely day bed!!

Ercol is still going strong today, run by Lucian’s grandson. Earlier this year they re-issued their signature pieces which were bought up in record time.

So, back to our day bed…it will fit perfectly in our new home alongside our dining table, 4 Quaker chairs and sideboard.

The sideboard has gorgoeus oval handles that sit within an oval hole. The drawers pull out to reveal a cutlery drawer..this is definately not flat pack!

The quality is amazing…the chairs are stamped 1960 on the base…they are 50 years old and still going strong with their original seat pads.

The table is a later model..chosen as it extends so much. It has 3 concealed leaves making the table when fully extended an amazing 3.5 metres. The grain in the wood is stunning…and I love and appreciate the fact that it is an original which clearly has influenced furniture today.

We are on the look out for the pebble tables and 2 Quaker carvers to sit at the end of the table to add to our Ercol-lection!!!

 If you love the Ercol why not join the “Friends of Ercol” Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=66216888318