Four Antiques to Easily Style in Your Modern Home

Refectory Table

An oak and elm refectory table
Sold for $5,750

Originally used for dining in monasteries during Medieval times, the humble refectory table has proven to be a functional and timeless addition to any home. In the Late Middle Ages, the table gradually became a banqueting or feasting table in castles and other noble residences, eventually becoming common in northern Europe in the late 16th century. Typically crafted from oak and based on the trestle table design with a low stretcher close to the floor and solid legs, the elongated length makes these the perfect dining table in an open plan home.

Wooden Trunk

An Italian walnut cassone
Sold for $4,000

The wooden trunk is probably the earliest form of storage. It would have originally been made from a hollowed-out log which gave it the name “trunk” and would have had a hinged domed top. It is the most common and versatile movable form of antique furniture in the home. The names and functions for these have varied throughout the ages and depending on what country they were made in, for example in Italy they were primarily known as “cassone” and were one of the trophy furnishings of rich merchants and aristocrats in Italian culture from the Late Middle Ages onward.

The cassone was the most important piece of furniture of that time. It would be given to the bride during the wedding, and it was the bride’s parents’ contribution to the union. Other uses in different cultures have ranged from blanket storage, food containers, traveling luggage, weapons cache, and clothing receptacles. Their uses today are just as varied, they look particularly smart at the foot of a bed for linen storage and are equally as effective as coffee tables or low sideboards.

Persian Carpet

An impressive antique tabriz medallion carpet
Sold for $18,750

Whether it be a Heriz, Tabriz, Sarouk or Bijar, to name a few, there are a multitude of antique Persian carpets to choose from. A long runner down the hall or a largecentrepiece in the lounge room can tie the room together and bring a subtlety of colour and pattern which can often be lacking in the modern home. The level of craftmanship in these pieces is astounding and can provide an attractive focal point in any room. The art of carpet weaving in Iran originated more than 2,500 years ago.

Persian carpets and rugs were initially woven as articles of necessity to cover the floors of nomadic tribesmen, giving them protection from the cold and damp. The natural progression of the skill and craft involved in the creation of these works of art has been passed down from generation to generation over the centuries. As international trade developed, the variety of patterns and designs grew which means you are likely to find not just one but many possibilities to match your décor.

Windsor Chair

An elm windsor chair
Sold for $1,125

The ubiquitous Windsor chair is immediately recognisable and has the added benefit of being incredibly comfortable, often with a moulded seat and supportive armrests. The chair takes its name from the English town of Windsor which was the centre of trade between the producers of these chairs and London, the first shipment being sent down to London in 1724. The wooden chair is easily identifiable due to the thin, turned spindles that form the back and sides.

Legend has it that King George II, seeking shelter from a storm, arrived at a peasant cottage and was given a multi-spindled chair to sit on. Its comfort and simplicity impressed him so much that he had his own furniture-maker copy it. Original Windsor chairs can often be found at auction and their affordability makes it fairly simple to put together a harlequin set which can look very stylish.

Madeleine Norton
/ Associate Head of Decorative Arts & Art, Sydney

March 2023