On Our Nature (Strip)

One of my earliest memories while walking the neighbourhood as a young boy was the sight of hulking old wood-framed radios out on the nature strip, ready for collection. In essence, they were making way for the arrival of colour television, and more broadly, the unstoppable miniaturisation of every form of consumer electronics. The valves in these old radios fascinated me as did those other things that households no longer had a purpose for or a market within which to on-sell them. I also remember seeing old soda syphons and their little chargers; they too intrigued me. 

The term “hard waste,” as these moments in the life of a household have come to be known, is an incongruous one in the world of collecting. They should rather be called “nature strip days,” or “changing taste days,” or “changing technology days,” for this is what they are a mix of. And I won’t lie, I continue to find them fascinating because for me they remain somewhat of a barometer for collecting, living habits, and the nature of design. 

The lonely Victorian balloon-back chair or the inter-war piece of furniture is now not an uncommon sight as one drives around residential streets. Now, it would be unheard of to find an item of used luxury in these gatherings of the unwanted, just as a well-known make of designer furniture would rarely be found here. These are the things that are now very much in vogue, and coveted by those whose sweet spot is post-retail. Once upon a time, they would either have been gifted to friends and family or indeed waiting for collection on these “nature strip days.” 

I was recently comforted to know that it was certainly not just me that found this element in the life cycle of collecting and domestic life intriguing, when I spotted a client of mine, just after dark, and at a brisk walking pace, carrying away from one of these offerings a brass platter he had found! I didn’t stop to congratulate him for fear of embarrassing the situation. It was a silly little moment that described how these days can reflect and describe our natures and our lifestyles in curious ways.

By John Albrecht, Chairman & Head of Important Collections

Image: Niels Gammelgaard pair of ‘Jarpen’ chairs for Ikea (part). Sold for $1,200. Many a designer piece of Ikea furniture from the 1980s and earlier would have been abandoned to the nature strip. These days, collectors recognise the value of these often well-made pieces of interesting design.

May 2024