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Living with Antiques

Text Paul Duncan Production Catherine Raphaely Photographs Russell Smith This 18th-century home, featured in our June 2009 issue, belongs to a clan of collectors – of buildings, furniture and art. They regard themselves ‘as custodians, preserving things for the future’. Among their collectibles is a 17th-century Spanish seat, Delftware and Chinese porcelain, and a growing collection of South African art that includes works by Zwelethu Mthethwa, Kentridge, Brett Murray and Arlene Amaler-Raviv. We spoke to the owners about living with antiques and how to cleverly incorporate these pieces into your home: • The secret to living with antique furniture is to use it. The furniture at Onderneming comes from a museum; it’s the best quality and its owners add daily to its patina through use. • An entirely period room may not be particularly practical or comfortable, but a room punctuated by old furniture and textiles has a romantic lustre. At Onderneming, the owners have added to the mix using modern sofas and contemporary art. • Be sensitive: you can lose the effect of, say, a fine set of antique chairs if they’re teamed with a dubious contemporary table. Antique furniture can bring proportion and scale to a modern room; it was built for another age with its own requirements, which will be different from its modern environment. • John Fowler, the inventor of the English country-house style, often used hopelessly grand pieces of furniture in humble rooms, to brilliant effect. Or he’d mix small pieces of antique furniture to add a ‘veneer of elegance’ to a comfortable, unpretentious room. First-class antiques with the best contemporary furniture or textiles work well, as does mixing pieces from different periods. Look at the work of French decorator Jacques Grange who surrounds himself with things from the late 18th century, the Art-Deco era and the 1950s – along with Ron Arad and Mattia Bonetti furniture from the 21st century. To read the rest of the 18th Century Cape House story, and to view more beautiful antiques, please click here. This article was originally published in the June 2009 issue of House and Leisure.