Antique Fireplaces - Peroid, Appearance & Provenance
Period choices and sourcing antique fireplaces
Looking in salvage yards for home furnishings may sound exciting or horrific depending on your disposition - but there's no doubt that many an otherwise expensive piece of furniture has been saved from going to the great drawing room in the sky by reclamation from such a source. This includes antique fireplaces. And you may well stumble (possibly literally) upon something which is not merely cheaper than its shop equivalent, but which simply does not have a shop equivalent.
Alternatively, you can try on of the world leaders in antique and reproduction fireplace mantels, “Chesney’s.” Showrooms are located in Atlanta, London and New York, with a large selection of their marble and stones pieces also displayed online (www.chesneys-usa.com).
'Antique' is literally anything that is more than 100 years old. But within this description is an enormous range of period, appearance and provenance. From the organic Victorian Arts and Craft Movement (whose ethos was summed up for an American public by Oscar Wilde, who said in 1882 'Have nothing in your house which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful') to the drama of the Gothic revival to the grand heraldry and strapwork of Jacobean creations - styles vary wildly, and that's only in English architecture.
Aside from the diversity of European fireplaces and stoves (notwithstanding the all-pervasive influence of the Renaissance) American designs and tastes have been coming into their own in the last century. The creations of Frank Lloyd Wright, probably the country's most celebrated architect, are not far off becoming antique themselves, as are the Chinese stoves popular in American gardens of the 1950s.
But be careful when sourcing antique fireplace mantels: there is a growing black market in stolen period fixtures and fittings, and fireplaces are top of the list. Disreputable shops and salvage yards could sell you something which belongs in a stately home. The best way to avoid this is to buy from a major firm - check in publications such as the Antique Trade Gazette (www.antiquestradegazette.com) and Antique Dealer Magazine for ideas of who to go to. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings can provide more information about architectural theft.