Just after Christmas, Diana and I decided to slip away for a warm-weather escape to Savannah, Georgia. There, we decided to take a tour of the Owens-Thomas House, a beautifully restored Regency style mansion built in 1819.
Our tour meandered through the main house and the carriage house which had been used as slave quarters. Built by Richard Richardson, a wealthy merchant and bank president, the house had amenities extraordinary for that time. Among them was a primitive but ingenious system of drains. “The Owens-Thomas House had indoor plumbing before the White House,” our guide announced with pride.
Not surprisingly, Diana and I were fascinated by the home’s period furniture. In every room, there were beautiful examples of design and craftsmanship: solid wood chairs, game tables, writing desks, secretaries, magnificent mirrors and portraits.
As we rounded a corner, we noticed a stunning mahogany chest-on-chest with a missing piece of corner molding. Our eyes met knowingly. We were both thinking the exact same thing. The piece was even more beautiful because of its imperfection.
Its patina was strong and vibrant. Its carvings were elegant. This piece would be a treasure in any home. But we knew that most people would be distressed by the missing corner piece. Were this chest to land in one of our stores, it would sit for months waiting for a buyer.
These days, consumers unwittingly purchase new furniture that has fatal flaws beneath a seemingly perfect exterior. The market is flooded with pieces with flimsy joints, fake wood and plastic parts that will not stand the test of time. Meanwhile, well-crafted older furniture is being cast off because of a few dents or scratches.
At FCG, we have pieces similar to those in the Owens-Thomas House. We believe that period furniture has an warmth and strength that can be found only in things crafted with care and preserved with love. Sometimes, old drawers and creaky doors are worth treasuring.
In our fragile world, we need these heirlooms. They anchor us. What if those who inherited the Owens-Thomas house had decided they were tired of the old mahogany furniture? Imagine the tragedy of filling the house with IKEA.
Absurd? Yes, but our society is doing this every day. We’re shedding family history in favor of assembly-line imports. Very few people are taking the time to think this through. What are we losing when we shed these old treasures?
The next time you visit FCG, walk a little slower through our showroom. Ponder the history of the period furniture. Don’t overlook a piece because of a scuffed corner, a faded finish or a surface scratch. Instead, embrace the flaws. Smell the aged wood. Imagine its history. Like our competitors, our showrooms offer lots of shiny and new pieces. But the old gems are worth preserving, too.