When we moved into what was then our newly-built home just two days before Christmas, 1985, I was delighted that at last we had a proper fireplace. In our previous home, a 1964 bungalow we had originally had a tiled fireplace installed, which was what was available at that time. In the 1970s we removed this and had a wall-hung gas fire installed. It was plain and simple, certainly not one with flame-effect or with a plastic or faux-wood surround on which quaint knick-knacks would be placed. Perish the thought! But there is nothing like someone else’s excruciating taste, is there? Our own taste is always impecable, is it not?
The builder who built our Close of just 20 houses was creating his own fireplaces constructed out of stone, as one might a crazy-paved path or garden rockery. They were not things of great beauty, and some of them extended along the wall to the window, and around a corner so that it presented somewhere for the wood-framed TV to sit and the 1980s music centre.
As we would be moving into a brand new house – joy, oh joy – we visited show homes of other builders’ at that time and in one of them saw a lovely fireplace, certainly in a different league from the crazy-paved monstrosities our builder was providing. And so we asked him that instead of one of his creations we might have a Minsterstone fireplace. Yes, of course, we could but it would be an ‘extra’. This we didn’t mind. It was worth it not to have our eyes offended every time we gazed upon grey crazy paving which would’ve been an insult to the garden let alone our sitting room. Although we have a proper chimney and not merely a flue for a gas fire, we have never had an open fire, but we do have a living flame gas fire in the hearth which looks pretty in winter, and augments the heat from the central heating.
The fireplace has served us well. It still looks attractive – well, it does to me – 32 years later. And the mantelshelf has given me scope for many a floral arrangement. I dare say I’ve shown some of these photos before, but new readers might like to see them for the first time and readers who have been looking at my blog since I started will, I hope, forgive this repetition.
The first arrangement above shows a summer display. I think this also shows how just a few flowers (these all came from the garden at that time) can make a difference to a room (a difference in the nicest possible way, I mean.) All the ceramics here are inherited piece – at the end of the mantel is one of a pair of Sitzendorf vases, formed as if folded napkins held up by putti. The central two-handled ‘vase’ is a loving cup, and the cups and saucers are pink lustre.
Still using the pink lustre cups and saucers, but with a Crown Derby ‘box’ (it is ceramic, but looks like tin, there’s even a faux-dent in it!) as centrepiece with two little Oriental figures.
It’s surprising how just four heads of white antirrhinums can be made into pretty floral displays and here I also used some buddleia from the garden. The two square sand-blasted vases were originally a present which held narcissi bulbs.
Still using these sand-blasted glass vases, another summer arrangement with sweet Williams, alchemilla molllis, and Brompton stocks (bought stocks, the rest from the garden).
I love Fulham pottery vases which were made especially for flower arrangements and this is one that my mother had. Years later I saw another one in a charity shop, it matched it exactly, but husband said, “What do you want another one for? You’ve already got one!” and stupidly, I didn’t buy it. Pairs of things are always nice to have and I could’ve used them at either end of the mantel, especially at Christmas, overflowing with greenery. I mentioned this to Himself and he said, “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that …”
I think this arrangement (above) might’ve been an early autumn mantel arrangement as I have used copper lustre jugs, and two tiny matching jugs beside them. I love to use copper lustre in autumn, it just seems right somehow, even if shop-bought roses aren’t quite ‘autumn’ flowers but their colour is right, I think.
And here flowers just on one side of the mantel, balanced by two Royal Doulton vases on the other and a small copper-toped ink well to echo the colour of the copper lustre vases.
We must be into late November or early December when I took the photo of white cyclamen above. These two white cachepots normally reside on the kitchen windowsill, containing basil and parsley, my two most frequent go-to fresh herbs, and they are a bit on the heavy-side for the mantel, but I like the way they echo the white of the cyclamen.
Another made-for-flower-arranging vase, but this time not by Fulham Pottery, but I quite like the spray carnations which echo the color of the two small cranberry glass miniature decanters (again inherited pieces.) Again, this vase was a charity shop ‘find’ a few years ago.
While I’m not particularly fond of house plants, although I admit some are beautiful (especially if they have flowers) I thought this fern looked nice and summery. I treat such house plants, which are not expensive, as flowers and when they have become too large or have lost their initial vigour, they are dispensed with.
And finally an autumn arrangement with Michaelmas daisies and two spelter figures representing night and day.
I am now contemplating a different arrangement for the mantel, maybe tall white Bohemian glass vases, or Chinese blue and white ginger jars, I’ve not yet decided, but I think it’s time for a real change. Watch this space.
Have you a favourite place for displaying flowers?
Until next time.