Lavish Shoestring

Vintage & Antique Homewares

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Good to Know: Photo Composition Tips

9 photo composition tips to help you take beautiful professional level images.

Lavish Shoestring studio team with red umbrella

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Win Free £50 (US$80) Lavish Shoestring Gift Card – Submit Your Table Setting Pictures

Do you have what it takes to set a beautiful dinner table? Have you been to a party and enjoyed a nice table arrangement? Well, share it with us and get some goodies.

Take picture of a table setting that you liked and submit to our contest. Table setting that gets the most likes will get you £50 (US$80) gift card to spend on Lavish Shoestring.

Another gift card prize of £50 (US$80) will go to the entry that our team at Lavish Shoestring liked the most.

  • Submit colour photos only of dinner related table settings in reply to this Facebook post here.
  • We will feature all entries on Lavish Shoestring blog.
  • Final day to submit your entries 15 April 2015 (22:00 GMT).
  • Professional stock photographs will be excluded.
  • We reserve the right to exclude any submission.
  • We will contact the winners within 3 days of the end of the contest.

All approved entries are published here:

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Green Homewares Inspiration for Your St Patrick’s Day

From opulent to quirky – we’ve put together some fantastic selection of green homewares to get you inspired for St Patrick’s Day. Browse and enjoy!

St Patrick's Day parade

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Beauty Should Not Create Evil – We Signed an Anti-Photoshopping Pledge

We all aspire, whether consciously or unconsciously, to some standardised images of beauty. These images, while probably visually appealing at first glance, are often completely unrealistic. Cultivated mainly by the fashion industry through the photoshopped images of models, they promote the idealised form lacking any blemishes.

This practice is not restricted only to the fashion world and the questions of human beauty. We are affected by it on the daily basis. Usually we are offered only the perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables in supermarkets. Lots of good food is discarded. Visually imperfect and used products are also thrown away and replaced with new versions. Rather than to clean and reuse old, we often prefer to buy new.

At Lavish Shoestring we firmly believe that beauty is quirky. Most handmade old items have true character and beauty, they age with dignity gaining more blemishes every day. So they become unique and that is what makes us appreciate them. All products in our catalogues undergo basic photoshop editing to show their true and realistic colour. We remove the background or make dark images brighter, but we never enhance the qualities of our products. That’s why quite often our customers tell us that our antiques never fail to impress them when unwrapped out of the box.

We have signed an anti-photoshopping pledge for advertisers. Beauty is natural, and natural is good.

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Item of the Week – Beautiful & Unusual Featured Every Week

Every week we feature an unusual, beautiful, extraordinary item from our catalogue that attracted the most attention of our users.

This week it’s a modernist design folding tray. So simple and so useful.

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Happy Halloween from the Jack-o’-Lanterns of Lavish Shoestring!

The spooky day is upon us and we love it!

The autumn brings beautiful colours and cool weather. Finally we can cuddle in our Welsh blankets by the fireplace, roast chestnuts, drink mulled wine and get silly.

Join us in welcoming the new season and share your Halloween costumes or pumpkin carvings – see details below.

Happy Halloween Everyone!


How to Participate:

Send the pictures of your Halloween Costume or Pumpkin Carvings and get £5 voucher to spend at

1. Your can either follow and submit on our Facebook page:
2. Or just email us at

Your creations also will be featured on our blog

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Halloween 2014 Courtesy of the Friends of Lavish Shoestring

Enjoy the spooky creations submitted by you. Come back often – we update them as they come.

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French Lacquer and Japanned Furniture of the 18th Century

Imported lacquer furniture from China and Japan proved to be extremely successful with the Europeans throughout the 18th century. Under the reign of Louis XV in 1730, the vogue for lacquered furniture developed under the influence of the so-called “marchands-merciers”, which was the French term for an entrepreneur working outside of the guild of craftsmen and was broadly conferred on merchants dealing in objects of art and luxury goods.

Initially they only imported complete furniture such as chests, cabinets and screens to be sold on the local markets. However, gradually they started dismantling the pieces by cutting out their lacquered panels to apply as decorations on the French furniture. Among the popular redesigned items were writing boxes and desks, commodes, corner cabinets, wardrobes and chairs. These marchand-merciers were responsible for delivering the materials to cabinet makers, whose role was to incorporate them into the frames of the cabinets, while the final products were sold by retailers to their elite clientele, who often did not know the identity of the actual cabinetmaker.

Original lacquer panels were thick and often double sided, which prompted the cabinetmakers to cut them in half, plane, refine the finish in order to flatten them and mount onto the furniture surfaces very similar to a traditional European veneer or marquetry. Quite often the lacquer panels were framed to enhance the decorations using ormolu gilt mounts. Exposed parts of undecorated surfaces were painted or varnished, giving a term varnish-martin to such technique and furniture, in order to enhance the appearance and blend with the lavish lacquer design of the panels. This technique created a very clever illusion of a fully lacquered furniture piece. Similar method was also used by cabinet makers as an alternative to the real expensive furniture. Entire pieces were varnished or japanned to imitate original Asian lacquer, which quickly became a very expensive and desired commodity. And only the largest merchant-merciers such as Thomas-Joachim Herdert, François Gersaint, Lazare Duvaux and others could afford the use of real luxury lacquer pieces. They were obtained from the traders of the French and Dutch East India companies, usually in the auctions or sometimes directly from the ship crew members who had permission to transport a certain amount of goods for their personal trade.

Japanese lacquer panels were much more sought after rather than their Chinese counterparts. This was due to their superior quality, as well as rarity in supply. Starting in 1639, access to Japanese trading posts was only reserved for the Dutch East India Company, thus the entire European market depended on their monopoly. Therefore, it was to the best cabinet makers that such lacquer panels were supplied. Among the notable masters were Jacques Dubois, Bernard Van Rysamburgh, Adam Weisweiler, Joseph Baumhauer, Martin Carlin, Jean Desforges and others, all fetching significant amounts on the today’s collectors market.

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Entertaining at Home Illustrated – It’s Simple

We want our homes to be sanctuaries from the hustle and bustle of fast-track life. Increasingly often we look back to more comforting eras with a new fascination, and wish of reconnecting with past values. Our current lifestyle may differ greatly from our grandparent’s generation, but their philosophy for living and using resources wisely is as relevant today as it always was. Being thrifty, repairing and restoring whether it is furniture, china or glass and linens, and being willing to pass it on.

There is something exciting and appealing about finding a treasure, be it online, at a market, shop or fair. It can speak to you and open doors to other worlds, and can quite often start a hobby of collecting. The last few years we re-discovered the art of having afternoon tea and the fun of using vintage mix-matched china and serving items, flowers in 19th century lustre jugs, table cloths, and let’s not forget bunting! A cup of tea and a beautifully decorated, slightly naughty cupcake or a full blown tea party, seems to be an illicit treat to perk up your spirits in the afternoon.

Let us also review the art of entertaining at home, which with a little planning is far less costly than going out. You can start with a jolly cocktail party, reminiscent of the fabulous 1920s-30s. By the way, this is a great way to get men involved in collecting different cocktail glasses, shakers and decanters as well as wine related items. They are often quite eccentric, and so can form an excellent talking point.

Continue with a themed get together Saturday or Sunday brunch. Setting the right mood is not difficult – simply arrange your table with a suitable colour scheme of vintage china and tableware, and your guests will be inspired for conversations. If you are short on time, just organise friends to bring different courses.

As to dinners, why not take it a step out of the ordinary and the everyday – be festive, create an atmosphere that friends or family will not forget, while being thrifty by using vintage and antique table items. Often I have had guests take photos of the table settings, because they were so much out of the ordinary. You could also choose a period in time, from Roman and Mediaeval to Victorian with its many styles. Nationality of food also works perfectly for the evening – Italian, Oriental, French, Russian or the traditional English – we do have some good food. Robbie Burns night, Valentine or even Election day should not be forgotten for inspiration!

This can be quite successful and many people start clubs around it – meeting once a month and choosing a theme for their get together. Some go to the extreme of dressing up to match their chosen theme, or researching recipes for the courses; collecting menu holders and printing funny menus for them. Not only is this creative, it is also good old fashioned infectious fun and inexpensive entertainment. You ought to try it yourself!

We are yearning to make our homes more individual, after recent decades of minimalism. Not knocking the “less is more” style, but what it often lacks is a sense of originality, personality and individualism, let alone a bit of colour. All of us have absorbed the message of ecological recycling, anti-waste and the ethically sourced. We also seem to be adopting it within our homes, and hopefully turning our backs on the mass produced, be it furniture or furnishings. Do your bit not only for recycling, but be original by using old china and vintage everyday household items, as most of them were made to last!

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Arts & Crafts and Metalware Designs by Christopher Dresser

Nowadays in the popular culture the name of Christopher Dresser (18034-1904) is often associated with his revolutionary metalware and especially silver plated tableware designs. However, Dresser originally was preoccupied with designs of ceramics, textiles, furniture and home interiors and only relatively later in his career he began contributing to the design field for which he is now particularly adored. For example, in 1862, Dresser published The Art of Decorative Design, as well as a guide to the International Exhibition, and neither book talked seriously about domestic metalware. However, his Ipswitch Sketchbook from circa 1864 contained sketches for metalware in silver and bronze, which suggests Dresser did have a growing interest in designing metalware. According to the archival records in 1865 Dresser designed the first metal items for the company Elkington & Co. It is possible that Dresser’s interest was influenced by the Japanese display stand at the 1862 Exhibition, especially so as he was known to comment on the Japanese tradition of beautifying the most humble of items for the house. Dresser also recognised the poor standard of domestic ware available to the average consumer in England, and he seized the opportunity to produce well designed, useful and cheap wares.

Dresser’s first documented plated designs were for Hukin & Heath, which launched its new Dresser range in 1878. Nevertheless, it is certain that Dresser had designed metalware before this time. His first pieces for Hukin & Heath, so bold and confident, indicate that they were based on experience. Companies such as Henry Wilkinson from Sheffield, Richard Hodd from London, and Messrs., Deykin from Birmingham all produced plated metalware in the early 1870’s of such simple, clean design that they advertised themselves as Dresser designs.

Dresser mainly addressed the market for affordable domestic metalware which meant he had to use silver plate instead of solid silver. It also demanded simplicity of design and economy in ornamentation. The simplicity of design, which so neatly sums up the appeal of Dresser metalware is of course a direct follow on from affordability. Any embellishment, unnecessary flourish or ornamentation on an object meant extra time, extra labour and therefore extra cost. The challenge to Dresser as a designer was to show that cheap does not mean ugly. Hukin & Heath’s ground breaking exhibition in august 1879 was described in the press this way:

Many of these articles are designed with an express view of bringing really good and artistic metal-work within the reach of those who cannot afford to invest in expensive and intricate work; they are (mostly) of a severe design, their beauty consisting rather in their outline than in the amount of labour bestowed on their manufacture.

(Furniture Gazette, 23 August, 1879)

In 1879, Dresser also wanted to see metalware manufacture added to the general Linthorpe pottery complex (Linthorpe pottery was founded that year by Dresser). This idea, however, never came to fruition. Around 1879 Dresser also started working with James Dixon from Sheffield, designing some of his most memorable shapes; it was with Dixon that Dresser seems to have been given most free reign for his imagination. Unfortunately, this period of creative freedom coincided with a poor health, a house move and general work overload. Dresser’s last recorded designs for plated ware were for Elkington in 1885, still showing  much in the way of inventive design, still recognisably Dresser, with a certain quaintness as but somehow lacking the lightness of his designs for Dixon.

Manufacturers of Plated Metalware for Whom Dresser Produced Designs

James Dixon & Sons, Sheffield. The first record of Dresser working for Dixon was in an 1879 workbook containing the cost breakdowns and sketches for his exotic teapots.

Elkington & Co, Birmingham. Elkington’s fame as the leading silver plate manufacturer of Britain during the 19th century was due to the discovery of a plating process patented by George Elkington in 1840. Elkington made a large part of its fortune through licensing agreements, with companies such as Christofle et Cie, Paris. Elkington had a reputation for both quality and design. Designers included Benjamin Schlick in the 1840s, Pierre-Emile Jeannest (who previously worked for Mintons ceramics); 1859 saw the arrival of both the modeller Leonard Morel-Ladeuil and the designer Auguste Adolph Willms, who took over as Head of the Design Studio. Elkington exhibited at all the major International Exhibitions, winning the top prizes and medals; his fame was international. Dresser is first mentioned in connection with Elkington metalware designs in 1865, which was in the course of preparing a range of tableware for the 1867 Paris exhibition. Dresser’s designs for Elkington are often dated as 1885, in accordance with the existing archive in the Victoria & Albert Museum. However, it is possible that they started collaborating previously, as the archives are not very clear on that point.

Hukin & Heath, Birmingham. Hukin & Heath was established in Birmingham as a partnership in 1885 between J.W. Hukin and J.T. Heath. Dresser produced the first designs for this company in 1878. It is possible that Dresser used Hukin & Heath as a scene from which he sought to educate public opinion about his new and revolutionary designs. For example, it is known that Dresser persuaded Hukin & Heath to produce a line in Persian-Indian metalware. The majority of items were to be produced by Hukin & Heath at the source in Asia, with the idea of transferring production of selected items to Birmingham. This meant that they could provide the British consumer with a selection of quality yet affordable items from which to choose. Dresser had already tried importing cheap artistic items in 1876 with Londos & Co, in an effort to break this chicken and egg conundrum: manufacturers produced what costumers selected or asked for, but the costumers could only select from what the manufacturers provided in their catalogues. As with Londos & Co, Dresser’s next step was to arrange publicity: distributing circulars to the press, particularly the trade press, and arranging a grand opening in 1879, in Charterhouse Street, with a few hundred people present, many prominent in the art world. It represented a major change for Hukin & Heath, as the Art Journal described:

Messrs Hukin & Heath whose “works” are in Birmingham, have fitted up room that in themselves are redolent of art. Their art Adviser and guide is Dr Dresser, under whose educated taste and practical experience they have produced a large collection of singularly excellent art works, vast improvements on the “have beens” of earlier time. They have done this without increasing the cost of such articles, supplying ample evidence of the principle that “beauty is cheaper than deformity”. They have acted under the advice of a competent art teacher – there are few better, simplicity and purity of form with readiness of application on the purposes to which they are applied.

(Art Journal, 1879.p.222)

Of course, not all of Hukin & Heath’s production was cheap. In fact, most of its plated ware was aimed at the middle and upper middle class. Expensive items were also produced in silver. If Hukin & Heath produced only the easily affordable, it would have finished their venture rather quickly, as those who had the money to spend wanted luxury and exclusivity. There was a large quantity of new money wanting only the best. The impact of Dresser on Hukin & Heath can be seen from the permanent change in style, which continued long after he left the company in 1880.

The following manufactures were producing plated wares in Dresser’s minimalist style

Deykin & Sons, Birmingham. Deykin & Sons was originally founded in 1854 in partnership with J. & W. Deykin as a button-making company. The new company saw the introduction of electroplating and  by the 1870s, button-making had been suspended. In 1877, Deykin & Sons established a business under its own name, continuing as much sntil 1895. Dresser is known to have sold designs to Deykin.

Henry Wilkinson, Sheffield. Wilkinson & Co, Sheffield received a licence to electroplate in 1843, selling mainly tableware. The company exhibited at both the 1851 and 1862 international exhibitions in London. The company was bought by Walker & Hall in about 1892. Few records exist for Wilkinson and the items that they produced in the style of Christopher Dresser are attributed to him purely on stylistic evidence.

Mark: after 1872, the company acquired limited liability and after this date the letters ‘Ld’ were added to read HW&Co Ld in the shield. In 1892, the company was bought by Walker & Hall of Sheffield.

Richard Hodd & Son, London. Richard Hodd & Son was established in 1872, by Richard Hodd and his son, following the dissolution of an earlier partnership between Hodd Senior and others. The core business of the company was domestic ware for restaurants and hotels. In 1878 the company exhibited in Paris and was awarded a bronze medal.

Other Metal Manufacturers of the Late Victorian Period

Benham & Froud. The original firm was founded in 1785 by Mr Kepp as a small family company in London, the business listed among its achievements the covering of the British museum over 28 years, and the ball and cross which sits atop St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was this ball and cross that was later to become the company logo. In 1850, Augustus Benham and Joseph William Froud joined the company; Benham died in 1884 and Froud then retired. At this point the company became a limited company and R.W. Laws, the manager and chief designer, joined the board. Some changes were instituted in the range, including the introduction of wrought iron. In 1885, Benham & Froud took out a patent on the manufacture of mixed metals. The core business, to do with exteriors, was continued but soon broadened into ecclesiastical interiors and in 1870 included a range of artistic metalware for the home. Domestic ware was mainly concerned with fireplaces, lighting and door furnishing. In 1870, Dresser designed several wooden coal boxes for the company. Benham & Froud exhibited at the London Exhibitions, 1851 and 1862 (bronze medals), Melbourne 1889 (gold) and Adelaide (silver).

Archibald Kenrick & Sons, West Bromwich. Kenrick was founded in 1791 as a workshop operation making buckles for shoes, expanding in the 19th century into domestic hardware with huge overseas markets in America, Australia, India and South America. Kenrick produced a range of Gothic cast iron fitments for doors, furniture, the hearth, kitchen and the garden, which were exhibited at the Paris Exhibition, 1878. Contemporary reports suggest that door knockers in Berlin black or bronzed were especially popular in Paris. This may have encouraged the company to expand the range of household ironmongery. Based on the stylistic connection, there is strong evidence that Dresser produced some designs for the company.

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