Chinese Antique Furniture at Orchid
Orchid's Chinese antique furniture & accessories originate from the 19th and 20th Centuries. Every piece we stock, having been individually selected by Mimmi, has been restored in China using traditional methods of craftsmanship.
These antiques are not “investment” pieces in that the value will not increase, however this makes them no less special. Using methods passed down through generations, each piece is painstakingly restored by hand, no piece is identical and every items of vintage furniture and accessories has a meaning through the colour, form and decoration, making it a delight to own and bringing its own character to its new home.
The style of Oriental antique furniture favoured by Orchid, is known locally in China as “Country Furniture” indicating that the designs are simple, often colourful and originate from provincial villages across China, Tibet and as far North as Mongolia.
The Asian furniture is most often made from Chinese pine or Elm, a hardwood which is used in for its durability and wide grain, however a considerable number of pieces are also made from Fir, Cypress and Camphor and very occasionally Walnut. Camphor wood of course has its own natural moth-repellent properties and has always been used to make Chinese trunks for seasonal storage of linens and clothing.
During the restoration process every effort is made to sympathetically match wood to the original. The backs of cabinets and drawers are usually replaced, having deteriorated against the cold and damp walls of old Chinese country dwellings. Once the main furniture frame is repaired, attention is paid to hardware, which might be replaced due either to wear, or purely for aesthetics. Finally the lacquer and any decoration is cleaned and restored by a skilled artist, with final coats of lacquer - of which there are many – giving longevity and durability back to these beautifully striking pieces.
The meaning of each Chinese Antique:
Every antique has a story to be told. A certificate of Provenance accompanies every antique purchased with a picture of the item and its known provenance. In the past each region or collection of villages would have its own furniture maker, resulting in many houses having virtually identical furniture. When the old village houses are replaced by modern developments the furniture is purchased in volume by restorers. When sourcing in China it is not unusual to see several antique pieces which are virtually identical in style, colour and decoration.
These old pieces become so much more interesting when the history is explained. Here is a basic guide to the meaning behind hardware, lacquer colours and hand-painted decoration on old Chinese country furniture.
Brass handles and locks are traditionally used on cabinets, sideboards and drawers. The brass can be polished to a gold, pewter, silver or antique finish giving a very different look to a piece.
The wedding cabinet was traditionally the Chinese bride’s dowry, presented to the groom on the eve of his wedding. During the bride's formative years the cabinet would be filled with silks and precious items, just as the western ‘Bottom Drawer’. The large brass circular panel spanning both doors is known as a ‘Togetherness Panel’, symbolising the joining of two halves. This is often elaborately carved and features ornate heavy handles. The traditional Chinese pin secures the double doors. Today these are fitted with removable shelves and a hanging rail, making striking coat and clothes storage and a cabinet which will be useful for a lifetime.
Many of the antique cabinets have wooden pivots rather than hinges, thus making cabinet doors very easily removable and offering maximum access to store media equipment, for example. The central spar, often found between double doors, is also most likely removable again making these cabinets very versatile with easy access for modern storage needs.
Here are the meanings of some of the more popular lacquer colours:
Red, the colour of life, brings good fortune and joy. The iconic Chinese cinnabar red, brings wonderful cheer and warmth to a room.
Green, also a colour of life, symbolizes family and fertility.
White symbolizes longevity, wisdom and purity.
Yellow is a lucky colour representing success and fame.