Re-use -
A Solution
For Modern

Church Street
Lower Weedon


Issue 118 March 2000 Page 154
The Three R's - Real, Repro or Replica
In a market offering copies and imitations, you can't beat the real thing, says Neville Griffiths - even if all you want is a dustbin.
If you want to know what's going to be fashionable in homes next year, go and see what architectural antique yards are selling now. Anything that's unusual or in demand will be reproduced and old shapes will influence new designs. Some people are after that old 'look' and so age isn't important to them, whilst others want things with a history.

But while there are an increasing amount of reproductions to tempt us, there are still those who want original - or at least try to find original first. Some say I'm anti-reproduction. That isn't strictly true. I'm against poor quality, inaccurate mimicry. If the original is available, then not only are you buying a piece of history; you have something valuable with that peculiar fascination that only time can give.

Restoring homes takes up a big chunk of your life and some 'salvage twitchers' will go to any length to find that missing piece of their architectural jigsaw. I had one couple at my yard who'd been looking for a cupboard door for two years. Why? Passion and obsession play a part as do investment, status, and the one that isn't easy to explain - the mystery of the past.

Now I know it's not always possible to find that inspirational artefact you're looking for. If what you want has disappeared then buy something that's reproduced using the same level of skill, design and material, and contains that ingredient called quality.

Some salvage-oriented businesses are a victim of their own success. Demand is increased by raising public awareness, so replacing the stock becomes harder. They look at it from the angle, 'well, you can only sell an original once, so copying it is the way forward'. As it's an easy way to make money, outlets are springing up everywhere and many have no experience of old shapes. China is mass producing all kinds of reproduction - good and bad. I saw a Chinese copy of a Victorian fireplace - it was the first time I'd seen cherubs with Oriental eyes. - Often, the difference between old and new isn't clearly defined - just because something is rusty doesn't mean it's original Be discerning; look at old trade catalogues to familiarise yourself with styles and help you avoid badly matched hoods and surrounds.

Repro fireplaces are big business - 99% are from reputable companies, but some are as much use as a chocolate teapot - they may be cast iron but they don't like real fires. I've heard of some cracking under heat. Under that newly painted surface could be filler, an obvious sign of poor quality.

Now, top dealers are using their knowledge to remake old designs. Using proportion as a guideline, they're keeping the essence of the original concept alive. Salvage is about saving skills as well as objects. The dealers call their reproductions 'replicas' to distance themselves from the mass-produced repro. Designs of replica pieces have often been reworked by a 21st-century designer and some say they are the antiques of the future - only time will tell.

But if you still want to buy an original, the sources haven't run dry. I have some lovely 'salvagers' who, like me, prefer the slightly bashed combined with the glorious tinge of age. I must tell you about Aubrey. His wife wanted to get him an old dustbin as a birthday present and the repro designs are just not right - they taper in at the bottom. So they came to the yard. After emptying the cat food tins out of my old dustbin, Aubrey and his wife went away happy.

A more imaginative approach for the purist and the romantic