AROUND HOME : Pine Furniture
THERE IS A refreshing informality about pine furniture that makes it ideal for the California life style--it blends well with Native American ceramics, primitive paintings and folk textiles of all kinds.
Pine in this country consists of a large number of softwoods (there are 70 to 100 different types throughout the world), generally light-yellow-brown in color, sometimes with a reddish tinge. In Scotland, pine is called deal, and in England, until the early years of the 20th Century, it was rarely used in furniture except for carcase work (framework). Pine was considered suitable as utilitarian furniture by some craftsmen and artisans, who felt no particular enthusiasm for the wood and hurried to conceal it under layers of paint or stain. Today, however, color and grain are carefully revealed, and antique pine furniture in its natural state is much admired.
It was also the wood of choice for use in many of the elaborately paneled rooms found in English country houses during the 18th Century. It is easier to carve than other woods, and artists such as Grinlin Gibbons used it extensively. Nonetheless, in the overall history of furniture, pine remains the wood of everyday life and of everyday furniture. This, of course, explains the great charm it holds for the collector.
The variety of furniture made from pine is impressive, and it is found in nearly every country and era: carved 16th-Century Finnish chests; 18th-Century Pennsylvania dowry chests; medieval benches and Shaker stools, and children’s highchairs, kitchen tables and trestle tables. There are fine examples of Adam-style tables, gilded and with marble tops; there are German food safes, French Louis XV armoires, Welsh and Irish dressers, Spanish Colonial trasteros --the list is endless. These days, too, old shop fittings are much in demand: drawers and cabinets from 19th-Century dry goods or hardware stores and pharmacies. “Architectural pine” is a type of woodworking that includes everything from doors to completely paneled rooms and individual chimney pieces.
Some 1988 auction prices illustrate the varying range in prices: a Georgian crib, $300; an Italian painted bench, 17th Century, $5,500; a Victorian chest, $300; an Irish corner cupboard, circa 1830, $1,300; a Shaker pine cupboard and chest of drawers combined, mid-19th-Century, $8,000; a Welsh dresser, circa 1790, $1,500; an Irish dresser, circa 1840, $900; an Austrian wardrobe, circa 1870, $600; washstands of all kinds, from $100 to $500; a paneled fireplace, circa 1860, $250; a French provincial butcher’s block, $1,500, and an eight-day long-case clock, 19th Century, $1,300.
Antique pine furniture is available at Country Pine & Design in Santa Monica; The Blue House in Los Angeles and Santa Monica; The Cricket in Venice; Century Past in Hollywood; Nicholson’s and Richard Yeakel Antiques in Laguna Beach; G.R. Durenberger in San Juan Capistrano; Uncle Tom’s Antiques in Orange; Wild Goose Chase Folk Art , Americana , Quilts in Santa Ana, and The Snow Goose in La Jolla.