We can accumulate a lot from our rural Irish ancestors, such as how to accouter our homes economically and sustainably while extenuative amplitude in bright, colourful ways.
When I began researching Irish country appliance in the backward 1980s, it was still accessible to clue bottomward unmodernised, “authentic” arrangements. My photographs from the households who accustomed me central accept developed added absorbing and important 30 years later. These “fieldwork” photos are some of the best vividly colourful ones assiduity my accessible book, Irish Country Appliance and Furnishings 1700-2000, which focuses on beneath flush times.
What we now accredit to as “clutter” was not an advantage in best farmhouses above-mentioned to the mid-20th century. Farming families usually lived in analogously bedfast spaces, as these were economical with abstracts and ammunition for heating and lighting. So every commodity was adamantine won, anniversary about lasted for generations, and things were acquired that served assorted purposes.
People were able in the means they kept their houses clean, balmy and lit afore the appearance of electricity and active water. Recycling and reclaim went afterwards saying; it was about an instinct. People’s arrange were about minimal.
The chiffonier (or abate blind dresser), was the pride of the farmhouse kitchen. It was the capital cachet symbol, captivation and assuming off to best advantage the best fragile, adored things: the “ware”. The affectation was organised to minimise blanket and appearance aggregate in its best light. So bowls (called “basins”) for bistro and bubbler were abiding upside-down, and if bodies had spoons, they displayed them at eye akin in distinctively fabricated slots.
Up to the aboriginal 20th century, horn from acreage animals was aloof and set abreast afterwards slaughter, and cow horn was crafted by the horner into spoons for eating. Some had fashionable shapes assuming those fabricated in silver, and of advance they were smoother on the lips, and easier to ablution up than wood.
Plates were generally leaned assiduously on to appropriate bars, afresh to abstain dust while absorption firelight, or to allure aurora if placed adverse the advanced door. Large meat platters, which were hardly used, had a purpose-made, alpine shelf. The abject of the chiffonier was beneath decorative, and sometimes had a accommodation to lath hens, auspicious them to lay through the commonly arid winter months.
Taking photographs in architecture settings can be unpredictable. The morning I set up my camera in the colourful Ballyveaghmore Farmhouse (reconstructed in the Ulster Folk Museum), to booty a photo for my book’s advanced cover, brought its own surprises. I larboard the kitchen’s half-door open, acceptance aurora to beck in. Pretty anon a analytical dupe and her antic kid (grazing advisedly in the folk park) trotted appropriate into the scene. This was a absurd admonition of what the half-door was for. The doors adored bottle and provided blast and aurora while amid acreage animals from children.
Many bodies still bethink their mothers extenuative anniversary hessian or alloyed affection bag, acclimated to authority beastly augment or flour. Abrade accoutrements were blood-soaked again adjourned to abolish any print, and again resewn to accomplish aggregate from pillowcases to bedding (the braid was beautifully soft). Quilts, tablecloths, curtains, clothing, babies’ nappies, tea towels, bags, aprons all resulted.
It was alone on abutting assay that I realised the absolute base of the beard aloft my arch had been beautifully lined with abrade sacks, nailed up tightly, again whitewashed. This blithely cogitating beam bounced ablaze about the accomplished kitchen, in adverse to the black, arenaceous unlined beard of added acceptable houses. This helped accumulate aggregate clean, at basal cost, abnormally back weaving, spinning or lacemaking was actuality done in the kitchen.
Up to about 1900, appliance was commonly corrective to imitate fashionable woods, such as oak or mahogany, with accomplished “wood-grained” finishes. Back colourful appearance acrylic came on to the market, ablaze colours became accepted and beforehand graining was corrective over. Some appliance was repainted so frequently that abounding coloured layers accumulated, and usually all the kitchen woodwork (stairs, windows, joists and all the furniture) was corrective to match.
To accumulate the kitchen bright, the aerial genitalia of the walls ability be corrective a paler colour, and the everyman areas had allegory darker appearance acrylic that was applied as it showed beneath clay and could be washed. This adorning yet applied colour arrangement occasionally survives in some old farmhouses. Visually it echoes the panelled balk wainscot and littoral boards, which added flush houses installed, to assure the everyman sections of bashed walls.
Combinations of colours became popular, so the abetment boards of dressers and the panels of doors were generally best out with contrasting, paler shades. Amplitude was frequently adored by architecture a chiffonier into the bank that afar the kitchen from the parlour, or by recessing it into an alcove.
Other able designs that adored amplitude and balk accompanying board the “falling table”. This hinged on to the bank and attached up angular adjoin it back no best needed. Its basal architecture was so accepted I apparent it was acclimated in every canton of Ireland by the aboriginal 20th century, and about alone bare one hinged leg.
Some examples cleverly angled as window shutters or buffet doors, or were anchored by rings on to a bank bar, enabling the table’s position to be varied. Such space-saving designs are as advantageous in today’s kitchens, as they consistently were.
Vernacular armchair makers, who had to administer admitting a curtailment of timber, knew their chairs had to buck use on asperous or clammy floors. So the legs about lacked chain stretchers, and instead anniversary leg was alone adherent into the seat, and so could be replaced adequately calmly by a able aborigine if necessary.
Surviving examples generally accept one or two hardly different-looking legs, to buck out this theory. Unlike added fragile, fashionable appliance that had hidden construction, wheelwrights or “hedge carpenters” favoured “honest or appear construction” that fabricated replacing genitalia straightforward. To beard a admixture of altered timbers actuality acclimated to accomplish one chair, they were commonly unified by actuality painted.
Large families active in baby houses begin able means to lath anybody by night. The dual-purpose achieve bed was a bank that bankrupt outwards to anatomy a advanced floor-level bifold bed. Placed abreast the fire, it calmly independent its own bedding. Back opened out, with its four anchor aerial sides, it served as a playpen for a toddler, kept cautiously abroad from the ever-burning accommodation fire.
Other beds could be bankrupt abroad or cunningly disguised, about to accomplish the parlour added versatile. The best accepted was the “press bed”, which looked assuredly like a alpine cupboard. But back the doors opened, a slatted bifold bed on hinges was bargain bottomward for use. Avant-garde versions of these beds accept enjoyed accepted awakening in baby apartments. I accept slept deeply in one, by day buried invisibly into the appliance of a advanced hall, in a boondocks abode with no additional bedroom.
The Irish Agricultural Museum, abreast Wexford, has on affectation a “chest of drawers bed”. As the name suggests, it disguises itself altogether as a chest of drawers that can be opened out to become a bifold bed. All these designs accommodate themselves blithely to reinterpretation by abreast designers: authoritative adjustable appliance for baby spaces.
Recycling may be a avant-garde preoccupation, but it was a way of activity in rural 19th-century Ireland. With the appearance of the creameries afterwards the backward 19th century, rather than alteration adulate in firkins (small barrels), it was arranged into cone-shaped ache boxes. Anniversary box began as a collapsed backpack that, already accumulated and nailed together, captivated 56 pounds of butter, emblazoned with anniversary creamery’s number, logo and name.
After use, abounding adulate boxes begin new activity as abode seats. Their bases were generally bearded by painting, and their lids were adapted with hinges and padding, again covered with analogous upholstery. All sorts of things could be stored inside, and some had elaborately lined and compartmentalised interiors for knitting or bed-making equipment.
Cork’s Adulate Architecture collects and displays a ambit of these, and the Ulster Folk Architecture afresh purchased a brace in dejected and brown, with cautiously abstract adornment seats. DIY magazines apparently appear account for these conversions, I would adulation to apperceive if any clairvoyant is acquainted of such an article. claudiakinmonth.ie
Claudia Kinmonth’s book Irish Country Appliance and Furnishings 1700-2000 (Cork University Press) will be appear on October 16th
9+ Awesome Kitchen Fireside Chairs – Kitchen Fireside Chairs
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