Antique Coverlet

There were rules about the antiques I grew up with but not what you'd expect. The rules were: Always buy American. Never refinish. And never paint over original paint. (My grandmother almost fainted dead away when she caught me repainting an antique telephone lamp lipstick red.)

With the exception of some treasured quilts, the rules didn't forbid use. Whether it was furniture, pottery, antique petticoats or tea cups, for better or worse, we lived with these things. I'm in possession now of a small tiger-maple chest my brother scored while dissecting a baby shark. I slept in a tiny handpainted Victorian-era bed with an 80-pound boxer dog, a clear triumph of artisanship over gravity. My mother caught the wall on fire when a candle surrounded by a hurricane shade caught just the right amount of oxygen to flare and burn the paint. We didn't baby the antiques, we used them.

So when the above 19th century coverlet didn't sell this weekend--and Mom assured me it wasn't particularly good--I threw it on our dinner table and entertained guests, taking a page from my grandparents. Better to embrace a little history than hide it in a closet.


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