People are more interested in individualism today than 25 years ago – we have become more bold and open about our style. It’s all very well to buy your home’s contents from Ikea, but then every house ends up looking similar. We live in a very manufactured world, so what is great about vintage pieces is that most are unique and have a story to tell; I think that’s what people today love – the story. Then there’s the practical benefit – we bought so many new things for the children’s rooms 20 years ago, and a year later they fell apart, whereas pieces made in the 1930s or 1950s were well made and still not much money compared to new pieces.
I have so many old things that I love, but there are two that stand out, and, funnily enough, they are both heads! One is a carved African head that my mother bought for me, and the other is a Neoclassical-style head from my father. They are very different, but both have connections.
Annie’s prized African head adorns the front of her book, Annie Sloan’s Room Recipes for Style and Colour (£25, Cico)
My interior style is very mixed, but I’d probably define it as bohemian classical, influenced by my background in fine art. However, I love 20th-century design, too. I shop at the usual places: junk shops, antiques shops, auctions, car boot sales, but I don’t really like buying online – I like to see and handle things first.
I’m a great believer that things don’t have to cost a lot of money – I’m not a high-end collector; I just collect a load of nice rubbish! A perfect piece of china usually has to be kept in its box, and that’s not very exciting to me. The most recent vintage items I bought were some antique floorboards from a reclamation yard, which were salvaged from a Slovakian grain house.
On a day off I love to visit country houses. Rousham, near to where I live, has a lovely garden, and I recently visited Chastleton House, which was absolutely beautiful – you only need to spend an hour somewhere to be filled with inspiration.
My advice to anybody looking to upcycle furniture would be not to buy something that you have to fix, because you won’t fix it! I’ve done it many a time. Buy things that are good quality, in a shape and style that you like, but don’t worry about the wood being, say, bright orange, because you can paint right over that, and if stain comes through, put a shellac sealer on it. Then all you have to do is be bold. I always say that if you’re going to start a piece of furniture, don’t start with a small stool – go for something big.
Photographs: Christopher Drake © Cico Books (mantelpiece, shop and african head); V&A museum, London (Ravilious Print); ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra (Chastleton House)