My best auction buy: Lucinda Griffith29 March 2021 Lucinda Griffith, interior designer, Lucinda Griffith Design
Lucinda Griffith is an experienced interior designer and firm believer that the right piece in the right place can transform the finished look of a room. This week, as part of our 15th anniversary series, she told us about her most treasured auction find in her own home.
Tell us about your favourite auction find
I had a terrible time answering this as my auction habit is rather uncontrolled so there was so much to pick from. However, there is one piece that I particularly treasure. It is a French oak fire surround that was listed as being ‘mid 19th Century’. It is very simple in design and probably had a shelf at one point in its life, which got lost somewhere as it has moved from place to place. The auction it came from was a contents sale and there were various French pieces in it, none of them anything that Marie Antoinette would have looked twice at, but all much more rural and with a sense of use and love about them. This piece leapt out at me and was the only thing I bid on.
What made you fall in love with it?
It is such a simple design, but has huge presence without taking over. I didn’t want something new, it needed to be appropriate for an old farmhouse, but finding something big enough that wasn’t going to require a second mortgage was looking impossible until I saw this listed. Now it is in, it adds the perfect ‘bass note’ to the room and makes it feel finished but also established.
What was the reason you bought it?
Although my house has been around for a long time, it suffered from an overly aggressive ‘modernisation’ in the 1970’s when all the original features were ripped out. I wanted to add age and character back with the furniture and decoration, but also with some of the architecture, and this was simply the most perfect piece; it wasn’t overly formal, but would add patina and age to the room.
The fireplace opening I have is very big and most mantlepieces would be swallowed up by it, but here was this marvellous surround that was a fantastic size and with lovely proportions. I also really love the curves in it which soften all the straight lines of the beams and bookcase and the colour of the oak sits beautifully with the antique furniture. Having said all that, it was a bit of a spontaneous bid – I saw it, thought I would put a bid in just in case nobody else wanted it and perhaps I would get it for a song and see if it would work.
That’s what I love about auctions – you never know if the piece will be yours but it is always worth trying at the budget that works for you.
Tell us about the auction experience
Finding the surround came about almost by accident. I was sorting through back copies of Country Life for my parents and couldn’t resist flicking through them as I ‘sorted’. In one I saw an advert for an upcoming House Contents auction in Dorset and thought I would take a look online. There was this lovely 19th Century French oak fire surround, however my budget had all gone already on the builders. But that is the joy of an auction; I put a bid on for £200 as I needed to allow for transport etc as well and hoped for the best. I had to be at work when the auction was on and was very disappointed, though not surprised, to find when I rang that I had not won it. Naturally at this point I was convinced that I would never find another surround to match the perfection of this one.
The very next day, I had an email from the auction house. The winners of the bid had apparently rejected the surround when they saw it, and I was next in line. I got the surround for £175.00 + delivery and worried for a week over whether it would fit or not. It arrived and we carried it in and if I had built the chimneybreast to take it then it couldn’t have been more perfect. It was meant to be here.
Where is it now?
Still very much in place and much loved. I can’t imagine the room without it and guests always assume that it is part of the original fixtures. Now I am scouring auctions for some majolica green tiles for the inside of fireplace….
Lucinda helps people find their own style and bring out the best in their house, all whilst staying in control of their own project. You can find out more about Lucinda on her website, and read all about her stunning cottage renovation in Period Living magazine.
If you’re interested in hunting for fire surrounds at auction, click here.