10 July 2012

on enamel: not teeth but tins

I am positively averse to matchy matchy homewares. I don't really know why. I genuinely like (and often covet) other people's organised homes, where dishes are designed to stack together neatly and rooms are relaxingly tonal... I just can't bring myself to do it.

It's probably a failing borne of chronic indecision: if I'm expected to decide on one pattern for my dinner plates, or one style of furniture, or - heaven forbid - coordinating soft furnishings, then what about all those lovely things I'll have to opt out of, now and forever after? And what about all those random bits of old/homemade/inherited tat that will never match anything (but that I can't be parted from)? My husband knows that the day I utter "shall we just go for a nice three-piece suite Dear?" is the day I've lost my very essence.

This all works fine if charming idiosyncrasy is allowed time to develop naturally. But it's rather more of a challenge when a room gets so revoltingly decrepit that it needs to be renovated wholesale, in one painful and expensive burst. You may have gathered that we're having to replace our old kitchen: bits keep falling off and strange odours and creeping fungi are appearing. I fully expect to be replaced as soon as I meet that description (I'll probably be sitting on my three-piece suite). But it's very hard to avoid the scourge of the matchy matchy in a new kitchen.  Seriously, go and have a look around yours, lots of stuff matches doesn't it?

One material in particular seems to be gently pervading our new room; enamel. And it's a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

I've had a huge enamel bread bin (exactly like this one below) for about a decade, bought in a Conran shop warehouse sale for less than a pound. (Do they still have those sales? They were in some industrial estate in Wimbledon, and were brilliant.) It's the perfect size for keeping all the breadmaker ingredients and mice separate. Mine was already thoroughly beaten up by the time I bought it, so it has a kind of charm.

photo from lovely blog The White Approach, it's much more beautiful than any I took of mine!

In April, I wrote of the nostalgia of pie, and of coveting these Falcon enamelware dishes (below). Well, I couldn't resist long, and have cooked with one of the five almost every single day since. They give me pleasure every time I use them. They're already losing their shine, and gaining a patina thanks to exposure to blackberries, rhubarb, balsamic vinegar and various other foodstuffs. But if you think this is a flaw, and somehow diminishes their beauty, you misunderstand their charisma completely. I'm definitely saving up for the bake set. I want to enjoy these for the rest of my days.

photo from www.falconenamelware.com

Last month I mentioned finding some beautiful old blue enamel lampshades in an antique shop in Columbia Road in London. Three will hang in the new kitchen, in all their crumbly, crackled, rusty glory, dangling from fancy yellow cable flexes. They're either going to look wonderful, or very odd indeed, only time will tell. On that very same morning I saw these beautiful Rob Brandt cups in one of the galleries along Columbia Road. For less than a tenner, I had to have one. It's not enamel, it's ceramic, and I love it. Love love love love love it.

See what I mean? The lure of the matchy matchy, it's proving almost impossible to resist. Just please don't point it out to my husband.

photo from www.startspace.co.uk


  1. Very nice. I have always loved enamel stuff as it transports me back to my Grandma's kitchen.
    Can't wait to see your new kitchen. :)

  2. I know just what you mean about matchy matchy - I love it in other people's homes but I just can't commit without feeling like I'm missing out. I go for a sort of coordinated look.

    Having said that, matching enamel sounds gorgeous - especially as everything is aged slightly differently ;)

  3. i love your enamel, what beautiful pieces you have! i am a believer in 'if you love it, then it goes'!

  4. I am nuts for enamelware too. found a random old shop that sells falconware for cheaper than the website! I have the same cup by the way, and 2 of the plates. I love that I can just stick the plate into the oven to warm up or sometimes I just put my food on it, stick into the oven to cook, and then wat it all from the same plate. they look gorgeously vintagey and everything too ;)


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