The series is part of the SPAB Ireland Vernacular Irish Buildings Campaign 2021 and is generously supported by the Heritage Council under the Heritage Sector Support Fund 2021
Lecture 7: Original furniture: preservation, position and appreciation
Wednesday 29 September 2021, 19.00 - 20.30
Live Online Lecture
£5/€6 pp - SPAB members
£6/€7 pp - Non-members
Furniture was often tailor-made for farmhouses when they were built. For this reason, the original furniture was perfectly appropriate in size and almost invariably made by local makers. Often the carpenter who built rooves, doors and windows, was the same person building the internal fittings, such as the stairs, the parlour’s ceiling and fire surround, the kitchen ’clevy’, as well as the dresser, falling table or press etc.
Compared to the care taken to preserve internal fittings in grand houses, those of small farmhouses have, until recently been given less respect. Furniture was locally appropriate, it reflected the size of the household budget, the proportions of each room, the materials sourced nearby. Saving, preserving and restoring original furniture need not be complicated, and can save money too.
Coastal areas gave rise to furniture incorporating driftwood. Specialist woodworkers, such as the wheelwright, made pieces distinct to his craft. The chamfered edges of door panels extended to the decoration on case furniture, as well as internal doors. People considered timber to be precious, so the internal partition between kitchen and parlour (known as ‘the room’) often incorporated the dresser, and was decorated to match. During modernisation, it’s worth taking care to preserve what was originally made for it. Sensitive planning of additional bathrooms, plumbing and kitchen units, can be made to incorporate, rather than dispose of what was originally there. Photography of original layouts is a valid way to record any items that need to be removed, or perhaps are not sold with a building. Discussions with sellers or neighbours about the origins of a house can help preserve the links with the past, identify what tradesmen made specific items. Respect for early vernacular buildings, should ideally extend to respect for the dwelling’s internal fittings and furnishings, which are increasingly challenging and expensive to replace, and are as important a part of Ireland’s heritage as great art or archaeological discoveries.
About the speaker:
Dr Claudia Kinmonth MRIA MA(RCA) BTecHND
Dr Claudia Kinmonth is an art and design historian, who worked at London’s V&A before moving to Cork. Her first book for Yale University Press, Irish Country Furniture 1700-1950 (1993) won awards and was followed by Irish Rural Interiors in Art (Yale, 2006). Her research instigated three exhibitions on vernacular furniture and genre paintings (Cork, Dublin & Boston). Her new book is fully revised: Irish Country Furniture and Furnishings 1700-2000 (Cork University Press, 2020) with a chapter on small furnishings. It won ‘The American Conference for Irish Studies Durkan Prize (Language & Culture)’ in 2021. In 2018 she was elected as a member of the Royal Irish Academy. She is a Research Fellow at the Moore Institute, NUI Galway, and Research Curator (Domestic Life) at the Ulster Folk Museum, as well as curatorial advisor at three museums in Cork.
About SPAB Ireland:
SPAB Ireland was established in 2017 as the inaugural Irish branch of the SPAB. Following the return of several recent Irish SPAB Fellows and Scholars to live and work in Ireland, the lack of an SPAB presence has been acutely felt. After a successful open meeting in February 2017, we have established a committee and have started planning how we will bring the SPAB philosophy and ethos to Ireland.
The lecture will be recorded and available to watch on demand for a limited time after the live presentation. Bookings must be made in advance to receive this recording link.
IT requirements: Please note that this is an online lecture and will be held via a webinar platform (Zoom). You will be sent instructions on how to join the session the day before the lecture. To participate, all you need is an internet connection, and a laptop, computer or phone with the ability to play video and audio.
Accessibility: please contact the Group Organiser before booking to discuss any special access requirements.
Booking Terms & Conditions
Image Credit: Claudia Kidmonth