Bedroom: All I want for Christmas is a clerk’s chair

img_1001Don’t be deceived. This may look like an ordinary chest of drawers to the undiscerning eye, but it’s actually so much more. One of the joys of trawling through antique shops, junk shops, and flea markets is that you get to find out, first hand, how tetchy the staff are about you opening and closing drawers and presses (cupboards for the Americans and English). Some verge on apoplexy if you so much as lift the edge of a macassar whereas others would happily let you see if you could crawl into the wardrobe and bring your friend with you. That element of childish ‘let’s see how far I can push it’ is quite amusing and certainly adds to the experience. As does wandering around wearing a backpack… amazing how some of us get our kicks eh?

On those rare occasions when you open up a drawer or a door and find something unexpected, it’s even better! Then you can oooh and ahhh out loud, and when the other shoppers gather around, you know your hand is the one on the handle and you’re the one with first dibs.

Such was the case in the BAV on Jaszai Maria tér a couple of weeks ago. February 12. I’ve been looking for a chest of drawers. Any I’ve seen have been either in poor condition or very expensive. Or the drawers weren’t deep enough. Or it wasn’t high enough. Or the handles weren’t pretty enough. This one I liked the look of, and liked the price. And when I opened it, it practically called my name. And everyone else heard it, too. In a matter of seconds, there were two others around me, chattering away and looking as if they were wondering how to make me disappear.


How cool is this eh? The front of the top drawer is opens out to form a writing table! Now, with my short legs, I can stand and write quite comfortably. Not a long letter though, more of a short note, or maybe a cheque. Any lengthier correspondence will require a clerk’s chair…

When it was delivered, I found a CD of Beethoven’s Violin concertos in one of the little drawers. An added bonus! I just love it. The other three drawers are deep and wide, so it’s just perfect for me. It is missing its keys though – so four more to add to the list. I could make a career out of key shopping!

I’m not sure of the vintage – I’d say Victorian – any of you have any ideas? I thought it might have been a Bachelors chest, but it doesn’t have the shallow top drawer for the shaving foam! It’s old though. And I wanted something old and gold to put on the top. I’m getting quite protective of my tops lately and don’t want it ruined by an oil ring from a makeup bottle.

img_0999Now, you know how Sundays are my ‘day of rest’ – literally. Sam Waterston himself couldn’t drag me out of bed before noon (mmm actually, he would be a very good reason for me to stay in bed even longer).

Well, this Sunday just gone, I was up at the crack of dawn and getting off the metro in Szechenyi at 7.50 am heading for the Petofi flea market. My first time. And what an experience! A new venue on my guided tourist route.  Anyway, I was with the Queen of Vintage who was shopping for linens and I found this embroidered table runner. The picture doesn’t do it justice. The detail is exquisite. And if I’m to believe the woman who sold it to me, it once lived in a castle owned by them who had the monogram RB. And sure why wouldn’t I?

Getting a name for myself

Picture it. Saturday morning. Downtown Pest. The tourists, those brave enough to stumble out into the cold, are wandering through Raday útca wondering why their mates told them this was the ‘hot spot’ in town. Their mates, no doubt, had visited in summer, when Raday is indeed a hot spot. Packed to capacity with café table and chairs, it’s the main restaurant drag in town. You can eat your way around the world and find somewhere new and more exciting every night. This time of year though, it’s deserted. Not even the bravest soul with the warmest blanket would last long in the biting cold of Budapest. Nonetheless, there were a few around, with cameras, to witness my ‘bringing the lamp home’. Yes, another lamp.

This one was too big to take on the tram; and I was too cheap to buy a ticket for it to travel on the metro. So, I walked it home. And it was heavy. I  set it down to wait for passing traffic to clear; whatever about getting myself knocked down…. An unsuspecting couple came around the corner and did a stop and stare while another chap across the road pulled out his camera. Honestly, you’d think no-one had ever seen a girl take her lamp for a walk before!

New pages: So ugly it’s beautiful; All I want for Christmas is a Clerk’s Chair.

Bedroom: Low lights and high ceilings

Who would have thought that 4-metre-high ceilings were high enough to make a resonably sized light seem rather small? It surprised me no end. There I was thinking this latest acquisition would drop too far down…   It’s a little worn in places perhaps, with a crack or two in the bowls – it’s been around a little while, though it’s no-where near as old as its roomates.

img_09661I haven’t paid much attention to lights until lately – and now that I’m in the market for a chandelier (csillár) or two, I’m amazed at how many there are and how fine the line is between taste and tat. Some of them look amazing in the distance and not so wonderful up close. Mind you, the tallest person I know would have a hard time getting up close and personal with this light!

One lovely thing about this city is that you can stumble on an Aladdin’s cave every day of the week. There are so many nooks and corners selling everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. And, like the Zebras’ survival mechanism (pack up close so the lions can’t tell one of us from the other), some of the larger lighting emporiums are just too much! It’s impossible to pick. That’s why the smaller shops or those that only have a few lights are the best bet.img_09651

The BAV on Margit Korut in Buda is one such place. It is on the verge of ‘too much’ yet has just the right amount to whet your appetite without dulling your senses. To really appreciate the aesthetics, you need to see a light on its own. Just it, the ceiling and the room it will inhabit. What can look so right in the shop (I have three of these failures) can morph into something hideous on the journey home. I was lucky with this one.

What I like about it is the quirkiness (and the price helped a lot, too – a markdown from 45000 ft to 30000 ft ($130, €100, £90)). The hanging baubles are just the right side of naff and hopefully will catch the sun during the day. It was the organgey-green vein-like pattern that swung it for me, though. Perhaps there’s something for the shrink to analyze there!

Bedroom: A sleeping beauty

A bed isn’t simply a bed. It’s a refuge. Considering we spend at least a third of our life in bed, we should spend more time choosing just the right one.  I happened across mine in Ecseri market… the headboard and footboard were just lying up against a wall. It didn’t look like much at first glance and, as with all good things, a little closer inspection revealed much.

img_09681Each corner is embossed with a rather intricate metal figurine. The inlaid design on the footboard is rather lovely, as it the headboard itself. It was missing its original latts, although the mahogany frame was still in good nick. It’s not an Ikea-mattress size. At 140cm x 190cm, it’s slightly shorter than your average bed, but then, I’m slightly shorter than your average basketball player (and the only basketball player I know is a 76-year-old Jesuit priest!)

The footboard is curved, arc-like, which gives it a lovely shape – a lot more interesting that the usual straight-sided offerings. I loved it and didn’t have a doubt in the world that I should take it home. I had some latts made and my very good friend MI worked her usual magic and found me just the right-sized mattress in some town outside Budapest. The saints were indeed smiling on me the day I met Ms M. The bed, having come in so many parts, finally came together last Tuesday.
And that’s when I last had a good night’s sleep. Tuesday night, after about an hour of twisting and turning, I was overcome by a fierce sense of anxiety bordering on sheer terror. I’m not given to hearing footsteps in the night so the urge I had to triple lock the front door and put the chain on took me by surprise. I pulled out ye olde trustworthy crystal and did a bit of divining. The bed had had a happy history – no major deaths or dismemberment. But it was facing the wrong way. Now, despite the fact that my neighbours and I are not on ‘pop in for a coffee’ terms, I still have some sense of civic duty and didn’t feel that 3am was the time to start shifting furniture. But first thing Wednesday morning, I moved the bed.
Wednesday night, I slept. No getting up in the middle of the night. I slept straight through and when I woke I was exhausted. I felt as if I’d had a fortnight on the tear. Thankfully, my 7.30am class had cancelled on me. Thursday night was no better. Friday, the shamanic Jeremiah D came to visit for the weekend. He may as well have been riding a white horse and wearing a suit of armour! When he spent some time in the room, he felt the energy and whilst not bad, it was definitely strong. On Saturday, after yet another restless night, we had a clearing ceremony: those lost souls crossed over, out the window, and on to the other side.
Sunday morning, I awoke at 4.30am (after two and a half hours’ sleep) and felt fully rested. I could have gotten up and started my day. I slept again and awoke at 7.30 feeling energised and awake. I’ve visitors this week so am camping out in the study. It’ll be Thursday before I get to sleep there again and this time, I hope to bask in the glow of the new csillár and enjoy a solid night’s sleep. I might even dream of those who have slept there before me… 150 years makes for a lot of stories!

Let there be light

After what was a dismal performance by my boys yesterday (Ireland, Rugby, Italy), despite the big scoreline, my humour has much improved. I found a very quirky chandelier last week at the BAV – this time, I went to the one over in Buda, just at the end of Margit Hid (Margaret Bridge). I brought it home on the tram… safely. It’s looking good. Also found just the right orange light for the bathroom and a wonderful wonderful chest of drawers for my bedroom. Photos and details to follow. Hope all is well in your worlds and that life is treating you kindly.

Flat updates: Low lights, high ceilings; Sleeping Beauty.

Bedroom: So ugly it’s beautiful

Every Saturday for the last five weeks, I’ve visited this antique shop near Szabadszag hid on Vámház korút. It’s one of those curious shops with two fronts. The first door opens into what looks like a rather small jewelry shop. Well, truth be told, it’s more like a pawnbrokers. But then you follow the carpets and wind your way back into the bowels of antiquity where you can find almost anything. It’s crammed with stuff… sofas, chairs, tables, mirrors, plant stands, pictures, cloths, china… everything that might have, at some stage, lived in a house. A veritable Aladdin’s cave. And priced accordingly. (It is certainly more expensive than the markets or the BAVs and I’m not altogether convinced that the stuff is any better.) Yet I’m quite taken with the place. I’ve even taken my visitors there on the way to the big market.

img_10031My normal decisiveness (and yes, please laugh…) deserted me: for five weeks, I hummed and hawed about whether to buy this lamp. My problem lay in deciding if it was really beautiful or just pure tat. My visitors were indecisive and of little help. The olde ‘not my taste, but if you like it….’ just doesn’t cut it. Eventually, I gave in. And my giving in had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the staff thought I was casing the joint. Honestly!

I think, or rather KAG thinks, that it’s a Rococo. And I believe her. The girl knows her vintage.

Okay, so normally, when of sober mind and body, gilt-edged roses just wouldn’t be my thing. Certainly, the tassly gold trim on the shade wouldn’t do it for me. And the green paint on white looks like dust from a distance. . But, c’mon, you have to admit, it has a certain something! I rather like the half shade though and the green is the same green as my walls

At the moment, this certain something, is my bedside light. It’s a tad lost in the corner though and deserves to shine in its own space. So I think it will eventually graduate to the living room.

I think the pink is just the right shade to pick up the colours in the Chobis. And the gilt will add to the gilt in the Widow’s frame. And, if all comes to all,  it will give people something to talk about!

A snip, methinks, at 24,000 ft ($102, €80, £70)

Living room: Have a seat

A few years ago, I came across a diary I had written when I was 16. The certainty of my writing left no room for discussion. I had obviously given a lot of thought to what I wanted from life and, in that innocence peculiar to 16-year-olds who have never been given reason to question why life wouldn’t deliver exactly what was expected, I was sure it would all go to plan.

I was going to be a teacher, married to teacher, living in Co. Wicklow. The plan was to have two kids, a boy (Tadhg/Irish for Tim) and a girl (Maud), by the time I was 27 and be ready to retire and travel the world some twenty years later. I was even going to drive a powder-blue VW bug.
Then, unlike now, I had a clear idea of what I wanted. Now, unlike then, I’m ever-so slightly more realistic; my certainty somewhat battered and bruised. None of it happened. Not the marriage, not the kids, not the house in Wicklow or the VW bug. I am teaching about three hours each week though, and did lecture  in Incident Investigation for a couple of semesters at the community college in Valdez. So, at a stretch perhaps…..
I was reminded of all of this when I took this photo of my ‘sitting room’.


Have a seat

Have a seat


When I first started imagining how the flat would look – during that rather anxious period of time when I’d signed the papers, paid the money and was about to start renovating – I had envisioned my dining table in this corner. I had it wired for wall lights so that when dining, I could just light that part of the room, creating a more intimate atmosphere. And then, of course, the table turned out to be so gorgeous that I just couldn’t hide it in the corner. So this became the ‘sitting room’.

I searched for a long time for the sofa and armchair. I wanted it to look old  but not be old (sitting on horsehair never appealed to me, particularly when the provenance of the horsehair was in doubt). I wanted it to look stylish but not modern. And I wanted it to be green. My mother’s eagle eye spotted these in Domus (a relatively upscale furniture emporium in Budapest). I ordered them in November and they arrived in late January (Hungary has its own internal time clock).


So much of Budapest is ‘happened upon’. I found this Chobi rug while walking down Rákóczi út, which separates the 7th and 8th districts (Budapest has 23 districts in total) between Astoria and Keleti (the Eastern) railway station. In 1906, it was named after Ferenc (Francis) II Rákóczi, who led the Hungarian uprising against the Habsburgs from 1703 to 1711. He had the rather cumbersome title of  ‘The Prince of the Estates Confederated for Liberty of the Kingdom of Hungary’ (so, what does your fellah do for a living? Well, he’s the prince of the…..) and he was also Prince of Transylvania. The uprising didn’t go to plan and the poor chap was exiled. He spent the remainder of his life in Turkey. Back in 1906, when his remains were brought back to Hungary, the funeral marched along this street.  Today, you can see remnants of its former splendour with some truly amazing buildings. Some, like the Volksbank building, have been beautifully restored. (If you ever get a chance to see the conference room in No. 7, have a look – it’s fantastic.)


As you walk down Rákóczi út, towards Blaha Lujza tér, there’s an Middle-Eastern-styled Souk on your left.  It’s heaving with carpets. On top of one pile, I spotted this Chobi. It sounds a little affected perhaps, or even downright silly, but I was so chuffed with myself that I recognised it for what it was and actually knew what I was looking at. The place is run by a chap from Afghanistan who moved over here in 1992 and is now married with kids. His sister works there, too. I went through the usual ‘is this your final price’ routine but my heart wasn’t really in it. It was already a very good price and I was happy to pay it – it would transform that corner of my room and tie it all together.
Not quite a circle

Not quite a circle

Mind you, I had trouble imagining a circular rug in that space. I have trouble with round things: during the renovations I was extremely adamant that my taps should be angular and not curved; my sinks the same. Even my bath. But this rug, being handmade, isn’t exactly round. Actually, it’s slightly misshapen, which adds to its charm.


On the advice of JFW – who has an extensive collection of carpets and seems to be able to use them to create spaces in places where you couldn’t imagine space in the first place – I thought about it. And, the next day, I went back and bought. I am getting rather used to have art on my floor rather than on my walls!
Later that day, I hit a shop on Tuzoltó utca, where JFW had gotten a good deal on a bookcase. It’s an odd place. More like a house clearance centre than an antique shop. It is very much a question of rooting around to see what treasure you might unearth. And it was here that I found what I hope will be the first of many ‘occasional tables’ (although technically I think that with the drawer and the height, it doesn’t qualify as an OT). While it’s not the best restoration job in the world, it’s still a rather charming piece from about 1910. And I do like my drawers! I particularly like the metal accents on each side of the drawer (hard to see in this picture) and the bar across is black wood, which ties nicely with the black on the legs of the main table.


It is all coming together rather nicely. BTW The plant’s name is Harold (a housewarming present from the W-Fs). He seems to be doing okay (if by ‘okay’ you mean that he’s growing as many new shoots as he is losing leaves). I don’t have a very good history with plants – perhaps because I’ve never found any who like country music.