Monday, 16 March 2009

Function Over Form

Long before Hubby and I built our home on Seaside Farms, we started collecting antiques. We spent many a weekend driving back roads, sifting through dusty barns and antique shops. We were able to accumulate a nice selection of antique furnishings in those years before we moved into our home. As a result, we were able to design our home with specific key pieces in mind. Our kitchen was designed around an antique pine cabinet that we picked up for a great deal in Quebec. Our main bathroom houses a lovely dry sink and matching cabinet, which serve as a medicine chest and toilet paper storage area! (A huge thank you should be extended to my parents, by the way, for graciously offering their storage services during those years!)

Our knowledge of antiques started out rather limited, but we learned along the way. We are both inherently drawn to primitive pieces from the Maritime Provinces in particular. Our approach has focused on buying what we like and what we can use. Function has always been as much as a priority as form! As the corners of our home filled up with furniture, we’ve focused on smaller acquisitions in recent years. Although I enjoy the decorative aspects of these pieces, I definitely find a useful purpose for each item, no matter how small it may be. An old milk bottle serves as a vase. An apple basket serves as a beautiful display vessel for my wool roving. A vintage stepladder helps the wee ones reach the bathroom sink!

I’m therefore not sure what I was thinking when I purchased an antique washboard a few years ago. It looked rather cute hanging in my laundry room, but I didn’t have much “use” for this item….until my washing machine went on the blink. It came in pretty handy washing some key items for the boys while I waited for the repairman to make his visit. If anything, it gave me an appreciation for the arduous task that laundry was for my ancestors! Let’s just say I was definitely using disposal diapers during that two week period!

I’ve been re-reading my copy of "Heaven on Earth - A Handbook for Parents of Young Children" by Sharifa Oppenheimer. In particular, I’ve been perusing the chapter on “The World of Rhythm” in our lives. The author makes the point that so many of our daily routine tasks have been relegated to machines – vacuuming, laundry, dish washing, coffee grinding, bread baking…etc! She suggested we pull out certain of these tasks and do them by hand with our children, in order to give them a sense of purposeful work. Immediately I thought of my dear little washboard, the perfect size for little hands. I believe it must have been the kind used to wash socks in its day. Once a week, the boys help with laundry day (who are we fooling, every day is laundry day). They are in charge of washing the family’s set of cloth napkins by hand. They complete this task from beginning to end – washing, rinsing and hanging the items out to dry.

So, it seems after all these years, my little washboard, as cute as it is, does indeed have a function around here!

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