Furnishings for the Middle Class

Hello, friends. This past weekend, we learned that Turk’s, our favourite antique-y store in Kingston, is closing. We’re really crestfallen because over the years, we’ve ended up buying most of our furniture there. Turk’s (est. 1902 by J. Turk) filled an important gap in Kingston: older wooden pieces in decent condition. They were never serious antiques (there are some scarily high-end antiques dealers in town), and thus they were often in our price range. Our decision-making process went like this:

1. We need X. Can we make one, thrift one, or do without? If no, proceed to Turk’s.

2. Is there anything cool at Turk’s? Yes, there is always something cool at Turk’s.

3. Do we really, really like it? If no, return to step 2. If yes, approach item with caution.

4. Does it smell musty? If yes, return to step 2. If no, find price tag.

5. Is it the same price (or less) as an X from Ikea? If yes, purchase. If no, return to step 2.

I’m so sad to see the end of this era. But as we were poking around in a mist of nostalgia (Turk’s has some vinyl and a few books, too), Nick found an amazing (and ridiculously appropriate, given the circs) book for me! It’s called Furnishings for the Middle Class: Heal’s Catalogues, 1853-1934. I am beyond excited to have a bound volume of so much mid- to late-Victorian aspiration, complete with prices and illustrations. I could read it all day.

What’s immediately intriguing about the catalogues is that they tend to begin with the least expensive items: “Plain Beds for Servants”, for example, or a White Beech Bedroom Chair. You have to keep reading before you get to things like the “‘Princess Maud’ Suite, painted white, with Louis XVIth enrichments, consisting of 3ft. Wardrobe with Plate Glass Door, 3 ft. Dressing Chest and Glass, 2 ft. 6 in. Washstand (Marble Top), Chamber Pedestal, 2 Chairs” for £10 10 0 (that’s ten pounds, ten shillings). And I’m now restraining myself from typing out even more furniture descriptions. Instead, here’s an advertisement from the end of the century.

I also found a photo of the interior of Turk’s as you walk in, here. Yes, those are the original pressed-tin ceilings. Farewell, Turk’s. And thank you for everything.


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2 Responses to “Furnishings for the Middle Class”

  1. If it smells, you will just end up really hating it! I know from bad experience. Other than that their stuff is amazing, seriously way cool stuff.

  2. Ying says:

    I’ve made that mistake, too! :)

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