The Curious House: designer Joanne Burgess talks salvaging antique finds
Interior designer Joanne Burgess runs The Curious House, which exists to provide an expert’s eye when it comes to sourcing salvaged and reclaimed materials for historical home renovations. Joanne’s multi-faceted approach to design has even equipped her with a knowledge of upholstery and she is known for breathing new life into one off pieces by covering them in bold prints, which you can see in the photos below.
Mixing different styles and genres of design can initially feel quite daunting for many. We were keen to chat to Joanne about how to get started, and why making the effort to source for antique and vintage furniture is worth it in the long run. Read on to learn more about The Curious House and pick up some valuable advice on getting started!
Hi Jo! Can you tell us what a typical project looks like?
A typical project is in a period house with as many period features as possible retained and often some put in. I am not an architectural historian so periods are crossed and mismatched to achieve an eclectic approach. There will be antiques, lots of pattern and most likely some crumbling paintwork!
Do you have a favourite project you have worked on?
I’ve just finished an office for a music industry executive which was quite interesting as I had to manipulate my style to fit a more masculine environment. I enjoyed sourcing a lot of mid century furniture and a beautiful green marble meeting table flanked with some Willy Rizzo gold and brown leather chairs. I had free reign with the artwork so there is a mix of music photography. Screen prints, pop art and metallic sculpture work.
Is there a particularly special piece you have come across?
I really love an old 1950s refrigeration unit I found that had been repainted and marked and bashed over the years. I made it into a wall cabinet in a freestanding kitchen I designed.
How is your own home inspired by what you do?
My home was the inspiration for my business. We bought a very run down Georgian-fronted 18th century house that had been rather neglected over the years. It is listed so the scope for remodelling was limited but we stripped it back, reconfigured the house for modern living, reintroduced salvaged floors, bought salvaged sanitary ware and housed a freestanding kitchen in an old barn enclosure. Frameless glass balconies work very well with a reclaimed cobbled floor! I loved sourcing the materials and everyone who comes round marvels at the space, so I decided to do it for other people!
What do you love about vintage design?
Vintage design is amazing as there is so much to choose from and so many eras to mix and match! I love the timelessness of William Morris fabrics and the simplicity of the Orkney chair. The past few years I have loved adding a luxurious fringe to the bottom of a chair or sofa!
What can vintage furniture and accessories bring to a home?
Vintage brings personality to a home – it can wink to bygone eras and traditions and always seems to bring with it an abundance of pattern! Rugs and tiles are a particular favourite of mine.
What do enjoy most about eclectic styling?
Eclectic styling means you can cross the gamut of design and don’t have to be restrained by eras. Fashion and design are cyclical so the past is always just around the corner – just slightly tweaked!
Do you have any advice for those not confident on mixing and matching different genres?
If you don’t like to mix or match an era just try one antique in a room you love and you will see how you can bring other accents in to highlight it. If you have a favourite chair or sofa with a retro shape you can get it covered in a modern print and see change in motion.
What would you say to those concerned about quality or maintenance of older furniture?
Decent antiques should last a lifetime – if a wood is maintained well, its age will shine through and nothing looks nicer than a worn wooden step. It’s worth investing in a couple of pricey timeless antiques like a Heals or Liberty Arts&Craft item as really they stand the test of time. Any chair can be recovered and really can last forever changing with its owner.
Does sustainability play a role in your interest in using secondhand pieces?
I think sustainability is incredibly important – living in such a disposable world antiques are more important than ever . People are thinking about what they throw away now and, even better, thinking about how they can reuse what they no longer want. I have a lovely balcony area at home with an old bread oven shelvers unit filled with planters like fire buckets and mixing bowls which works as a lovely small garden. The resurgence of traditional crafts is wonderful – people are reupholstering their sofas, re-caning chairs and growing their own willow to construct their own baskets. I love it!
Find Joanne’s top finds from the Vinterior collection below!