House & Home

Loving My 100-Year-Old Garden Gnome

My summer 2011 flea market find is a little, cement, painted 100-year-old garden gnome. This legendary floral mascot became a popular relic in Europe during the 1800s and is believed to bring good luck to its owners. After doing a bit of research it appears the very first garden gnomes were made of clay and produced by potter Phillip Griebel in Germany in the early 1800s. A bit later they were brought over to England and they can still be found outside of many English cottages, manors and farmhouses, keeping watch over the gardens and livestock. Over the years they became mass-produced, and today there are even tacky plastic versions of these originals, yet there is something unique and quirky to me about the antique clay version I found in East Hampton this past weekend.

The gnome resembles a tiny old man living in the depths of the earth guarding buried treasures. Legend says he is a symbol of integrity, honesty and hard work and should provide assistance to all living things. That seems like a tall task for a craggy-faced guy with a red hat, but I’m also hoping he can serve double duty and keep the bunnies out of my garden.

Was I in the market for a gnome, you ask?  Well, no, not exactly, and this is why shopping flea markets, antique shows and yard sales can be a bit risky. At the same time, picking up an occasional item at these unexpected places helps to bring personality into my home. Although I believe in mapping out a well-thought-out decorating plan, I also think it is valuable to add a bit of whimsy and the occasional impulse buy to help incorporate a unique mix into a home. You may remember last week when I wrote about the East Hampton Mulford Farm antique show that rolled into town and took over the beautiful rolling lawn behind the duck pond. There were several events happening throughout the Hamptons over the weekend, but this show is one of my summer favorites. It attracts an eclectic group of talented antique dealers from far-off places. As I meandered through the historic property, I noticed how well each dealer had stylized their section, creating interesting vignettes and pleasing spaces for us to view the collectibles. Antique collecting and dealing is truly a labor of love when you take into consideration the hard work and determination that goes into the job.

I picked up the gnome from a friendly husband and wife couple that owns the shop The Red Horse in Bridgewater, Vermont. Their goods were well chosen, all with unusual, clean lines and good taste. I was immediately drawn to the lovely cascading antique vases filled with garden flowers. The benches, vintage horse sign and other antique garden statues all caught my eye, as did, of course, the little impish gnome holding court at the entrance. While chatting with owners Sue and Jacques Lilly, I learned that the couple have been in the antiques business for 20 years together and travel extensively to England and France in the winter in search of their antiques. They picked up my little garden guy in a village just outside of Dorset, England. I happily plunked him in my garden in the hopes that his good luck and many years traveling the world will help him  keep guard over my home and family, plus he is quite the conversation piece. Hope to see you at one of the many antique shows and flea markets this summer.

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