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Horse-drawn carriages an inspiration when decorating

Posted on November 07 2016

By Carleton Varney

 

Special to the Daily News

Have you ever realized how the horse and buggy have been immortalized in America and, particularly, on the American decorating scene?

When I visit the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island or Harbor Springs Point in Upper Michigan — or even the Amish lands of Pennsylvania — I cannot help but smile when I see carriages in motion, their horses’ feet dancing down the roads and the happy faces of passengers as they ride by.

At the Grand Hotel, I love seeing the carriage drivers in their crisp white pants, black polished boots, black top hats and red jackets with brass buttons. They are like something from a picture book.

So, too, are beautiful carriages of yore — some of polished wood, some of woven raffia and some of metal painted perhaps a rich burgundy and trimmed in gold leaf. Carriages often have beautiful upholstery, as well. And what’s a surrey without the fringe on top? I’m a big fan of fringe, as you may know.

Often when I attend country auctions and see vintage carriage seats on the block, I bid on them, thinking I’ll use one or two in a foyer of a comfortable Colonial-style home. I look, too, for those fabulous antique carriage lanterns that I like to use inside and out when decorating a home. I frequently design custom back-plates for those lanterns, sometimes using mirror to give a more reflective surface to the lantern and, in turn, to the room. Antique lanterns can be costly, but I believe they are worth the prices they bring.

Carriage-lantern reproductions, made of metal or molded plastic, do not cut the design mustard, so to speak, for me. Antique carriage lanterns can be rewired, outfitted and painted to work for your home.

For those of you who love the era of carriages and horses, you can find metal horse-and-buggy cutouts to adorn mailbox holders, as well as for home address numbers. And on Mackinac Island, just recently I passed a red barn on which a large horse-and-buggy decoration, jigsawed from plywood and painted black, had been applied. It was an eye-catcher and, I must say, most tasteful in its environment.

When shopping for a weather vane for your cupola or even for a barn, you might consider a whale or dolphin, if you live by the sea. Or even a horse, if you live in Wellington and enjoy polo. But for those of you who are carriage lovers — and I know there are lots of you — your choice might be a horse-and-buggy weather vane. And inside your home, an antique weather vane can act as sculpture when mounted and placed on a pedestal.

To be sure, the horse-and-buggy days are not gone altogether.

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