Reading the news online earlier this week, I was intrigued by an article entitled "Coolest Small Towns in Europe" and was not at all surprised to find Cesky Krumlov as Number 1 in their top 10 list. I was treated to a visit to the Czech Republic this summer as a birthday gift from my dear friend Erika who lives in former East Germany. Cesky Krumlov was one of our day trips on our visit, and I can honestly say I have never been so awestruck by a foreign town in my life. We spent the entire day there, and all I could think of was how I wanted to come back again one day and share it with my family.
ERIKA and FAMILY'S HOME in GERMANY
Erika was a baby in World War II living in what was known as "Sudetenland." Before the war, that was a part of Hitler's Germany. At the end of the war it was determined that Sudetenland be given back to Czechoslovakia. Two-year-old baby Erika and her family were given 24 hours to leave their home, put on a train and were relocated by the Allies, given a home to live in located in the new boundaries of Germany set up after the war. To this day, Erika lives in that house, now with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. She and her husband, Juergen, were raised in East Germany.
As their home was within 10 miles of the border to the West, she and Juergen, and later her daughter and son-in-law, were confined by the Communists to live in a specified region restricting even travel within East Germany until the Wall came down as they were considered more of a flight risk than others because of their proximity to the barbwire border. It is fascinating to hear them tell of everyday life living under such horrible conditions. Bananas were a delicacy. Son-in-law Heiko told me how they would go up in their attic where they had a little antenna and radio to listen to news from the Free World. They have all visited me in Ohio several times, and it is such a joy to see how excited they are over every single mundane part of my life. They call my son's historic home and grounds "The Ranch." EVERYTHING is a big deal. It always makes me think twice how we take our life here in the US for granted.
For years Erika has wanted to take me back to show me the area where she was born and promised we could stay in a little chalet in the Bohemian mountains owned by a longtime friend of hers living in Prachtice. So one day last August Erika, Heiko, Simone and I made the six-hour drive to the Czech Republic and the little chalet.
Our little chalet in the mountains was about a 15-minute drive from the nearest city, Prachtice. Although I found the city center of Prachtice extremely charming, by their standards it's just a really old city and not a tourist attraction as Cesky Krumlov, Prague, or the 38 castles spread throughout the countryside. What I was most fascinated with in Prachtice was that a great part of the old city center was done in trompe l'oeil painting. What appeared to be buildings constructed of huge stones were all an illusion. What I found out the next day in Cesky Krumlov was that trompe l'oeil was typical of the entire region.
We entered Cesky Krumlov on foot, having left our car in a parking area, and underneath a centuries old structure which we later walked through on our way to the ancient castle overlooking the city.
Inside the walls was an absolutely huge area of charming twists and turns and centuries-old cobblestone streets dating to the Middle Ages. In a word, it is incredible. We were advised to go on a Friday instead of waiting for the weekend, as the tourists arrive in droves on Saturdays and Sundays. Trompe l'oeil is a big part of contributing to the charm.
There is also enough shopping to keep anyone busy the entire day.
Of course, we had to try the delicious Trdelnik, which was offered at almost every corner.
In the evenings we enjoyed wurst and bread and cheese, and wine and pastries with our hosts. It was a very special time, and I hope to have encouraged at least some readers to visit Cesky Kromlov and enjoy this amazing "Coolest Town in Europe."
Considering the amount of renovation, inside and out, that's been put thus far into The Willow Tree, ca. 1827, the fresh coat of paint at the front entryway was a breeze! However, the doorknob had to go. Looking on Pinterest for ideas, I found the perfect entry set that I had to have, but had no idea where to find it. Hoping my sister could help, I e-mailed Eileen a photo. She said she's never seen anything like it and had no idea where to find one.
After days and days searching the internet, I found David Kayne & Son in
North Carolina, www.customforgedhardware.com. He had this early American design called a "weeping heart," and it's just the right piece for the Willow Tree.
The one-room cottage at the back of the house is probably almost as old as the house itself. The door is a two-inch thick walnut board. It needed to be rehung, and while it was taken out this past July I stripped it and repainted it as it needed that protection against the rain and snow. The windows are on my list to repair this coming spring/summer.
The cottage has exposed beams inside with original heart pine floors. The door retains original hardware.
Another solid walnut door is on the kitchen porch side of the house, but unlike the cottage the door is unpainted. It also has an original entry set (left photo shows the outside, right photo the inside).
The dumbwaiter in the kitchen has original hand forged wrought iron hardware with handle and strap hinges.
Even two closets in an upstairs bedroom are lined with lovely wrought iron hooks with heart detail.
I've visited Eileen numerous times over the 25-plus years she and her family have lived in their lovely old Tudor home in St. Paul, and until this summer I never paid much attention to her original front door entry set (and apparently neither has she!) Remember that she had no clue when I asked her about the wrought iron entry set that I was looking for and which I later determined was a weeping heart design? So when I walked up to her front door on a visit this summer, I was immediately drawn to -- the HAND FORGED WROUGHT IRON WEEPING HEART entry set that has been on her front door since 1928 when the house was built. So much for attention-to-detail-Eileen!
There always seems to be a theme for me every Christmas when giving gifts to my son and daughter. This year it was antique picture frames. I have a "thing" about them and buy several every month. With all the wall space at The Willow Tree, I know it will never be a problem trying to figure out how to use them, and my daughter is always happy with a unique frame for a gift.
This is a tramp art frame referred to by collectors as "Crown of Thorns" because of the construction of handcarved tiny individual interlocking pieces of wood no bigger than matchsticks, each coming to a point and then put together kind of like Lincoln Logs. As you can imagine, Crown of Thorn pieces are very fragile. This frame is two and a-half feet long and is really a show-stopper when displayed on any wall.
Another large tramp art frame with large chunky notch construction. When putting personal photos in antique frames, I always try to finish off the back so that the photos can be easily taken out and updated with new ones.
Ca. 1850 European bird's-eye maple frame with oil painting. I bought this because I absolutely love bird's-eye and tiger maple used in any antique. The lovely little oil is a bonus.
Sure a one-of-a-kind piece, this frame is entirely handcarved. What makes it unique, of course, is the lovely large bow on top making the frame appear as one large gift box. It is even stained in red and green, perfect for family Christmas photos. Almost two feet wide, it also a nice size.
Closeup shows detail of large carved ribbon stained red set atop the frame. Carved green leaves run around the four sides, and every so often more of the "red ribbon" carving crisscrosses the green leaves looking as if the ribbon from the large bow is wrapping the entire frame. This is one of my all-time favorites!
My sister has already hinted at our obsession with European Sunburst Mirrors. I had purchased a mirror or two before one of our trips to Paris, but then we wandered past a Parisian restaurant one summer several years ago with doors wide open and both caught a glimpse of their vintage sunburst mirrors decorating the walls. They were EVERYWHERE, and we were hooked. They're not exactly easy to find (and certainly not reasonably priced ones), but I have a source in Europe that has provided me with over a dozen mirrors over the last few years that are easy on the pocketbook. Problem is, my daughter lays claim to them as soon as they arrive. I've also sold a few (stupid me), given my niece one as a wedding shower gift and one to Eileen. But no more. I've recently acquired three lovely ones, and they'll be hung in my bedroom very soon.
This wall of mirrors in my daughter's living room is stunning. The antique and vintage mirrors were always made of wood and the "rays" are carved. Patterns are endless and they range from small to very large, simple to elaborate. The "rays" can also be layered which adds even more interest and beauty. The '50s and '60s brought a new twist to the mirrors. They began making them out of metal as well, sometimes incorporating mirrors in the rays in addition to the center circular mirror . . . or a clock was inserted in place of the center mirror. Those all command high prices today as well. With the popularity of the antique and vintage sunbursts, it was inevitable that companies would start producing them again, but this time they are done in resin. They still generally cost several hundred dollars each, but if you want the charm of the old you will need to be careful what you are buying is indeed made of wood. Turning them over and inspecting the back is the best way to determine.
The centerpiece of the mirror wall is this huge ca. 1930s mirror measuring 32 inches in diameter. The design using the large fat "squiggly" rays is something not often found..
The bigger the better is usually the case with sunburst mirrors . . . except for this little gem. I've only seen one other similar to this, and they referred to it as a "cloud" mirror. Makes sense. The sun's rays are breaking through the clouds. The other "cloud" mirror I found was listed on 1stdibs. This website of high end antiques dealers is always fun to explore and has a nice selection of sunbursts, but be prepared to be blown away at their prices!
This is by far the oldest mirror I've found. I believe it to be pre-1900s. The structure of this mirror is really interesting to see from behind and from the sides. It is built up in several thick carved layers. As a result, it protrudes quite far out from the wall.
Another lovely large mirror constructed so that the rays form a square. Sunburst mirrors are generally gold gilt, but this has a silver overlay which works perfectly with the color scheme in my daughter's master bedroom.
Although not a sunburst, this square example belongs to the sunburst family of mirrors, and interior decorators are crazy about these as well. This is the first I've found of this kind, and it's waiting to be hung -- you guessed it -- at my daughter's house. It measures 12 inches square and is ca. 1920, perhaps older.
LAST THREE LEFT TO HANG AT MY HOUSE!
Welcome to Living Tastefully’s “Antique of the Week” page. Our love of antiques is reflected in every aspect of our everyday lives. We are passionate about collecting and also love functional antiques that can actually be used and not only admired. Hopefully we can inspire you to incorporate antiques in your home and your life to add charm and beauty to your surroundings.