How to decorate with antique fossils

Antique fossils and polished rocks are this season's go-to objects for original interiors

Auctions for ancient pieces of natural history have seen a surge in popularity in the last year. Why? Because interior designers and home lovers alike have fallen for the charms of natural minerals, rocks, fossils and shells. 'They are beautiful things,' says dealer Errol Fuller. 'They are millions of years old and, in the case of fossils, were once living. The more you collect, the more interesting the subject becomes.'

Not only do they have a fascinating history but the patina of age that accompanies them lends an unexplicable charm to the mood of wherever they are displayed. Often inexpensive to pick up at flea markets and fairs, you could equally indulge in some of the rarer specimens at auctions.

Wherever you choose to go fossil-hunting, try these simple ideas to make the greatest impact with their display.
 

1. Soft blues with rich tones, warm woods and glistening marble fabrics combined with natural stones and fossils create a calm and sophisticated scheme

Furniture: Mahogany apothecary cabinet, £1,100, The Old Cinema; ‘Oscar’ sofa in ‘Prussian Blue’ cotton velvet, £2,000, sofa.com; ‘Plato’ coffee table, £279, Swoon Editions; ‘Fossil’ petrified wood side table, from £765, The Sofa and Chair Company

Fossils: (on top of cabinet) ammonite, £1,800, Dale Rogers Ammonite; Blue agate slice, £40, John Lewis; Crystal cluster, £12.99, Junior Geo. (on table) amethyst clusters, £39.99 (large), £4.50 (small); crystal sphere, £75, all Junior Geo. Marble and agate box, £25, John Lewis

 

2. Agate bookends keep books neatly in place as well as bring a shimmering statement and unusual texture to shelves

Furniture: Mahogany apothecary cabinet, £1,100, The Old Cinema; Brass picture frame, £19.95, Rockett St George

Fossils: Amethyst cave, £199, Junior Geo. ‘Serpentine’ lighthouse, £25, Briggs & Oliver. Trilobite fossil and crystal point, both £5, Junior Geo

 

3. Display treasures on rich velvets. The indigo tone and opulence of this backdrop is the perfect foil to the natural texture and intricate detail of the minerals

Fabric: ‘Folia’ velvet, £57 per m, Harlequin

Fossils: (Top row, from left) quartz point, from £5, Junior Geo. Antique shell, £40, Appley Hoare Antiques. Tiger eye tumblestones, £50 each, Junior Geo. Blue agate slice, £50, Keir Townsend. (Second row, from left) amethyst cluster, £4.50; trilobite fossil, £5; fool’s gold chunk, £6.50, all Junior Geo. (Third row, from left) fool’s gold chunk, as before. White marble bead necklace, £250, Appley Hoare Antiques. Crystal cluster, £12.99, Junior Geo. Sliced geode, as before. Bottom left: Polished ammonite, £1,200, Dale Rogers Ammonite

 

4. Create a tablescape of petrified wood, fossils and minerals that can evolve as your collection grows. Keep it under glass to avoid it becoming a dust trap!

Furniture: ‘Petra’ petrified wood side table, £595, The Sofa and Chair Company

Fossils and objects: (from left) agate coaster, £96 for set of four, Keir Townsend. Polished ammonite slice, £7.99 per pair (one shown), Junior Geo. Vintage keys, £8 each, Briggs & Oliver. Vintage book, from a selection; magnifying glass, £20, both Briggs & Oliver. Polished ammonite slice (limestone), £7.99; complete ammonite, £19; polished ammonite slice (blue-grey), £7.99 per pair; pair of fossil brachiopods, £3.99 for 20, all Junior Geo. Vintage camera, find similar at Briggs & Oliver

 

5. Add a splash of vibrant colour to the bathroom or a WC with this metallic marble-effect wallpaper. Don't be afraid to mix contrasting tiles and some smaller objects into the scheme to create interest

Wallpaper: ‘Momentum 3’ collection ‘Makrana’ wallpaper in ‘Emerald’, £62 per roll, Harlequin

Fossils and objects: (on basin) quartz cluster, find similar at Junior Geo. Crystal point, £5; crystal cluster, £12.99; ammonite slice, £7.99, all Junior Geo. Marble and brass bathroom set, £59, Rockett St George. Wooden toothbrushes, find similar at Rockett St George. Framed bug, £295; antique Moroccan towel, £145, both Josephine Ryan Antiques

 

6. Keep collections on display or neatly organised in a study filled with drawers and beautiful antique storage that has a patina to complement the age of the rocks

Furniture: Chemist’s shop chest of drawers, £1,100, The Old Cinema; (on drawers) early 20th-century bank of drawers, £350, Lassco; ‘Connor’ desk in ‘Pewter Grey’, £239, Swoon Editions; ‘Isaac’ iron armchair in ‘Brass’, £85, Graham and Green; ‘Bristol’ floor easel, £750, Jonathan Adler; ‘Lilac Twill’ wall light in ‘Antique Brass’, £535.20, J Adams & Co

Fossils and specimens: (on drawers) butterfly display, £45, Briggs & Oliver. Agate geode slices, £16 (large) and £8.99 (small), both Junior Geo. Antique shell, find similar at Briggs & Oliver. Butterfly display (large), around £200, Retrouvius. Crystal cluster, £12.99, Junior Geo; Ammonite fossil, £1,100, Dale Rogers Ammonite; Butterfly ginger jar, £49, India Jane. (on floor) reproduction ammonite, £150, Lassco. (on desk) ammonite, £2,200, Dale Rogers Ammonite. (on wall) displaying geodes, £16.99 each, Junior Geo

The full feature on fossils and minerals appeared in the March 2016 issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here.

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