Spencer Swaffer and his wife Freya both have an eye for the unusual. Spencer bought his first antiques aged 11: three scarab beetles that he bought for six pence and sold, along with some other archaelogical finds, for £50.
Freya is the daughter of an ethnic and tribal art specialist so shares Spencer’s love of what he calls ‘folky, rare’ antiques. She can’t resist a piece with a story: ‘Antiques have character and soul and some pieces just speak to you. Take the Swedish folk art goose in our living room [pictured on the table below]. It was probably made by a grandfather for his grandchild. It’s the story that a piece tells that draws me in.’
The couple’s Georgian house is a demonstration of this philosophy. It is filled with antiques picked up over the 17 years they have lived there. Each, from the mid-century chairs to Spencer’s collection of walking sticks and the growing array of decoy ducks, is a considered purchase and is placed in the house with care and thought.
Scroll down to see how the Swaffer’s blend characterful antiques and vintage finds with contemporary art to create a quietly elegant home.
The living room is filled with neutral pieces but bright contemporary art, Bloomsbury Group lampshades and cushions inject life and colour. The folk art goose on the table by the window is one of Freya’s favourite pieces, while the artwork is by (left to right) Breon O’Casey, Sheila Oliner, Niyati Barlow and Andy Waite.
The dining chairs are from Spencer’s shop, while the chandelier was made by Freya’s son using elements of Italian antiques. Though they have lived in the house for 17 years, the couple keep things fresh. ‘Spencer always says that we’re in the fashion business,’ says Freya. ‘We appreciate different pieces at different times and I’m forever tweaking things.’
The kitchen, with its exposed-brick wall, has an industrial feel. Eames ‘DSW’ dining chairs are juxtaposed with a 1940s Parisian machinist’s lamp from a French flea market and an 1820s heart-shaped wine merchant’s sign, also found in France.
The dresser base on the landing was a bright find and nicely complements the 1920s painting above it (of which the artist is unknown). It is from Suffolk and dates to around 1840. The paintwork is the original dry-scraped apple green.
The spacious master bedroom is decorated in a soothing scheme of blue and white. The carving in the window is an Italian architectural fragment, bought at a market in the south of France, while the bench at the end of the bed is a pig bench (originally used for butchery and often made of sycamore wood). The paintings are by Pauline Liu-Devereux and the jug is a Chinese Nankin pottery piece, c1770. The Indian indigo throw and cushions in the bedroom were bought from Baileys.
The Grade II-listed Georgian house (built in 1777) is surrounded by a quiet garden punctuated with antique stonework. In the formal 18th-century garden is a Portland stone statue that dates to 1830 (right).