Minimal Living Home Decorating
Like a signature, the additional bits and pieces on furniture – escutcheons, drawer-pulls, castors and catches – tend to betray the character of the whole. The problem arises when an urge for the antique, possibly even authentic, becomes an ill-observed parody of the original – this is an area where pretension and fakery tend to draw attention to themselves in disproportion to their importance.
On the other hand, good solid functional fitments can give character and charm to an unexceptional piece of country carpentry. Even such niceties as a length or two of appropriate beading – framing a panel or edging a desktop – can act as leavening to a worthy but dull piece of furniture.
This is an area where research is well repaid. Jacobean and Elizabethan furniture did not have the ambiguous advantage of machine-made hinges and latches – their character came from the particularities and foibles of the metal or wood-worker in question. Mending is often better than replacing, or you could get a contemporary wood or metal worker to make a copy of the original.
Delicate bureaux or secretaires of the eighteenth century require cautious handling: fine drop or ring handles are fitting, although modern replacements can look like flimsy forgeries. Really grand pieces of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century furniture are often distinguished by the discretion of their fastenings. In any case, you will find an air of quality and finesse in antique replacement fittings that may make non-matching period authenticity preferable to shiny new uniformity.