Because we do so much DIY here on styleNorth I get a fair amount of mail from people like Iris who was looking for advice on how to spruce up a Russell Spanner table she was lucky enough to find. Iris was hoping to locate Howard’s Restore-A-Finish (now available at Home Depot) but some investigation revealed that the product gets underneath existing finishes which may or may not have been a problem.
In the end, Iris elected to renew the set with some Scott’s Liquid Gold. “It worked out great except for a few spots that were a tad stained to begin with. I suppose I can get a professional to sand it down and re-stain it but right now, I’m digging the little imperfections.”
What really interested me about our correspondence was Iris’s reluctance to reveal how much she paid for the set at Toronto’s The Painted Table (1716 Queen Street West), a reputable, and in my opinion, fairly priced vintage shop. “I’ve been hemming and hawing about the price I paid since the set was not in peak condition and the Russell Spanner set at GUFF (after the jump) was half the price. But I figure, I can’t get something like this at The Brick. And, again, I was in LOVE with the shape.” Iris allows that she paid somewhere north of $1,000 for the set.
In my Home Show talk about buying vintage furnishings I noted that the best quality vintage furniture inevitably comes with the highest price tags but is also the most likely to escalate in value. As long as the item’s provenance can be confirmed, a costly purchase is likely to hold and gain value as the years tick along, provided you take good care of it.
In this particular case, Russell Spanner was a Canadian furniture designer who worked in the 1950s. Spanner’s designs caught on and were ultimately sold in Eaton’s and Simpson’s department stores. Because of that general availability you’d think they’d be easier to find today, but they are not. Spanner’s dining sets and lounge chairs are about as close as Canadian vintage furniture comes to iconic status; his pieces are highly collectible and as we Canadians gain confidence in our own domestic design, my guess is that Russell Spanner will be ever more sought after.
So Iris, I think you did well to buy the set, which is a later-era design, more curvy and sophisticated than the hard angles Spanner was known for. I also admire you for putting your taste and passion ahead of your pocketbook; I’m not sure who said it but if you buy the best, you cry only once. Your colour scheme with the soft blue and pops of bright yellow and red is also marvelous! How about a full scale house tour?