Interior designer CeCe Barfield Thompson discusses why she believes her Chinese lacquer table ‘has soul’, and the reasons she fought so hard to buy it at auction
‘I love Chinese things. My grandparents had a chinoiserie chest,
and as a little girl I remember thinking how glamorous and
sophisticated and exotic it was. I saw this table at a sale
preview and immediately fell in love with it; I knew it was
really special. It is so important to go in person to the
previews. Often things that don’t shine on the page turn
out to be wonderful.
‘The piece I bought is actually a screen that was later made
into a table. (That was common practice when Europeans began
to collect Chinese decorative arts: some clever ébéniste took
imported screens and transformed them them into furniture.)
The shape of the legs, those points and swoops and curves,
it is all so elegant and playful. The picture on the screen,
now the tabletop, shows men in formal Chinese dress walking
through a landscape — perhaps on their way to a celebration.
‘It’s a shame when people are too precious about antiques. You have to be able to live with them and not be afraid’ — CeCe Barfield Thompson
‘So my table has soul, because it has travelled far and had
an earlier incarnation. But it is also functional — beautiful
on its own, and great for displays. It is a perfect place
to set dinner plates for a casual supper, and my two young
children draw at the table and play with their Lego on it.
It’s a shame when people are too precious about antiques
— you have to be able to live with them and not be afraid.
This table has been around longer than any of us, and is
certainly sturdier than something from a big brand-name store.
‘I had to fight for it on the day, because one other person
was bidding seriously. As the price approached my maximum,
I thought to myself: oh my goodness, I am going to lose this
beautiful table. Then I heard the hammer go down and I felt
a huge wave of relief and joy.’
Find out more about
CeCe Barfield Thompson and her work