Really old antiques are fairly rare in the Rogue Valley. Mostly, we have American pieces from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. So it always is interesting to discover different collections.
Josh Sample and Anna Fraley live in a large, two-story, 1922 house in east Medford that once sat alone on the top of a hill but now is surrounded by more modern construction. The home is filled with some truly unique 19th-century pieces, most from Europe, and some are even older. And most they bought for bargain prices at auctions or online.
"I started collecting when I was 26," says the 43-year-old Sample, who works with computers. "I like old, European, Gothic stuff, ideally — old, dark, medieval-looking kind of stuff. As a kid, we never had a lot of money, so we shopped at thrift stores. Going through them, occasionally you would find really cool, old things. And they were built so much better then."
Sample and Fraley have done much of the work restoring their old house themselves, stripping the walls of old wallpaper and removing paint from the woodwork. They had the crown molding in the living room put in professionally, but Sample watched and decided he could do it himself. He did the rest of the house, also building the cornice moldings.
Because upholstering can be expensive, they also learned to do their own. Fraley made all the Roman shades. Sample is in the middle of stripping the windows and getting them functional again. None could be opened when Fraley bought the house in 2006. Sample joined her the next year.
"I wanted a big, old house, and I found this," Fraley says. "It's a long work in progress, and it is a lot of work. We are pacing ourselves now. But it is important to have a sanctuary you really enjoy."
Merging their collections was not as difficult as it could have been because their tastes are so similar.
The living-room seating is Napoleonic Empire style upholstered in red. But the centerpiece of the living room is the grand piano made of burl wood, likely maple, which sits in front of what was probably a haberdashery store's display cupboard.
"The piano tuner believes the piano is from about 1850 because of how it is made inside. It has a label that says it was made in Vienna," Sample says.
"As magnificent as it is, it is probably — at best — only worth about $5,000. What collectors are after is the look on the outside and the body of the wood, itself. But they usually take the old guts out and put in the more modern insides. It gives a richer sound."
Adding to the European feel of the living area is a carved, classic, marble fireplace surround and mantel featuring two draped male figures. Fraley found the piece online and imported it from France. They think it may be modern, but it is real, carved marble. The fireplace itself is not functional yet.
Sample and Fraley have collected quite a few, old, carved sideboards and chests, most from Germany, some featuring griffins and dragons. To go with the older pieces, Sample found a painter online in Bulgaria who will make reproduction paintings of old masters, which is why their home features what look like works by Peter Paul Rubens. The gilt frames and most other artworks are real antiques, though.
They also "de-remodeled" the kitchen and master bath, removing modern cabinets and fixtures that had been installed in the '70s.
"We gutted the whole kitchen, removed all the cabinets," Sample says. Now three, old, European storage pieces give the kitchen a unique, Old World charm.
Upstairs, the master bedroom features French Empire reproductions that were popular in the 1920s. Other old pieces from Germany and Scandinavia are in the other three bedrooms and on the landing.
"Our house is a culmination of two people who love antiques," Sample says. "You don't have to be wealthy to have nice things; you just have to know where to look. I'm an IT guy, but I'm not a slave to technology — it's just a tool. I appreciate old, well-built, well-crafted wood."
A. Paradiso is a freelance writer living in the Applegate. Reach her at email@example.com.