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Northshore Home Summer 2018

Northshore Home magazine highlights the best in architectural design, new construction and renovations, interiors, and landscape design.

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94 SUMMER 2018 I F THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A "DEMOCRATIC" FURNITURE style, wicker is it. At one time just about everybody's life was touched by the handmade, finely woven, functional furniture pieces and decorative furnish- ings. During wicker's fin de siècle glory days, it was ubiquitous—in parlors, sunrooms, and bedrooms, on porches, in railroad buffet cars, in front of fireplaces, at photographers' studios. Wicker was used in baby strollers and wheelchairs for sunlit strolls in the fresh air. Ladies sat for tea on wicker chairs or lounged on wicker divans. Wicker sustained lamplight, supported plants, and framed photographs. Most households, as antiques sleuths have discovered, possessed at least one wicker item. Nonchalant, lightweight, and airy, wicker charmed Americans for at least two genera- tions after the Civil War. And with its on-again, off- inspire Today the Wakefield Historical Society has a vast collection of wicker from furniture maker and North Shore native Cyrus Wakefield. again popularity, wicker continues to thrive among indoor/outdoor decor. Part of wicker furniture's charm was that nobody took it too seriously. Design historians shunned it because no one could decide whether it was a decora- tive art or a genuine craft. Still, it's the most endur- ing form of furniture in history. Wicker was used by Sumerians 3,000 years ago; Egyptians enclosed woven items in their burial tombs. As the story goes, Moses was whisked away to safety in a reed basket, and Per- egrine White, born in Cape Cod harbor in 1620 on the Mayflower, took his first nap in a Dutch-pattern wicker cradle, which now sits in a museum in Plymouth. Prized authentic wicker, though, is the gold standard against which all styles are measured. Although the marketplace abounds with knockoffs and reproduc- tions, none can compete with original wicker. The word wicker derives from a blend of the Swed- ish words wika ("to bend") and vikker ("willow"), referring to the woven baskets and basket-derived furniture made by European woodturners in the early 17th century and in New England after 1675. However, the word itself only gained widespread use after 1900, as an umbrella term for woven furniture and furnish-

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