You just know that millennials have a real appreciation for local nostalgia when images of historic sites, freshly painted facades and untouched nature spots take over your screen after a quick search for #Malta on Instagram. While not all that glitters is gold, especially on social media – you can really feel the love that we have for our roots.
From fashion and technology to food and transportation, the late noughties and 2010s have produced a collective nostalgia for tokens from our past – including the antiques we grew up around that belonged to our parents, and their parents before them. Who can forget nanna’s box TV set, ma and pa in baggy denim jackets, or buying telephone cards from that hole in the wall shop on Merchant’s Street?
Perhaps this is all a reaction to the ultra contemporary, quasi clinical movement that became so popular in the new millennium as design trends reflected a digital future. Maybe our childhood really was a simpler time. Either way, we’re totally on board.
Back to instagram – young homemakers all around the islands seem to be revisiting the past as they restore wooden doors and old tiles, and filling their new homes with adopted beloved family heirlooms, or antiques specially scouted at vintage markets.
It’s no secret that local personality Tezara Saliba is a big lover of antiques, so who better to walk us through the process of tracking down and showcasing preloved relics?
Even though you moved into your home a couple of years ago, it’s filled with period pieces. When did your fascination with antiques begin?
It’s been a long-term process actually! I’ve been collecting items even before we moved. When I’m looking to buy a new book, I always try and get it second hand because I feel there’s already a story to it; I love to see the coffee cup stains from the previous reader or a marked page or an underlined phrase – it makes me wonder about the original owner and why that particular line would have spoken to them.
Luckily, my husband is into vintage stuff too, so doing up our flat was really fun. We both like the mix between our modern furniture and the random antique pieces we have on display.
Where do you go for antique-hunting?
Flea markets mostly; I would say the best one is in Birgu. There are also some super charity shops and antiques shops around Malta and also Gozo (there’s a great one in Marsalforn which I love!!). When I travel I always try to keep some space in my luggage because I just know I’ll wander into a tiny antique store or a flea market. More often than not, I find myself walking away with a random telephone or camera I just couldn’t leave behind.
What’s your favourite item?
Definitely the gramophone – I searched long and hard for it and to find one in working condition was really lucky! I’d been actively looking for a while and one finally came up on Maltapark. The story behind the gramophone is that a family inherited a property and it was left behind by their relative. They weren’t into antiques so they put it up on Maltapark hoping to sell it, and within minutes of it being up I contacted them and purchased it. I couldn’t believe it was in working condition until it was in my living room! I can’t fathom why they would sell it, honestly! You know what they say; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
So would you say there’s a particular type of antique that you prefer?
I suppose we do have more “devices” than anything else. My husband loves photography so we’ve got quite a few cameras, plus an antique Polaroid camera on a tripod which really stands out. It’s really interesting to see how old technology looked and worked firsthand. Over the years we’ve collected telephones, a world war 2 speaker, a fan, a radio, a coffee grinder, and an old weighing scales. Then I have some items which are quirky like old Coca-Cola bottles (and they’re still full!). I do try to make use of the items when I can, in fact I have some old jars where I store rice and pasta, I love the look of them in the kitchen.
Are there any items that have been passed down to you?
Yes, and it’s one of my most prized possessions! I feel privileged to have been given my grandmother’s old gold tea-set. I’m the youngest of four girls, so when each of my sisters moved out, my mother asked if they wanted the set but they all thought it was hideous and turned it down. One afternoon, my mama and I were chatting away and she mentioned that she has this unwanted tea set in the garage just gathering dust. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I unboxed it! Nowadays it’s a staple for any dinner or tea hosted at home. My sisters refuse to drink tea out of the set whenever they’re over but everyone else absolutely adores it. I’m just so glad they all declined taking it!
Some antiques require some restoration and cleaning, do you have a process you like to follow?
I would say my approach is light restoration, where I’ll give the item a good clean, or a lick of paint to help freshen it up and keep it looking stylish. I tend to use natural solutions or store-bought agents for really stubborn stains. One of the more technical fixes I’ve done was changing the needle on the gramophone to improve the sound quality. Otherwise I can’t say I’ve done any big jobs – best to leave that to a professional!
What do you feel having antiques adds to your home and its look and feel?
Without a doubt, an object that has a story behind will add character and style to a space. But I do feel that it’s important to strike a balance – you don’t want it to look like you’re at your nanna’s house, you know? I would suggest being selective about where to place things and to scatter them around so as not to overdo it.
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