‘Mantiques’ usher in a long overdue swing towards more masculine décor

Katrina Burroughs in LONDON

VINTAGE cricket kit, typewriters and travelling trunks. Do I have your attention?

Fossils, globes with concealed drinks cabinets and ejector seats. If you are of the masculine persuasion, you are probably on point by now, alert as a setter scenting a game bird.

This is a checklist of the most lusted after acquisitions – collectables that are being pursued by a new generation of chaps eager to adorn their homes with “mantiques”.

“It is a trend with a long history,” says Ben Pentreath, architectural designer, shopkeeper and collector of vintage cartography.

“There have always been cabinets of curiosities and natural history collections. Men never stopped collecting. We’re just seeing the modern version.”

Collector James Perkins has pioneered a particular mantiques style, which he calls Modern Grand Tour. He has filled his Oxfordshire home with a manly miscellany of globes, plaster casts of classical sculpture and artefacts of space travel.

At Christopher Clarke Antiques, £280 (R4000) will buy a novelty globe inkwell, dated circa 1900. Made from tin gilt, it splits in half at the equator to reveal a writing set.

“It’s all about travel and adventure,” he says.

“British men have a lot in our powerful history to celebrate, so why not decorate our homes with casts like those from the Grand Tour, taxidermy, vintage racing car parts?”

His latest acquisitions include “a [plaster] Nike of Samothrace and two gigantic crocodiles, one holding a silver tray like a dumb waiter”.

He relishes the peculiarity of the mix.

“I do feel like an eccentric version of Indiana Jones.”

Though Perkins’s interiors have a decorative, theatrical quality, the most popular buys need not be pretty. Passion for mantiques can be kindled by provenance and history.

At Christopher Clarke Antiques, Sean Clarke specialises in “campaign furniture” from the 18th and 19th centuries for British soldiers and travellers.

“If you can say a piece was in the Crimean War or at Waterloo, instantly it comes to life. I can see it in the school kids who come to us. When they walk through the door their faces ask: ‘Why are we in a boring antiques shop?’ Then you show them a chair and say: ‘This was on the deck of a ship and it had to fold up quickly so they could clear the decks and use the canon.’ Their eyes light up,” he says.

Toys for boys at Andrew Martin start from £50 (R715). Pictured with a backdrop of the store’s own wallpaper, stock includes sixties rocking horses, Michelin Man models and one-armed bandits from the fifties, sixties toy planes and seventies Corgi cars.

So who, apart from English eccentrics and military history buffs, is collecting?

Dealer Tim Bent, whose stock ranges from propellers from twenties biplanes to aluminium binoculars from World War 2 battleships, describes clients of his store, Bentley’s, as “Everyman, tempered only by budget, not by desire”.

“Women can’t always understand the allure of these pieces,” he adds.

So enlighten us.

“They’re gadgety, exciting and mechanical. Desire for this stuff is hard-wired into our DNA.”

The real must-have, according to Bent, is an icon of British engineering.

“It’s entertaining seeing a wife’s face when the husband suggests buying a Lightning fighter jet ejector seat for £15000 (R215000). Every man would love one. It’s a piece of engineering history and a sculpture, brilliantly designed by Martin Baker Aircraft Co.”

At Bentley’s, the most sought-after mantique is a Martin Baker Aircraft Co ejector seat, created for the British supersonic fighter jet in the Cold War era. It costs £15500 (R220000).

Increased demand is encouraging some dealers to expand their mantiques offering. Roberta Dalla Bona of Vintage Seekers, an online antiques resource, says: “We are planning to open a gentlemen’s room this year because we have realised that that’s where the biggest demand comes from.” Popular buys on the site include Louis Vuitton wardrobe trunks, cocktail sets and leather writing sets from £100 (R1400).

It also has treasures such as a 1963 Bambi Airstream trailer going for £29995 (R430000).

“It’s super rare with only three existing in the world,” Dalla Bona says.

Martin Waller, whose store Andrew Martin is “a cross between a furniture store and a toy shop”, says the mantiques trend represents a long overdue swing towards more masculine décor.

“It’s hard to remember how feminine interior design was in the eighties,” he says. “It was terrible, all those bows and swags. Now, you can take a beautiful piece of engine, sandblast it and use it as the base for a coffee table.

“Toymakers are the great unsung heroes of design. A man sees a whole history of skillful manufacture and a happy childhood in a toy truck.

“Boys may imagine when they’re men they’re going to want different things. But they still want a Johnny Seven gun.

Mantiques aren’t just about nostalgia, they have been a great investment category.” © The Telegraph

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