Where is your timeless design?

Kirstie Allsopp I hope the current economic crisis will lead to people looking for longevity. In an average house I see an enormous turnaround of stuff. There are plenty of homes where nothing is more than five years old. What happened to the things that preceded them? What happened to the possessions of previous generations? It’s almost like people had no parents or grandparents. Nothing has been passed on.

This made me curious. I have quite a few things over five years old in my house. My TV is from the early '90’s, half my pots and pans are from the '80’s, my record player is from the '80’s, stereo the '90’s. My plates and silverware a tad bit younger at six years old.

What’s the oldest thing in your house that you use on a daily or weekly basis?

Well, I got married a little over a year ago, so lots of stuff is new, but I have this awesome huge electric pencil sharpener from the 70s that has an indicator light of when your pencil is sharp. I’ve been thinking about redesigning it for a small portfolio project. It’s interesting how fun ideas like this are forgotten.

1957 Cinelli Model B

Mine’s a repro, but it was designed in 1917 (I have other repro furniture from the 30s-50s)

Grandama’s china, but it is used 2-3 times a year.

My friend still has a rotary telephone. It makes a nice ring, but is never used as much as the wireless handset…

While not really “timeless design” I’ve got a lot of older stuff that’s perfectly functional. Furniture - much of it refinished or reupholstered - is probably the oldest stuff in the house used on a regular basis. Kitchen stuff, small appliances, etc. Some electronics, TV, stereo. I have a late 1990’s Schwinn that’s still riding strong. My car is about 6 years old. Many of the tools in my workshop were used by my father and grandfather, and still have a lot of life left in them.

The common denominator is that its all quality stuff, durable and/or infinitely repairable for the most part.

I drive an '88 Chevy Nova. Again, not ‘timeless design’ as we know it, but a product that’s still in use after 20 years. Obviously not exciting design-wise, but one thing I do like is the proportions, particularly of the rear (compared to other goofy proportions that existed for cars similar to this one).

Haha, my bed. It creaks. And the one side is dented, so if I try to sleep on the opposite side, I feel my body wanting to roll the other way. Time for a new one?

Besides that though, everything is less than 5 years old.

I could likely post 100 things I have that are more than 30 years old. I’m a huge retro collector…

The best things I have on daily rotation now that get used lots (lots of the smaller stuff in in storage) are-

  1. 60’s George Nelson Herman Miller Action Office desk. I’m at it at least 10 hours a day.

  2. 70’s Steelcase chair. again, about 10 hours a day. I’ve got no interest/need for a fancy/ugly task chair thanks to this, but wouldn’t mind a vintage Eames Soft Pad Group chair…

  3. Electrohome Circa70 record player stereo… gets almost as much use as my new Harmon Kardon system.

  4. 50’s Osterizer blender. Daily, for morning smoothies.

  5. 25+ yr old Bang and Olufsen Redline speakers are my home theatre mains. Being meant for analog sound they have a great, warm sound to them.


some pics-

rest of the pics.

also my previous ride, a 69 benz…

Cannot say if they are timeless or not, but I have some things that have stood the test of time. Not only do they still work, but most are in regular use.

1921 Conn alto sax silver plated
60’s Philips tube amplifier
70’s Marantz receiver
80’s Teac mixing board
80’s Choma Polaris analog synthesizer
50’s Zeiss lens that I use as a loupe
50’s Meccano
And various slide rules dating back to 1949 including two of the same small type as used on NASA spacecraft, one sliding adder and one circular adding calculator


My technics 1210s. They went through daily abuse for about 7 years and occasional abuse for the next 3-4 and to this day they still function 100% the same as the first day I bought them. It’s the exact same design that hasn’t changed in over 30 years I believe. I have absolutely no doubt that they’d actually stay in this condition for another 20 years easily as long as the motor and lights still work.

I think the oldest thing I have is a cast iron electric desk fan from the 20’s… heavy as heck! I don’t use that though so it doesn’t really count, it is the oldest in my fan collection.

I also have a donut phone, and my grandfather’s old swingline stapler that is all streamlined.

I am also a keeper. I tend to take forever to buy something, so when I find something I like, I keep it.

But isn´t good old Kirsty talking about things passed down through generations? The likes of granny´s silver cutlery or a dressing table that you remember always being in the family… I bet that most of the things listed above were bought as retro items for their aesthetic value rather than because they belonged to ancestors and, as they were so durable, their owner expired before they did. I agree, what with designed obsolescence or the (albeit more economically viable) trend for replacing objects instead of repairing them, the turnover of personal property is high. In the flat I share we have a very eclectic collection of furniture dating from various decades - inherited from friends/the street if not from family. In Barcelona it´s perfectly possible to furnish your flat with furniture people leave outside on a certain day and although Ikea is a good solution for many items, the survival of the fittest theme works very well for a dining table/bed frame/chair/shelving unit/lamp…

Is it a shame we don´t tend to have “family heirlooms” anymore? Or is it a sign of the times that products aren´t designed to last and things on which you might spend a good proportion of your income (usually technology) are outdated before you have even got round to using 50% of their functions or the battery dies, whichever comes first? Is design going to swing back to producing items which last and are made of durable materials (or at least, easily separated recyclable materials - in order to reduce environmental impact) which will survive more than ten years?

Edit: And when you say “timeless design”, is the real meaning pertaining to those items that might have some obscure branding and weren´t designed by some now-dead iconic designer, but rather were made well, have shared a life with a caring owner and still carry out their function?

Sketcher: You are hitting on some points that I thought of when I read the Guardian article.

I think the family heirloom aspect is a symptom of our culture. So many of on this board have moved across continents, it’s no wonder that we don’t haul a truck load of old family stuff with us. So, when we arrive at our new homes, we buy other people’s heirlooms! I think it is still a benefit though. No matter where an old product comes from, if it is still being reused, it’s great.

Something that I noticed is how much old technology, old bikes, record players, pencil sharpeners. It’s not just the product that is old, but the experience.*

Furniture has always seemed to remain in circulation. I’ve sold a few pieces that I got from Ikea! I also have a couple chairs that I left out of my first post. From the ugly vinyl that was originally on them, I would suspect they were from the 1970’s.

*This should be a whole other post, but vinyl sales have exploded in the US and UK the last 2-4 years. I think sales doubled this year in the US and quadrupled in the UK.

good point. I forgot, I still have my grandmother’s china, a beautiful Modern West German design from right after WWII, and my grandfather’s swingline stapler…

I think Kirsty was referring to a certain type of nouveau riche client (eg footballers wife) that probably makes up a large proportion of her income in the UK. Average house to her, maybe but not to anyone else.
Kind of the same thing as those people you get in the usa who employ a home stylist/interior designer to style your house right down to the last scented candle.
Everyone I know in my social circle does have heirlooms. We have lots - I collect vintage fabric for a start so my home is full of it - also boating paraphenalia (or canalia as it is known) beautiful wooden oars, a dipper (water collecting pan used on a narrowboat) that kind of thing. They have been in the family for generations.

ha, i also forgot my dinnerware. i use it every day ,so it’s practically transparent to me. It’s the same stuff i ate off of as a kid.

Japanese stoneware plates and bowls and such set.

Very modern style scandinavian stainless steel cutlery from Norway.

Both were my parents’ apparently bought in the 70’s sometime and not at all expensive at the time, but i would never give them up.

I also do have (but am not using at the moment), my grandparent’s 50’s chrome toaster, complete with cloth cord and bakelite type handles. I swear that thing makes perfect toast everytime, better than any new electronic, computer controlled toaster I’ve ever used. I’m only not using it now as the slots don’t fit a bagel.


Just a few staples of design…
I also have a donut phone, and my grandfather’s old swingline stapler that is all streamlined. Sounds familiar. Try to find the model #.

I have the super rare model 333. That’s the pride and joy of my timeless design collection. It’s a 50’s/early-60’s modernist design quite unlike anything else Swingline ever produced. I will post a pic later - I can not find one on the web anywhere. Beleive me, I looked!

I own the body and hose of thisvintage vacuum:

I also own/collect vintage cameras, and a few other household products.



Follow up question for those that didn’t really explain: How much do you use your old stuff?

More from me: I have a '70’s 35mm camera from my dad. I still use it when I want to take artistic photos, as I don’t have a digital SLR.

My brother gave me an Eisenhower WWII jacket, sometimes I wear it, not often.

More stuff from dad: all my triangles, circle templates, etc.

Hmm sadly when I look around, most of the stuff is less than 3 years old. Except my guitar which is 14. On the other hand, when I relocated I only took what I could fit in my sedan. Actually the car would’ve been my oldest item (-89) passed down from my dad, but it was stolen 6 month ago. :frowning:

The oldest and most cherished item that belongs to me is my grandad’s Officer dagger. I have never used that thou :unamused: