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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Plastic v Vintage

It's been a lovely day here today and this afternoon I was out in the garden pottering for a while. I moved this white plastic seat onto our tiny patio until I get the little bistro table and chairs painted with a fresh coat of wood preservative and put in position for the summer. It was very dirty having been outside all winter and I set to scrubbing it and whilst I did I pondered on how an old wooden seat even if worn and tatty would be attractive whereas this one just looks horrid (it wasn't much better when it was new as then it was too sparkling white!)

This got me thinking about plastic and UPVC and to wondering why it is that natural things have the ability to look beautiful even when worn which plastic things never have. How much nicer would a proper wooden barrel look here instead of this horrid green plastic water butt? But have you seen the cost of such barrels?!

And here is another one outside the kitchen door along with a plastic watering can - doesn't look like the sort of vignette one sees in Country Living magazine when they have a wooden butt and an old metal can does it?

How much nicer is our beehive compost bin than the bright green plastic one (why is everything green do they thing it will blend in with nature? Some hope!) ?Our beehive will look better when it has weathered a bit and when there are plants growing over the fence behind but that plastic one will look like that for ever!
Pictures from an old CL magazine
Look at these lovely old buckets - not a plastic one to be seen...

and here's a real shed with vintage tools etc - doesn't it look great?
My thoughts then turned to the house and its UPVC windows, loft and wall insulation and so on - all of which were here when we bought it. Now there's no denying that UPVC windows keep out the draughts, keep in the heat, and I never have to take a mallet and the rolling pin to them to get them open in the spring after a wet winter either! But there are disadvantages - when they get dingy there can be no coat of paint to freshen them up, we are stuck with white and the doors are white too which I would never have chosen. This house will never become a pretty tumbledown place like stone built homes of yesteryear will it - what will happen to all that plastic, glass fibre and foam? Is it more ecological to have a warm well insulated house like this or a draughty badly insulated old house? I fear the plastic in our home is here to stay for hundred of years long after we have gone.

BUT .. then I thought that plastic has its advantages as I moved these green chairs into a patch of sunshine (doesn't look very sunny in the pic I know) and we sat and had a cup of tea in the garden - wouldn't have wanted to sit for long but it was beautiful to be outside in February drinking tea and listening to the birds in the wood alongside our garden for the few minutes it took to drink our tea. Plastic is light which is why we changed the old metal watering can we used to have for a plastic one. I suppose that as with most things in life it's a case of swings and roundabouts and whilst the old vintage stuff might look better sometimes the modern plastic has its advantages. Just a pity we inherited quite so much of it from the vendor when we moved here - we will gradually change some of it but I guess we are stuck with the wall insulation and the doors and windows!!
Hope you have had a sunny day too.


  1. Interesting post Jane. We have old 'Crittle' windows in our house and a wooden & glass front door. None of the close properly and yes do let in draughts AND we have that horrid secondary double glazing that is all stiff and pretty much useless...but whenever we get close to changing them I just can't go uPVC as/Plastic as I think it spoils the look of the houses/bungalows. So I think we are probably stuck with it. I guess we could try and replace the secondary double glazing which actually works and can slide open and close.

  2. I do find natural products are more pleasureable to use but plastic is so practical! We have wooden conservatory doors and the frames swell up when it is damp, consequently we can't open them until late spring/early summer. The plastic chairs we have can stay outside all year round and just need a hose down to keep them clean, whereas the wooden bench is falling to pieces. As you say it is swings and roundabouts!

  3. I have to agree with you that a plastic watering can is so much lighter than a galvanised one.

  4. I think most of us prefer natural materials, but can see the benefits of plastic; tricky isn't it? I think the worst thing is plastic made to look like wood, say....

  5. Tea in the sun! Oh my, lucky you, today I almost went off the road picking up my girls, it's so much snow here it looks like proper winter.

    Anna x

  6. A thoughtful post. Personally, I dislike plastic, especially the windows and doors that have been installed to replace original, wooden designs! It does have its place, I agree, but possibly the worst thing about it is that it doesn't biodegrade. How many problems are caused by that?

    Your beehive compost bin is lovely! I meant to leave a message to that effect a while ago.

  7. It's said to be best to use 'inherited' things to the end of their natural lives, rather than to replace them with allegedly 'greener' alternatives - even with cars, a green friend told me.

    But what a thought-provoking post, Jane! I dislike plastic like you, but it does have certain advantages. I put a horrid old grubby plastic indoor watering can through the dish washer last week and it's like new! Simple pleasures...

    Thanks for your handkerchief comments too!

  8. I agree it's swings and roundabouts, plastic can be so convenient and easy to use but it will never have a starring role in Country Living!
    It was a lovely day today and it was great to be able to spend some time outside. :)
    Vivienne x

  9. I don't like plastic anything, but it does have its uses. Plastic outside here has a very short life, they become very brittle, even the newer ones

  10. I have to say I like the look of timber windows and window frames but would never consider having them. They are too hard to look after - forever painting and scraping or oiling the wood. Just not practical in our climate and one more thing for the termites to eat!! We use aluminium for window frames here then set the windows in brick on the outside and timber inside. Seems to work well for us and cuts down a lot on maintenance.
    I agree with you that wood outdoor furniture looks good - at first - but the weather causes problems and it is so heavy to move around. So I think in the end you have to be practical and go with what is the easiest / most serviceable and try to find things that look OK too. Real life is often not at all like the pretty pictures in magazines is it?

  11. I think like most other people who have commented here, we just have to live with both natural and modern materials. We inherited plastic chairs but put them in the garage since we were for ever having to retrieve them from hedges, borders etc after a breeze...... I do, however, love the noise that a metal watering can makes when you put it down. Takes me back to childhood and my father tending his garden..........

  12. Plastic garden items are just so practical - at least I can lift a plastic watering can full of water whereas I'd probably have trouble lifting an empty metal can. I've had my water butt for years - it's a black square/rectangular water tank which goes in a house roof with a tap put in the side and the top reversed. It stands on four bricks in each corner and makes a nice little home for my cat, Ashley, when it's raining! Being black it doesn't stand out as much as the green ones.
    I couldn't cope with wooden windows and doors. Even though plastic is stark and unlovely it's

  13. I can only echo all the comments here - I have a set of metal watering cans for ornamental use only - far too heavy to carry. And we replaced our metal folding bistro chairs as they were so rusty and uncomfortable and the mosaic topped table was a nightmare after the bits came out and we were no longer fit enough to lift it. The plastic set was very cheap and I have to say, much more comfortable!

  14. Jane,
    I think you've highlighted a modern dilemma. Sometimes it's a trade off between the aesthetic and the practical and what is cost effective. I hate my UPVC windows but I know the cost of replacing them with wood is a price too high in this day and age so I live with them. You always pose such interesting conundrums. It's like you're thinking out loud and we're eavesdropping! Wonderful. Lesley x

  15. There's one plastic garden thingummy I couldn't live without - those bendy trug/buckety things that I can't remember the name of! What did we do before them? I have a couple of small plastic watering cans that are weathering quite nicely too - they've been left outside so long, the colours have faded and the surface has become less smooth.

  16. I love natural materials; they give out warmth and cosiness - they're beautiful, too. But I have to admit I like some colourful plastic things, too. I'm worried about the chemicals, though and try to avoid them. Money is an issue, indeed, I'm afraid!
    Thanks for the supportive comments. Little one is ok but hubby still suffers. He's going to see a neurologist on Monday.
    Have a lovely weekend!

  17. Hi Jane, I have to say I loathe plastic with a passion, although I am, like many, guilty of buying it.
    My water butts are plastic, I have useful but so ugly. They are behind the garage, so that I do not have to look at them. I also have ten composters and they are also plastic.....gosh, I feel really fed up now. Ha!

    Have a good weekend.......

  18. If I could afford it I would remove our plastic fromt door and replace it with a wooden one like my mums and dads... I realised that I missed having a proper front door step where you don't have to step over a plastic strip... after all a draught excluder and a door curtain work just as well...
    I love my mum and dads sash windows... but I can see the merit of double glazing.. I'd love a greenhouse or a conservatory but I would like wooden ones... and I have a metal watering can... however it has iris's growing in it and last year the robins nested in it! ;D

    I think I will be placing some stone and wood benches in prime positions and with a homemade cushion for comfort I shall drink tea and share cake with the chickens in between digging and tending my vegetables... thats my plan for 2011.. anyway... to be honest plastic is cheaper but recycled old fashioned is more appealing.. but pricey and scarce! ;D

    you have to find a balance I think.. and snap up bargains without wondering if you really need them! lol

    x Alex

  19. Great post Jane, my practical side doesn't get a look in when it comes to the garden, everything has to be rustic! I have a hairy fit when my neighbour puts out her plastic pots, but, I can certainly see your point and maybe I'll change the way I think about it, compromise... god forbid! x

  20. I couldn't agree with you more, but sadly we also are stuck with pvc windows. When I think back to when we had wooden sash windows I know the one's I prefer. We used to have to cope with broken sash cords, rattles and push newspaper into them to try to stop the draughts.
    On the bin, you could build a matching wooden surround to match the compost bin, that would look nice..

  21. Some good points Jane. i was keen to replace our old aluminium windows with wooden ones, so I could paint them my choice of colour, but Husband said we arent getting any younger and who is going to climb up and repaint them every year? With the wind that we get on this hill, I could see his point, so plastic it was, but I try to keep as many natural materials around me as possible.

  22. I'm afraid I cheat - I have a leaky metal watering can which I leave out to look good and a functional plastic one that i hide away when not in use! Great post!

  23. Plastic is awful but its hardwearing and so practical. I have UPVC windows which I dislike and they dont go with the style of my cottage. Next door still has the original wooden windows but they are rotting away. I do have a wooden front door but its the third replacement in seven years. I live in the countryside and our house is so exposed. Im surrounded by fields and its so open that we get battered by the elements. The last time the door was so bad I could put my finger straight through the wood. We may have to go for the dreaded plastic door next time X

  24. Hello, I've just come across your blog - what a lovely difference to read something so thought provoking. I end up with plastic through necessity of finance but I do wonder just how long that will stand as the oil prices continue to rise, the troubles in the world escalate and what will be the knock on effect of that? Even the cheap synthetic yarns are no longer going to be cheap - maybe my first love, that of spinning natural fibres will come into its own once again - oh, I hope so. I too often look at my hands and how they have changed since I first had my children - I haven't thought to photograph them, but I think I just might! Thankyou.

  25. Good post....
    While reviewing this post i come to know some good garden experience from your side.O also love vintage look for my garden.Vintage looks give some differ elegance and uniqueness to patio.I like your patio...
    Outdoor Garden Furniture


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