Caravan of Furniture
The Swat Valley in Pakistan has become famous for all the wrong reasons of late. It’s a pity because this area of northern Pakistan is a natural paradise of lush forests, fruit orchards and glades covered in flowers during summer. The air is crisp and the surrounding peaks are stunning. While nature and the hospitality of Swat’s inhabitants should make it famous, it could just as well be the wood carving.
The traditional social role of the wood-carver in Swat is recounted in a folk tale about a ‘carpenter prince’, the son of a Swati king who wanted nothing more than to learn carpentry. He ignored his family’s expectation to engage in a more princely interest, such as gemstones. But he insisted on learning to carve wood and was exiled by his father. But soon, due to conflict (something Swat Valley is not unaccustomed to!) the king and his family flee. They become penniless, wandering about. One day they came across a marvellous carved wooden house whose owner proves to be the exiled son. The king admitted then that perhaps learning a trade like wood carving was not so bad a plan after all!
Chests & Trunks
Our recent container from Pakistan contained a beautiful collection of carved wooden chests from the carpenters of Swat Valley. It is not easy getting up to those parts recently, threats from extremist militants remains high. My business partner Michael Prato is one of the few men daring enough to go shopping among the carpenters of Swat nowadays, although I can’t wait to get back there myself. The risks involved in sourcing in that area makes these vintage wooden chests all the more special and rare. Indeed, these trunks are all decades old and have stories of survival and wonder etched into the wood. Swat Valley families historically store their valuables in these chests and take them wherever they move. It’s tradition in Pakistan (and indeed around the whole of Central and South Asia) for a family to keep their possessions in a chest. But in the Swat these chests are truly amazing! We have several at our home and I think they look stunning when cleaned up and bees waxed.
Swati chests are distinctive and cannot be sourced elsewhere. Look for the pieces which use no nails, some of the oldest pieces available. The carving ranges from the naïf to highly detailed motifs. These motifs have been handed down over centuries. The selection of eight chests/trunks at Kaspia’s Caravan are all different sizes and shapes with their own unique carving. You can choose to keep them rustic as they come, or we can clean them up and stain them to bring out their rich beauty.Prices range from $250
Camel leather chairs
There are several vintage Swat Valley chairs left and each is at least 30 years old and in impeccable shape. The intricately carved backrests are great examples of the Swati aesthetic. All their camel leather ties are in good condition and these also look superb when stained. If they don’t sell, I’m keeping them!
Charpoy rope beds
Within a week we have sold all but two of our popular Pakistani rope beds known and charpoys. We have one outside our own house in Birchgrove and recline on it all the time with our children. Pakistanis (and Indians for that matter) are experts at making beautiful beds like this. We have some lush mattresses and bolsters for these too so you can really feel like you’re an Ottoman emperor! The only charpoy we have left is an vintage one, my favourite, woven with durable camel hide and stained. It looks superb. Moreover, this particular charpoy was used in Russell Crowe’s directorial debut ‘The Water Diviner’, out now at a cinema near you! Price $1200
We have just two of these lovely coffee tables left in stock, and I never realised just how incredible they look on a nice tribal rug or wooden floor boards. At our home we have one of these, in our lounge room, and it’s just the perfect height and shape, the design details adding an irresistible orientalist charm to the room. We can arrange for these to be stained too, if you’d like to bring out the character of the wood.
Antique Doors & Arches
The carpentry tradition of the Swat Valley does not stop at furniture. In fact, the first carpenters were more interested in making doors and window arches look as fancy as they could. Many of these old buildings are falling down, and we are doing our bit to prevent these marvellous works of art being used as fire wood. I can’t tell you just how spectacular these doors and window frames look once they are beautifully stained. Let’s just say, if you have the space, come in and choose the best one before they all sell out. These doors and frames make for stunning display pieces in a spacious and beautiful home.
Balinese Day Bed
What can I say about this day bed apart from ‘I want it!’. Here is the ultimate in bohemian luxury, a four-poster day bed from Bali. I’ve had incredible fun making and decorating this bed every day in the shop. It is truly stunning, so much so that I’ve made it the centre piece of the whole place. Heap up pillows, hang flower tendrils from the cross beams, this bed has a thousand possibilities. It can easily be taken apart and reassembled in your villa. Bring a bit of tropical luxury to your home. Or, as my husband often says, ‘Live life like a holiday!’
Many people have asked me about the beautiful dining room table we have on which we display our wares. Yes, it’s for sale. But moreover, our friend Geoff Belanger, a Canadian/Australian carpenter and paramedic who works with my husband Benjamin, is the man behind this. His talent is unsurpassed and he has got the most incredible wood, sourced from the roof of the old Tempe tram sheds in Sydney. This is Douglas Fir wood, which made up the Tempe tram sheds for 100 years and was, prior to that, 500-600 year old trees on the Pacific North West Coast of North America. It is very special wood that Geoff uses and he can make you something out of the same. He custom builds furniture at reasonable prices and I don’t know how he does it, but everything he makes kind of glows. Table price $3200