How to use antiques in children’s rooms and where to source them

Antiques are timeless and can be passed down the generations, so there's every reason to include them in your children's lives from an early start

Mid-century Esavian school furniture is brilliant for kids. Blue Ticking have a good selection of their school desks, a stylish option for homework sessions. I’ve longed for a set of Esavian drawers, designed by James Leonard in the 1950s, for ages. It’s worth searching for these on Vinterior or turn to Style and Source who will do the legwork and track down the perfect set – they charge a £60 sourcing fee which is refundable against your purchase.

The babies' room at textile dealer Francesca Gentilli's farmhouse. On the walls are a child's suzani coat – a gift from one of the dealers Francesca works with in Turkey – a selection of framed antique textiles, a watercolour by Julianna Byrne and bunting made by Katherine Preston.

Chris Horwood

I like to have artwork on the walls which is detailed enough to be gazed at for many hours – landscapes and patterns to escape into. Antique samplers are fascinating to look at and often feature castles, flowers, animals and other motifs which are appealing to children. Witney Antiques has an inventory of the most exquisite examples. Vintage school posters are an inexpensive and pretty choice for nursery walls. I favour a set by a French artist, Helen Poirie. Handmade & Vintage is the place to hunt for these – we have a print of a market town but I’m very tempted to add the circus to our collection, a riot of carousels, swing rides and acrobats.

Vintage wooden puzzles, animals and building blocks are a wonderful investment. My three year old spends hours building towers with old blocks bought from charity shops and eBay as well as with Grimms blocks, still traditionally-made in Germany. If buying old blocks I choose uncoloured ones to avoid any toxic paint and, if they are looking tired, revive them using a vinegar and water spray before drying them in the sunshine and feeding the wood with linseed oil. Vintage Galt and Abbatt puzzles are design classics and their wooden pieces stand up to much more play than modern cardboard versions, which inevitably bend and tear. Pineapple Retro often have puzzles for sale as do Moppet, who specialise in vintage treasures, offering everything from Edwardian children’s chairs to painted matryoshka.

Paul Massey

Some antique toys or heirlooms are too fragile for very small children but there are ways to display them so that they can still be enjoyed. Toy sailing boats or kites can be suspended from the ceiling to provide something for a child to gaze at as they fall asleep. Use ground glass jars to store collections of antique marbles and position them out of reach on a mantlepiece or a shelf where they can catch the light and gleam. If you have inherited a box of dolls’ clothes create a miniature clothesline on the wall. Dresses and cardigans can then be plucked from the line and eased onto unsuspecting teddies.

Dolls' houses occupy the landing at Ros Byam Shaw's 16th-century house in Devon

Owen Gale

There is a very good reason why dolls’ houses are an enduring favourite with children. They grow with a child in a way that many toys do not and can be constantly reimagined, much like a real house, with changes to paint, wallpaper and furniture. In a moment of madness, I bought a vintage dolls’ house kit from the Oxfam online shop and spent the following months cursing the tiny pin nails necessary to piece it together. The finished product is, I must say, a triumph, and gratifyingly adored as a home for a tribe of Maileg mice. If I had to do it all again, though, I would hotfoot it to The Dolls’ House in Northleach, near Cheltenham, which has the most amazing range of antique dolls’ houses. Prices start from a very reasonable £150. Line your house with offcuts of wallpaper or buy some of Liza Antrim’s facsimiles of 1840s papers from Knayton Lodge.

If there is space in a bedroom, a chair for bedtime stories is a must, something enveloping like a classic tub chair, wide enough to curl up in and deep enough to be home to a couple of cushions. Needlepoint is beautifully tactile and stands up to a surprising amount of abuse. Our cushions, bright with mermaids and butterflies, have been used as islands, beds and trampolines and are still going strong. Ehrman make the best needlepoint kits to present hopefully to besotted grannies or for stitching in front of Netflix once the little darlings are finally asleep.