This huge slate slab is part of a chunky Georgian kitchen worktop in Castle Green House, Cardigan Castle. Hundreds of years of chopping, slicing and food prepping have left thousands of tiny knife marks in the surface, giving it a textured, beautiful finish. (Incidentally, there was also a massive Welsh slate salting sink in this kitchen, which I really wanted to take home with me!) This slab is ‘wabi sabi’ in action – one of the many wonderful results of using natural materials in a home – they stand the test of time, but evolve, changed and sculpted by the human hands that touch them over the years. A few months ago, while visiting the impressive Middleport Pottery in Stoke-On-Trent for a feature, I learned that generations of workers there had shaped the very building itself; a brass tap had been buffed to a high-shine by clay-covered fingers and a wooden stair banister, polished by generations of dusty hands, was glossy as a conker. (Incidentally, both Middleport and Cardigan Castle have been revived by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, an organisation with a refreshingly light touch when it comes to renovation, hence these details remain intact.)
Worn, well-used interiors are all the more appealing precisely because of their imperfections, which are imbued with rich histories and the ghosts of times gone by. There’s something reassuringly permanent about the markings we leave behind us – the cooks who chopped vegetables on this slab are long gone, but some evidence of their existence remains – locked in stone. We can’t resist running our fingers across such marks, to briefly touch the past.