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Antique Stone Troughs

Author: Dana Bos
Issue: October, 2009, Page 26
Photography by David B. Moore

It can be difficult to date antique troughs, but those shown here are at least 100 years old and come from various European countries. Their original functions vary. For example, the 48-inch-deep trough (center) was used to wash laundry.

History, Highlights and Helpful Hints

Antique stone troughs often invoke thoughts of centuries past. “They give an air of an older landscape,” says Ken Tims of Phoenix-based retailer Facings of America. “Your imagination could go wild thinking about their history. Who knows? An army may have come through and watered its horses at that trough.”
These objects, often carried by companies that specialize in antique architectural elements, typically hail from such European countries as France, Spain and Italy. It is difficult to determine the exact age of a trough, but many have been in use for centuries, says Tims. He adds that they have been discovered in fields as well as in the backyards and courtyards of old homes and villas, and in public places.

Troughs can be found in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from approximately 16 inches in diameter for those that are small and round to four feet long and beyond. Tims notes that the measurements vary according to the original function. Some are deep, while others are shallow. They have a coarse texture from hundreds of years of wear, and the marks of hand-chiseling are evident, he notes. Shellie Vance of Relics Architectural Home & Garden in Phoenix says that troughs originally served as laundry basins, sinks or watering vessels for animals. Some have old drain holes, she adds. According to Susan Rose, owner of Scottsdale retailer Beau Mélange, they also captured and stored rainwater.

Antique stone troughs can be mounted on stands and used as statement-making sinks. This treatment is especially appealing in powder rooms.
Most troughs are neutral in color and work with a variety of home styles, Vance points out. They go well with Old World decor, especially as sinks and water features, and can be incorporated into Contemporary settings, too. Tims has seen troughs in Tuscan-, Santa Barbara- and chateau-style homes. Besides their Old World charm, the durability of antique stone troughs is appealing, he believes. “They don’t deteriorate.” 

Current uses for antique troughs are limited only by one’s creativity, say our experts. Tims finds that customers use them as landscape accents, water features or planters. Some are even large enough to function as planters for trees. Rose encourages unintended and unusual applications. For instance, smaller troughs can be filled with ice to keep bottles and cans cool for a party. “They are great insulators,” she comments. Or, fill them with beach glass, shells or a stone collection. They also can sit on a counter to hold the mail or pieces of fruit.

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