One spring ritual for the Victorians was to hang a decorative flue cover in front of a room’s chimney opening to conceal the unsightly (and drafty) hole that was left after removing the stovepipe that provided heat to the home during the winter. While today’s home owners no longer need to use these lovely pieces for their intended purpose, you can still enjoy the classic beauty of Victorian flue covers as an authentic decorative piece in any space, no matter how small, as well as enjoying their value as collectible items.
Victorian flue covers are not among the highest investment opportunities for collectors (Kovel’s Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2010 listed a six-inch flue cover called “Victorian Girl, Blond Hair” at $50), but they are nonetheless a cherished, authentic connection to the era. As with any collectible, reproductions can be had for a fraction of the price.
The standard Victorian flue cover was a six- or eight-inch round or oval glass featuring a colorful, pleasant image—typically of a young woman or child, a romantic setting, a botanical print or a combination thereof—framed in brass or tin, with a metal chain for hanging and a cardboard backing.
Nancy Finn, owner of Etsy retailer Scooters Shop (etsy.com/Scootersshop), who describes herself as a “purveyor of odd items,” says they were used as a sales-promotion tool in days gone by. “Like many items of that era, such as calendars and dishes, the flue cover was a giveaway as an advertisement for the establishment that sold them,” she says.
How to Display Them
Thanks to their small size, there are a wide variety of ways and places you can showcase these Victorian gems throughout your home. Try these ideas for decorating with antique flue covers:
- Group them as wall hangings
- Showcase them as holiday or Christmas-tree ornaments
- Place them on plate stands or pedestals in table vignettes
- Display them on shelves or in a bookcase
- Affix one to the center of a bed’s headboard
- Liven up a dark corner of a room by displaying them on a small table
- String them across the fireplace
- Hang them from the top of an archway
- Place them on top of an elegant piano
- Prop them on a desk as you would a family photograph
Where to Find Them
To purchase authentic Victorian flue covers, visit local antiques shop, estate sales and auctions. Reproductions can sometimes be found at flea markets, thrift stores, online auction sites like eBay or e-commerce sites like Etsy.
by Meryl Schoenbaum