You’ve probably seen these fabulous looking wicker covered bottles around before, known as demijohns. With their classic design and rustic charm, they can add character and warmth to any space. In this blog post, I’ll share some tips and tricks for how to style vintage wicker demijohn bottles that will help you create a beautiful look in your home.
Antique demijohn bottles are a beautiful and unique addition to any home decor. But styling them can be a challenge – how do you showcase these blown glass treasures in a way that feels modern and fresh? Whether you’re a vintage collector or simply looking to add some texture to your decor, these tips will help you make the most of these beautiful antique pieces.
What is a Demijohn Bottle?
A demijohn bottle is a large, narrow-necked glass bottle, typically used for storing and transporting liquids, such as wine or oil. It was often encased in wicker, straw, or some other protective material to prevent the glass bottle from breaking during transport. Antique bottles were hand blown glass.
The word “demijohn” is believed to come from the French word “dame-jeanne,” which means “Lady Jane.” Demijohn bottles were commonly used in the 19th and early 20th centuries and are now often sought after as antique or decorative items for their unique shape and rustic charm. It is pronounced ‘de mee John’.
Of course, in the past, the bottles were used to store wine or olive oil in larger quantities. The hand blown glass ones generally had air bubbles that added to their antique appeal. Today, you can find many reproductions in interesting shapes that have been made smaller. They are safe to serve wine or store olive oil and have the look of the original antique bottles.
Glass Demijohns versus Wicker Covered
Glass demijohn bottles are made entirely of glass and do not have any additional covering. They can be hand blown glass or reproductions. The teardrop shaped large bottle is often preferred for its clean, clear look. The narrow necked bottle is often found in shades of blue, dark green, shades of pale green, and amber.
However, they can be more prone to breaking or cracking if not handled with care. Whenever I find them, I’m always afraid I am going to break them before I get them home. They could easily roll around the car if not secured and protected.
Covered demijohns, on the other hand, are glass demijohns that have been encased in a basket essentially or another type of protective covering. These seem a bit hardier and are favorites for decorating but both are beautiful bottles.
They are often preferred for their rustic and charming appearance. They definitely give a house that Europe vibe that everyone loves. When deciding between glass demijohns and the covered demijohns, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and intended use. If the bottle is purely decorative, then buy what you love.
Antique versus Reproduction Demijohns
Antique demijohns and reproduction demijohns can be used for decoration or storage purposes. Clearly they are the same, but still very different, because one is mainly handmade and the other mass produced.
Vintage demijohn bottles are those that were handmade several decades ago and have been preserved or restored over time. They are in high demand for their unique designs and historical value, often commanding higher prices than their reproduction counterparts.
On the other hand, reproduction demijohns are those that are newly produced, often designed to look similar to the vintage pieces. While they can still be attractive and functional, they lack the character and authenticity of the vintage pieces. Although they can hold liquid, when used as a vase, they have not lived their life as a true wine bottle.
Therefore, the choice between vintage and reproduction demijohns largely depends on personal preference and the desired aesthetic.
My Great Demijohn Find
I recently purchased the most amazing demijohn on my trip to Portugal. Of course I was antiquing there, are you kidding me? I held my breath when I saw it. And when I asked the lady how much it was and she said ‘5 euro’ which is = to about $6, I almost fainted! Probably from the breath holding, but SOLD! Needless to say, I snatched it up and didn’t even care how stupid I looked carrying it around the city. The bottle is amber glass and is gorgeous.
We also went to a flea market while we were in Portugal. You know I gotta visit my antique stores and flea markets, even on vacation. I saw the most amazing large demijohn bottle there! It was covered in the basket with two handles, and had the initials ‘IR’ stenciled on the front. Dame Jeanne herself would have loved it!
It pains me to think I had to leave it behind because it was huge and would have been very problematic to get home. Now that I’m home, I am convinced I could have worked out the shipping or checked with my luggage and am currently kicking myself.
How to Care for Vintage Wicker Demijohns?
Caring for vintage wicker demijohns requires some attention to detail for the basket part to keep them looking their best. The bottle itself is easy to clean. Simply rinse the inside with water to eliminate built up dust and be careful not to soak the outside. So let’s focus on how to care for that outside basket part.
Firstly, it’s important to keep them away from direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure can cause the basket reeds to fade and become brittle. Age will do that anyway, and you may have found them like that. Best to keep them in good condition from now on.
Secondly, avoid getting them wet or exposing them to moisture, as this can cause swelling and cracking of the outside. Unless you are using them as a vase, chances are you won’t be filling them with water anyway.
Regularly dusting and wiping down the basket part with a soft cloth can help to prevent the accumulation of dirt and grime. I like to use a dry paint brush to dust them, and they can also be carefully vacuumed if they aren’t too delicate. If they have an original label, be careful not to touch that area.
I have also used wax to keep them hydrated. A natural beeswax, applied with a fat wax brush is my favorite kind. I also use wax on old wicker baskets. It adds such a nice patina, and can even help a new reproduction look more aged.
Collecting vintage demijohns can be rewarding when you can find them. Truly old and antique demijohns have been snatched up by collectors for awhile and they can be hard to find. I started collecting mine over 20 years ago, and currently have 12 antique ones in my collection of varying sizes, and 3 reproductions. I also have several of the glass only ones too.
Look for pieces that are in good condition with minimal damage, such as cracks or chips in the glass. You can sometimes find them with remnants of a paper label, or stenciled with numbers or letters. Pieces that have unique designs, shapes, colors, and details are also highly sought after and are rare to find in the wild. The bottles can be tall or squatty.
Many collect the bottles for their color. Seeing the antique blue glass bottles, all lined up or featured on a table is such a striking collection, especially with the blown glass ones. The antique green bottles are good looking as well, and would make any demijohn fan swoon.
Keep in mind the authenticity of the piece, as reproductions can sometimes be mistaken for vintage pieces. If you’re loving the look of them in general, then just buy what you can find and what suits your decor needs. I never hesitate to purchase a true antique demijohn, if the price is right, I grab it. You will always find a place for a collectible you love!
How to Add Demijohns to Your Decor
Adding vintage charm to a living room with these bottles is a great way to up your personal style. They look great on shelves in a grouping with other glass bottles, or on a coffee table. A big demijohn bottle can be placed on the floor, under a table, or in a collection with other baskets. The top of an armoire is a great place to stash demijohn bottles, especially if you’re concerned that they may get broken by kids or pets.
In the dining room, use a small collection as a centerpiece on a dining table. Although, the narrow neck sometimes makes it difficult to use as an actual vase. Since they look great grouped together, greenery can always be added to the display in a different vessel.
Displaying in a kitchen or pantry will add color and texture to your decor. They look great grouped near more baskets, wood boxes, or bottles.
Lining larger bottles up in a hallway, displaying on an entry table, or surrounded by other antiques can feature your collection nicely. Always keep in mind to add other textures and elements within your display for visual interest.
Styling Demijohns with Flowers or Greenery
Styling demijohns with flowers or greenery is a popular way to add a natural and organic element when decorating. One simple and elegant way to style demijohns is to place a single stem or a few branches of flowers or greenery inside the bottle. Faux greenery works great for this too.
This can create a striking visual effect and draw attention to the unique shape of the demijohn. Stagger sizes for a grouping that is pleasing to the eye. They really do add great style to any room.
For flowers, the narrow neck will limit how many stems you can fit into the mouth of the bottle. I generally do not ever place anything inside them if they have come with their cork intact. I figure if it has lived this long with the original plug, I’m not willing to be the one to lose it!
Where to Find Demijohns
You can find demijohns in a variety of places, both online and in-person. Antique shops, flea markets, and estate sales are all great places to start your search.
Online auction sites such as eBay and Etsy also offer a wide range of antique demijohns, with sellers from all over the world. The bottles are found in abundance in Europe, in places like Italy, France, and Portugal. Many vendors have imported them and are selling them in the US, so no need to grab a trip to Europe to shop (although that sounds way more fun)!
It’s important to research the seller’s reputation and carefully read the item description and photos before making a purchase online. If you are interested in larger ones, those can get pricey to ship. I’m always afraid they would get broken in shipping, so I prefer to hunt in the wild or buy from an importer. Of course, the shades of blue are my fave.
Additionally, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook can be a great way to connect with collectors and sellers who occasionally feature vintage demijohns. Joining online vintage or antique groups can also be a helpful resource for finding unique pieces and connecting with other collectors. It’s crazy to think a collector would sell one instead of keeping it, but that’s just me. I would never let one leave my house if I found it!
When purchasing an antique demijohn, it’s important to consider factors such as condition, authenticity, and rarity, when the bottle has a big price. With a little persistence and a willingness to explore different avenues, you can find vintage demijohn bottles to add to your collection or decorate your home.