The lure of antiques is unmistakable. Over and above their dignified exteriors, antiques are valued for their outstanding quality and longevity, making them worthy investments over the long haul. Many of us admire the historic appeal and grandeur of antiques, but daren’t commit to the actual purchase. Perhaps this guide to buying antiques will help you make that leap.
In any case, we’ve turned to antiques specialist, Kate Davies of Authentiques for the wisest approach to your first antique buy. Whether you’re a tentative shopper contemplating your maiden antique purchase or an antique lover on the lookout for ways to improve your growing collection, this guide to buying antiques ought to give you some valuable insights from a trusted old-timer.
BUY WITH YOUR EYE
Antiques can carry a lot of value or very little but it really depends where you live and how difficult they are to obtain in your part of the world. In England or France, for example, you’re more likely to encounter similar pieces because both countries are known for their long history of furniture-making. Unless you’re holding on to an heirloom with provenance (records showing it came from the home of a famous person or a royal family) or a museum piece, then it’s likely there will be another one somewhere in existence either privately owned or in a shop.
In Asia, there are very few genuine antiques and antique stores, so the value can be greater here simply because they are more rare. It’s unlikely you’ll see such a piece in another home, or store but you will see plenty of replicas. Therefore we encourage first time buyers to base their purchase on their emotional attachment to the piece and the joy it brings to the eye. Unlike art, antique furniture has the added bonus of being highly practical and if it has been made by a decent craftsman and has been well cared for then it will last a long time so make sure it’s a piece you simply adore.
MIX AND MATCH OLD AND NEW FURNITURE
We like our customers to have fun with antiques. Two of the best magazine references are the UK’s Elle Decor and Australian Vogue Living. They consistently feature designers and homeowners who mix modern art and contemporary furniture with antiques perfectly. Cluttering rooms with everything antique can be overbearing and sometimes oppressive but when ten to fifty percent of the pieces are antique, the room will become much more interesting and unique. For example, mix a beautiful 19th century English leather-topped pedestal desk with a Louis XV armchair (not an antique one but a transparent or black Louis Ghost). Glass tables also work well with older sofas and armchairs.
An antique will make colourful contemporary pieces appear more bold and bright. A large angular modern sofa could look more sleek or obvious opposite a pair of Chippendale armchairs. Move pieces regularly around your home and enjoy them in different lighting to appreciate the craftsmanship from all angles. Beautiful and rustic antiques change the mood and vibe of each room, almost like people. Washington-based interior designer Darryl Carter uses a lot of antiques in his well-regarded modern interiors.
START WITH A SIMPLE STATEMENT
An armchair is a good place to start if you haven’t bought antiques before, or a dining table. Both pieces are big enough to make a statement but a table can be dressed up or down with the chairs and tableware. Armchairs can be moved to a different room and if it’s soft, it can be reupholstered in funky fabrics like Missoni stripes, or bright florals to keep the mood fresh and young. Otherwise, plain velvets and grey or creamy linens can add a mature grown-up look but with fun contemporary cushions and surrounding furniture to lighten-up the room. Add a side table or a gilt (gold painted) mirror or some antique lighting. Keep adding one by one until you feel the balance is there. If you and your antique dealer have a good relationship, often the dealer will let you try before you buy. Ask!
KIDS AND ANTIQUES DO MIX WELL
Unless your antique is a precious decorative-only piece, look for sturdy well-made tables, chairs, cupboards and beds. Antiques have been crafted by masters and can be restored too. We all want to protect our antiques but often the 150 year old chair is a better buy than a new piece made in an average factory in China. Modern furniture falls apart easily because cheap components and labour help the manufacturers profit. Antiques on the other hand have lasted more than 100 years despite their regular use and often look better with age. Go for the unpainted woods and you’ll soon see that the signs of age are attractive. We call it the “patina”. Those scratches and dents tell stories and open the imagination to life in earlier eras. Perhaps while children are young, opt for farmhouse style, rustic pieces and then move to more intricate items when they can respect your belongings better.
FLAVOUR OF THE MONTH
Crystal wine, liqueur and brandy glasses and decanters are right on trend at the momonet. They make great gifts for ladies and gents. Large mirrors to hang over sideboards, sofas, bathroom basins and fireplaces (yes, even in Hong Kong!) are also a favourite. Comfortable wing-backed armchairs are popular as are French farmhouse tables.. 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 seaters which we import from France and UK. Butlers trays on folding stands make great bars and coffee tables and small occasional tables, traditionally used to hold flower pots or wine bottles, are very popular because they fit into tight spaces and are portable.