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Antiques & Collecting: June 08

PUBLISHED: 16:01 06 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:14 20 February 2013

George III mahogany serpentine dressing commode, sold for £15,000 at Christie's

George III mahogany serpentine dressing commode, sold for £15,000 at Christie's

Furniture restorer and dealer NEIL HELDREICH makes a case for buying 'brown.'

So what's all this talk about 'brown furniture'? Where do you make the distinction between this and something that's deemed more desirable? In my opinion this is an inappropriate phrase. I have seen many pieces selling at high prices this year that were of a dark colour and amongst other attributes they all possessed a wonderful dark patination.

Purchasing antique furniture shouldn't be about fashion; what's in and what's not. The media bombards us with images of a certain lifestyle and look that we should aspire to and it's difficult not to be influenced by this, but I think antique furniture is a little different. There is no reason why antique pieces won't fit perfectly alongside modern décor, art and furniture. Who says that if you like antique furniture then your house has to resemble the period of the pieces?

The antique buyer mostly falls into two categories, someone who wants to furnish their house with something aesthetically pleasing and of interest, or the serious collector who is looking for an item by a particular maker, of a certain period or material or that is particularly rare. If you are an admirer of fine Georgian furniture, for example, it may be the proportions and form of the piece or the high quality of the cabinet making or added decoration that draws you. If you are a country or early furniture person then it could be the glow of a wonderful patina or a mixture of local timbers used in its construction, or even a simple extra feature you've never seen before, that makes you long to own it. One thing I always find myself thinking about is the history of a piece; when it was constructed and what was happening historically in the world at that time. Then I look at the marks, stains and wear it has picked up along its journey and try to imagine how they got there.

Sometimes it is difficult for someone without much knowledge of antiques to purchase with confidence as there are areas to be wary of, but I'm a great believer that if you choose your items carefully, learn to trust your own taste and judgement and aren't afraid to ask questions then you can't go wrong. When buying antique furniture, I would say, first trust your instincts and second never be afraid to ask whoever is selling the item about the piece and what they think about its originality. When asked, an antique dealer or auctioneer should always provide you with the knowledge you require. If they are established in business and wish to continue to be so and, of course, are passionate about their profession you will always get an honest answer. Get to know your local dealers and always ask questions. Finally, one of the things that makes this subject so fascinating is that there is always more to learn!


For more details talk to Heldreich French Polishers, 01335 361676, www.heldreich.com

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