Gleaming chrome and shining viynl, perfect for retro furniture

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at distinctive 'retro' furniture
Rare to find a complete set, this table and six ‘tulip’ chairs are 395 poundsRare to find a complete set, this table and six ‘tulip’ chairs are 395 pounds
Rare to find a complete set, this table and six ‘tulip’ chairs are 395 pounds

After months restricted to just one or two ‘essential’ shops, I didn’t realise how tunnel vision we’d become until we reopened. Visitors were commenting how much they appreciated the variety of what we have under one roof.

So I thought this week we’d have a virtual walk through the centre to the more ‘futuristic’ collectables zone.

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When I opened, in 1990, there was a certain tradition about what you were expected to stock: furniture, ornaments, crockery, glassware, paintings, clocks.

Thanks to trends and TV shows, enquiries widened. More modern antiques became popular, as people started looking for things they remembered as children, not just from history books.

Expanding to over 120 individual dealers and specialists, you name it, we’ve probably got it. .

The real shock for many came in November 2001, when we introduced ‘retro-modern’: the gleaming chrome, shiny vinyl and lurid colours of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. It was a surprising contrast back then, but one which definitely enriched the centre.

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‘Retro’ can be a malleable term, but generally defines pieces from the 1950s onwards, typified by being made from manmade materials in bold colours. Designs are often deliberately fun: minimalist, space age, or kitsch, including ranges of advertising ware.

Good, original retro pieces can be difficult to find, as the original trends were often relatively specialist, short-lived, and seen as disposable.

Nowadays, however, the retro movement is enjoying a resurgence, and we are lucky enough to have a specialist dealer who’s passionate about this period, as well as fun items regularly popping up across the whole centre. Popular pieces are G plan circular tables where the chairs slot neatly underneath and Ercol is always a favourite with collectors.

Top retro investment pieces include 1950s/60s cocktail bars, which can fetch upwards of £500. Restored Raleigh Chopper bikes start at several hundred pounds, rising to £800 for rarer models.

1950s-70s throwaway packaging is enjoying a boom, so check those cupboards. A complete bottle of classic Fairy Liquid from the 70s fetched £425 recently. Not a bad way to clean up!

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