During time in lockdown, I finally got round to giving some of my wooden furniture a well-deserved dust and polish. Since prehistoric times, we’ve made furniture to store, protect and display precious items; so what do our choices say about us?
Traders aside, not many people have the space and budget to call themselves ‘furniture collectors’! With people choosing what appeals to them for everyday use, antique furniture documents trends and tastes back through time like almost nothing else.
Hardwearing and attractive, antique and vintage wooden furniture remains enduringly popular, and a ‘greener’ option than newly-produced MDF. There is undoubtedly an antique cabinet, dresser, bureau, bookcase, sideboard or tallboy out there for every design preference and storage need!
This 1920s oak buffet sideboard is a good example. Based on a Victorian design, This one is currently in the centre priced £75.
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You don’t have recognise labels like Baroque, Palladian, Queen Anne Rococo, Chinoiserie and Gothic to be instinctively drawn to a style. Whatever pleases you most, look for pieces which are well made and in good condition.
If authenticity is non-negotiable, search for anything that shouldn’t be there. Plywood was introduced in the 1930s, so a ‘Georgian’ cabinet won’t have a plywood back or underside!
Similarly, chipboard, staples or Phillips screws are evidence of later construction or repair.
Certain woods often match certain styles. Exotics like mahogany arrived to join indigenous oak and walnut after trade started with the West Indies in the mid 18th century, with Rosewood arriving from India in the 19th. Maple and satinwood were favoured for veneers, and ash and birch means some Victorian furniture is much brighter than expected.
Your budget may not stretch to a Chippendale or Gillow, but there are many affordable pieces, especially if you are happy to give them some love. You can benefit from fashions, like the plummet in popularity of Victorian ‘brown furniture’ a few years ago.
In short, if a piece does the job you want it for and will give you pleasure to look at every day, the pleasure you derive from it into the future is the very best kind of investment.