Antique furniture is cheaper, in real terms, than it has been since the 1990s – most pieces have stayed roughly the same price for the last 15 years, while some, such as sets of dining chairs and the larger bits like tallboys and sideboards, have come well down in price. Antique furniture has generally been undervalued in relation to other arts, so if you’re buying something you love that is in good condition, the chances are it will be a good investment. A modern piece of furniture is worth next to nothing by the time you get it home.
Machine tools as we know them were not really developed until the second half of the 19th century, so all furniture was made by hand by highly skilled cabinetmakers. Apprenticeships were 7 years – not surprising when you consider the level of skills necessary. Examine the dovetails on the little drawers on ANY Georgian toilet mirror, and you will find the finest ‘pins and ‘tails’, cut to needle point precision with a fine saw. Beautifully made and built to last.
The trouble with buying ‘shabby chic’ or whatever the latest trend is … exactly that! It is the latest fashion, and a soon as things move on you’re left with an outdated ‘look’. Georgian furniture, in particular, has a classical timeless elegance. Its simplicity of design goes so well in contemporary settings, and never dates.
Buying antiques is the ultimate in re-using and re-cycling. In September 2010 a carbon footprint analysis was commissioned of an antique chest of drawers against its modern equivalent. The study, conducted by Carbon Clear, an independent consultancy specialising in carbon accounting, finally puts a figure on just how eco-friendly buying antiques can be: the new item had a carbon footprint 16 times higher than the antique! The analysis compared the greenhouse gas emissions produced during the lifespan of two chests of drawers; one constructed in 1830 with an assumed lifespan of 195 years, during which time it has been restored and sold twice and, the other, a new piece of similar value available from a reputable high street retailer with an assumed lifespan of 15 years.
Create your home, not a show home. One of the great things about buying antiques is you are never going to spot that exact same piece in somebody else’s house! Contemporary eclectic style mixes antique with 20th century and modern for your own unique look.