Friday, 30 October 2015

Country Antiques - 5 Top Tips for mixing the old with the new

With over 30 years of experience in buying and selling country antiques and designing country interiors, here are five top tips that we have found useful over the years.

1) Pick your theme.  The theme will likely depend on your starting point.  It may be that you have a 300 year old country cottage (that's where we started out!) or you may have a more modern house in a country setting.  The essence will be whether you have an old setting with modern accents or vice versa.  One thing we have learned is that 50/50 old and new doesn't really work - so start in the older style and add a few new pieces or vice versa.  The room may be formal or informal in its style - the antique pieces can determine the character of the room.

2) Get statement pieces and accessories.  By all means look for a statement piece for the room you are designing and decorating.  A large antique pine table or dresser can form the centre piece of a kitchen or dining area but its impact will almost certainly be enhanced by a few carefully chosen accessories.  A modern setting with new furniture and fittings can also be drawn into the country theme by the smaller items that are around the room

3) Don't worry about matching the age unless you really need to.  A lot is often said in the antique world about exactly matching the age of the antique to the room setting you are creating.  We can certainly understand this if, for example the house and room has a distinctive, say, arts and crafts history, but in most instances an exact match is not necessary - it is the style and look that is important.  We would even extend this thought to the materials that the antique pieces are made of - there is a real benefit in different types of wood and metal being brought together to highlight the style of the pieces being used

4) Country Antiques can be a lot less expensive than new items.  Country antiques are often very inexpensive - certainly compared to modern reproductions and design creations.  Look for original pieces with character that were well made from quality materials - they will certainly last another lifetime

5) Always buy on condition.  We always buy our antiques on their condition (and completeness) and on their functionality - make sure everything works if there are moving parts!  Don't buy anything that is damaged or in poor condition.  There are plenty around to choose from so unless it is something really special - keep looking.  Many items can be cleaned and restored where necessary at minimal cost.  A good clean and wax treatment can work wonders for an older piece of wooden furniture.

More information, ideas and examples can be found at our website

Friday, 10 July 2015

Unique Antiques for Cottages

Over the years, and by working with many leading interior designers, we have found that there is always strong interest in unique genuine pieces of rustic furniture or decorative items of superior quality. The materials used in these older pieces are of very high quality and the workmanship is often exemplary. Each has its own character, patina and, of course, history.  

One of our specialisations is selecting genuine antique (over 100 years old) pieces that complement the interiors and decor of country cottages.  Here are some examples

Antique oak and pine tables are always favourites.  An example of one of our large pine kitchen tables is shown below - this is a genuine Victorian table with beautiful colour.

Large antique Victorian pine kitchen table
Smaller items also work well in helping to develop the ideal cottage style interior.  We came across a unique small antique slipper box and bench (top opens for storage).  This is now in the hallway of a traditional English country cottage

Victorian pine bench and slipper box
Different woods can be matched to create interest and contrast in the cottage interior. Sometimes we find fine antique furniture in genuinely rare woods.  This is an example of a fine antique Georgian (c 1800) gateleg table in Virginia walnut

Georgian Virginia Walnut gateleg table
And finally an example for something unusual for the bedroom or child room.  A great idea for a doll or teddy bear collector.  A fully working Victorian metamorphic high chair and rocking chair.  Now with its new owner in Australia

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

5 Top Tips for Online Sellers of Antique Furniture

Whether you are a a dealer or private seller of antique furniture looking to sell via the internet here are a few tips that we can pass on.

As owners of and we have over 20 years experience of selling online via the internet.

Rule 1 - Be Honest About Condition.  If you are selling online, and the buyer is relying on photos and condition reports, it pays to be absolutely honest about any flaws and imperfections no matter how minor.  If some element of the furniture is not original then say so - and if possible say what has been changed and when.  The best scenario is that when the piece arrives with its new owner they say "Wow!  This is even better than in the photos" - you really don't want to disappoint the new owner.  Who knows - they may be looking to buy another piece from you in the future and if you are a dealer - reputation really does matter

Rule 2 - The More Photos the Better.  Take photos of your furniture from every angle.  Front, back, sides, top, underneath, inside cupboards and drawers.  Close ups of handles and any unique features.  Close ups of any flaws or damage.  Pay attention to getting the colour correct - if possible photograph in natural daylight with an even light over the whole piece.  A good selection of photos shows that you have nothing to hide and that the piece really is as you have described it

Rule 3 - Dimensions and Measurements.  We are always surprised how many sellers of antique furniture do not include comprehensive measurements in the description of their tables, chairs, desks, bookcases etc.  We are surprised because as experienced dealers the first question we are asked (and we ask the client) is "will it fit". Not only will it fit in the room or space identified but will it fit through the doorway or up the stairs when it comes to delivery!

Rule 4 - Delivery.  This can be a difficult topic for many online sellers of antique furniture.  Whether the delivery is local, national or international it is an important factor in terms of who pays, the cost and the professionalism of the transporter (there is nothing worse than a beautiful antique chair arriving with its new owner in its component pieces).  Serious sellers of antique furniture take delivery very seriously and always factor in the cost of professional delivery by specialists (who are fully insured!)

                                     Excellent Antique Georgian Walnut Padfoot Gateleg Table

Rule 5 - Prices.  Be transparent with your pricing and, above all, realistic. If the price is too high it just won't sell.  The great thing about the internet is that it allows prospective buyers to view a number of similar items and in many instances to see historic price details and trends.  If the piece you are selling is genuinely different in terms of superior quality, condition and provenance then make sure that it is properly described and that the photos and other information back up the superior price being asked.

So - 5 rules for successful and profitable online sales of antique furniture via the internet.  As mentioned above we have successfully been part of this market place for over 20 years.

Examples of the items we have sold can be viewed via our online archives - as follows:

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Antiques - The Devil (and $$) is Always in the Detail

A message to buyers and sellers of antiques alike.

The details really do matter.

Take two very similar antique writing desks.  Same size. Same style. Both mahogany. Both are said to date date from the mid Victorian Period.  Both have leather writing surfaces.  Superficially both look great in the internet photos and are described as being in excellent condition.

But in reality they are different animals and have very different values.

Look more closely.  Even without worrying about the "condition" the details tell the story. 

Simple things.  Quality brass fittings, brass lever locks stamped with the makers mark - with a set of original keys.  Brass wheeled castors - again with matching makers mark.  All the handles are original and match. The screws mounting the fittings are original and have never been moved since new. Beautiful hand cut dovetail joints to the drawer fronts.  Oak lined drawers.  The leather top is original with great patina and a hand tooled border, nicely rubbed and faded.  The veneers match and are symmetrical in all the right places.  Just the right amount of fading to the top and front of the desk to show that this is an original item that has been lovingly cared for. Even marks and scratches all speak to the originality of the desk.

And - the icing on the cake - the original makers mark and address stamped on several of the drawer fronts.  Excellent!  All of these details speak to an original desk of the highest quality and highly desirable in todays world.

The contrast becomes more obvious with the other item.  The "brass" fittings are modern replacement replica's - they are just too shiny.  The colour of the desk is too bright - the wax is fresh.  The leather top is unmarked and straight "out of the box" - the gilded tooling is of a "standard" pattern and is almost blindingly bright.  The drawer bottoms are flimsy and not lined.  The locks are brass but have very simple brand new keys.  And so on.......... Most tellingly the underside of the desk top and the pedestals is CLEAN! 

Real antiques, of real age,  are DIRTY in all those hidden areas - years of real dirt that describe years of history

So it doesn't matter whether you are looking at a piece of antique furniture like the desk above, or a piece of jewellery, or ceramics or silver - it really pays to look closely at the details.  Do your homework on what  the details of a top quality piece should look like and beware anything that just doesn't fit with that picture.

There are fakes around.  Some will be very obvious.  Some will be declared up front as "replicas" or "reproduction".  But others will be much harder to spot. If in doubt consult an expert in the field.  Someone who has handled dozens, even hundreds, of the original items and know what details are "right" and which are "wrong".  Even down to what is original "dirt" and what has been applied last week to make the piece look a hundred years old.

Buyers - be prepared to pay a premium for originality and correctness. 

Sellers - make sure you get full value for your original antique - and make sure that you stress that all the details are present and correct to make sure you get full value for your genuine antique.

Here is an example of a genuine example of a  Childs Metamorphic High Chair c1905.  All original fittings and mechanism.  Original seating material - undamaged.  Original label in place (Farmer Lane, London).  All original screws.  Dirty in all the right places around the mechanism but in full working order.  All that is required for retail sale is cleaning and a gentle waxing and oiling.

See more of this chair at

A wide range of genuine antique items can be viewed in the archives of our two websites - lots of photos so you can check all those "devilish details" !



Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Size Does Matter in the World of Antiques

Is there a premium for the smaller versions of classic antiques?

In many instances the answer is a resounding - YES

We trade in classic antique furniture and decorative antiques via our two websites and and we invariably find that smaller, high quality pieces find a new home quicker and at a relatively higher price

Why is this?

There are probably several reasons.

Firstly smaller pieces - especially furniture - fit much better into modern homes.  It is possible to mix modern and antique items into many room settings if the antique piece doesn't dominate the space - hence the appeal to someone who just wants an occasional antique and not a room full (very few people actually want to decorate their homes exclusively in antiques).

A second reason may be that smaller pieces are often very well made and a true tribute to the craftsmen and women of yesteryear.  The tactile nature of many small pieces is extremely attractive and pleasing to the eye.  In many pieces the proportions of a small piece just work better at that scale.

Of course if you are a collector you can also fit a lot more small items into a given space than if you collect large things - again very few people have a barn big enough to accumulate lots of large things - just for the sake of collecting them.  Hence small pieces of silver, jewellery, portrait miniatures etc all remain very popular,  as do many varieties of ceramics.

So, our hypothesis is that small antiques are more popular than large pieces.

From a dealers point of view they sell faster and when you line a large piece up against an equivalent smaller piece,  the smaller one often has a proportionately higher value.

Here is an examples of a smaller equivalent that sold very well for us recently

This is a beautiful small Antique Victorian Partners Desk in mahogany made by Fitch of London.  Measuring only 137cm(w) x 91cm(d) x 77cm(h).  It has a total of 18 drawers - 9 to each side - fantastic proportions and symmetry.  Sold for approx 30% premium over an equivalent 183cm wide larger partners desk.  See more at

More examples of premium small antiques and smaller items of rustic and cottage furniture be seen in the Antiques4Cottages archive at