Monday, 11 July 2011

Top 10 Tips for Buying Antique Furniture

I get lots of emails from people who are in the market for a piece of antique furniture but don't want to get ripped off (no surprise there). Here are my top 10 tips to keep in mind when buying antiques....

Be Prepared! If you're visiting antique fairs or auctions and have a piece of furniture in mind, say a chest of drawers, make sure you measure the area it is supposed to fit before you go. Useful things to take with you are a tape measure, camera, notebook and pen. For early morning antiques fairs you should definitely take a waterproof jacket/coat (if you don't it will rain, every time). Also a good tip is a hot flask for tea or coffee - it is very cold at 5am even in the summer months.

Unless a piece of furniture has been hidden away under a shroud of blankets in a country mansion for donkeys years, you should expect to see certain signs of everyday wear and tear that the hustle and bustle of life inflicts on furniture over time. Always look to see if the wear and tear on a piece of furniture is convincing and consistent - you would see normal wear on arms, legs and handles. Also, any screws, nails, handles and corners should have small patches of discolouration around them.

The patina and colour of a piece of furniture is acquired by a hundred years of exposure to light, daily use and regular polishing/waxing. You would expect to see marks and scratches over a long period of time, if not it may mean the surface has been stripped back and re-polished thereby losing the wonderful patina of 100+ years of use.

Never pick a chair up by its arms, always hold it underneath. Chairs are most liable to loose joints or broken legs so always check the joints carefully. You don't want to be left holding the leg and the rest of the chair crumbles around you.

Always check the proportions of a piece of furniture and ensure that each of the drawers were made in the same way and of the same wood.

Painted furniture was popular from the mid 18th century to the early 20th century and often pieces were repainted to reflect the fashion of the day. Fake antique painted furniture is often convincingly replicated because it incorporates a realistic distressed effect. Always closely examine the paintwork - there should be obvious layers of paint with dirt in between each layer. Dark wax is used to copy this effect and you may be able to smell it if recently applied.

Unhappy marriages in furniture can usually be spotted straightaway by looking at any variations in construction, proportion and colour-matching.

From unhappy marriage to divorce! Many pieces of early antique furniture were cut down to fit a smaller room size. These pieces are more difficult to spot but always look for unusual fading or other inconsistent marks.

With tables always check the table top and base are made from the same wood or veneering and check there aren't any unusual marks underneath.

Finally, watch out for the 19th century revivals of certain styles - you can spot a reproduction piece if it has exaggerated details, is made of exotic timber or the decoration is a mixture of styles.


    1. This is a great post. So happy that you have become a follower and I am now following your lovely blog back.

    2. Hi Laura

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments & for following the West Egg blog!

      Best wishes,

    3. Another point to add is just simply to check online for the authenticity of the peice that you are thinking about purchasing antique furniture. Nothing is worse than being convinced of the authenticity of an item and then being told by an auctoneer that it is a fake, do your research!

    4. Hi antique chairs, I completely agree - buyer beware!

    5. The quality of your blogs and conjointly the articles and price appreciating.
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    6. Hi there

      Nice read and thank you for all the tips

      We are the UK's best place for antiques, art and vintage items, there are thousands of pieces from hundreds of dealers. Take a look at our Antiques Boutique site.

      Thanks and look forward to the next article

      All the best
      Lydia :) x