Move over minimalism brown is back

Charles HansonMove over minimalism, antique brown furniture is back and one item in particular is practically perfect for modern homes, says Charles Hanson of Hansons Auctioneers, a regular face on TV’s Antiques Road Trip and Bargain Hunt

Antique Georgian bureauThere’s one piece of old brown furniture that is far from a relic from the past – in fact it’s ideal for modern life. I am talking about the Georgian bureau. This particular example would have been made in about 1820 – nearly 200 years ago. It is a little jaded, perhaps, and displays the odd ink splatter inside. But you would be hard-pressed to find a more practical piece of furniture anywhere – and that’s why I am delighted to see brown furniture coming back into vogue.

Built to last

Some items are not the prettiest and they may be a little rough around the gills. But, unlike some cheaper furniture today, they were built to last – and they have.

Perhaps some people who cast such items aside, believing them to be old fashioned, have failed to realise that older furniture is often perfect for modern day living. Edward Rycroft, head of Hansons’ furniture department, believes early 19th-century bureaus are the perfect fit for modern life. A laptop can be used on the fall front and CD ROMs and DVDs can be placed in the pigeon holes.

From bible box to bureau

The bureau developed from the bible box of the 17th century. Most families at this time had a bible and so a storage box was necessary. The bible box began to be fitted out with internal drawers for other documents and the top became slope fronted, allowing the bible to rest on it while being read. This was the very early stage of a bureau. It’s good to see such a traditional item proving popular again.

Brown is back

For me, brown furniture is the way forward. Far from being boring, solid wood furniture made during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries is showing signs of a renaissance. Recent overall prices have indicated that good-quality pieces in good condition, which are small enough to fit into the average home, are proving to be really popular once again.

The end of minimalism

Fashions go in full circle. We have endured about 15 years of minimalism and are now ready for decoration and ornamentation. Today’s milennials, who have been brought up in minimalist homes crave what they didn’t have. This will rekindle a love for antiques among today’s home-makers, and hopefully future generations. Furniture from the 17th century is already rising in value. Wainscot chairs, stools, settles, long tables, side tables and wall cabinets are already becoming unaffordable.

Investing in antique furniture

Furniture dating to around the time of George I and George II is probably the next area in which to invest. The furniture at this period was often joined and had characteristics of furniture from the 17th century. The whole of the 18th century saw furniture made to a high quality and the period is still often known as the golden age of cabinet making. Craftsmen became competitive and the quality of furniture improved as they all attempted to secure a trade in market.

Practically perfect

However, not all brown furniture is likely to rise in value. Pieces worth investing in will have to be practical and functional in the modern home. These days a good Victorian chest of drawers can cost as little as £50. The largest pieces are the least desirable. But a Georgian bureau is well worth investing in. Most have largely lasted in good condition and have been well looked after, which essentially means that there is a large number of them still around. This has driven the price down and today they can be picked up for as little as £100 to £200. Even at £200 they are still a bargain as a modern reproduction piece would cost into four figures. So, invest while the going is good.


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