Top 10 Things to Look out for when Buying Antique Furniture

Harriet Chavasse of Thakenham FurnitureIf you’re out and about hunting for antiques at a fair or auction house you need to know how to spot the genuine article to avoid costly mistakes. Harriet Chavasse of Thakeham Furniture shares her ‘Top 10 Things to Look out for when Buying Antique Funiture’.

1. Does the piece have its original finish, or has it been repolished – does it have a shiny ‘plastic’ finish or the nice smooth patina of age?

2. Look underneath, study the back, check for loose joints – when buying chairs see if they wobble when you sit on them. Good restorers are hard to come by and can be costly.

3. Do the drawers glide easily in and out? – if not, the drawer runners might be worn and need replacing.

Example of woodworm damage in wood4. Check for woodworm – look for the tell-tale holes. Tap the holes; if dust comes out, the worm is alive. The problem is treatable, so do not let a few holes put you off buying.

5. Are the handles original? Often handles have been replaced, but check that they are a good quality replacement, in keeping with the piece.

6. Is it ‘right’? – sometimes an old top is put onto a newer table base – in what’s called a ‘marriage’. Look for inconsistencies of colour and any unexplained screw holes under the top. This could affect the item’s value.

7. Are there any new sections – such as legs, shelves or backboards? There should never be any plywood in a genuine antique. Plywood wasn’t made until about 1920.

AuctionRoom8. If you are buying at auction, be aware that the buyer’s premium can often add as much as 27% to the bid price.

9. We recommend buying from a member of one of the respected trade associations such as Lapada or Bada – these dealers follow a strict code of practice.

10. Trust your eye – does the piece ‘stand’ well? If the proportions look wrong, it probably is wrong. Go with your taste – you will be looking at and enjoying this piece everyday for years!

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