Meet our new columnist, Chris Yeo, expert on BBC Antiques Roadshow, Valuer at Clevedon Salerooms and Curator of the Ken Stradling Collection in Bristol
In 30 years of happily working in antiques, the question I am asked the most is what will be the next Big Thing to buy and collect? Modesty and the absence of a working crystal ball normally leads me to side-step this question but today, just for you, I am going to stick my neck out: Right now, antique furniture represents outrageous value for money and you should buy it while it is still going for a song. You’re welcome.
Admittedly, this is not so much a prediction, more a statement of the patently obvious. Georgian and Victorian “brown furniture” (the rather derogatory term used by the Trade to describe honest, workaday furniture made from oak, mahogany or walnut) used to be the bread and butter of the antiques trade but, as the iron-grip of minimalism took hold its popularity went into freefall, and prices have been in the doldrums for years. Now, after 20 years of being in thrall to MDF and on-the-cheap Scandi chic, there are signs that the pendulum of fashion is starting to swing again and prices may soon be on the rise.
And for good reasons. For over 200 years the British made the best furniture in the world, nobody came close. The cream of it might now be in stately homes but there are still beautiful pieces to be found that are well-made and will last several lifetimes.
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear – and it’s a huge bugbear – is that antique furniture is “so expensive”. I challenge anyone to find a brand-new piece of furniture for the same price you would pay at auction for a similar antique version. And there is more good news: brown furniture is green. Alongside carbon footprint considerations, with most mass-produced furniture destined for landfill, buying second-hand really is the best option for the environment.
There is a phenomenal choice of furniture out there – much of it to be found online. My advice would be to think carefully about your needs, look around and only buy something you really love – not for any potential investment. Unless, unlike me you have a reliable crystal ball. You will be rewarded with years of service from furniture that brings pleasure into your life every day.