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Changing Tastes & Trends in English Furniture

By Colin Stair

18th Century London Tradesmen’s Card

Today’s market is a very different one for the world of antique English furniture from decades past. The shift in taste started, in my mind, about twelve years ago. Others differ in their opinion of exactly when it changed, but it did, and we have to move forward in the current market.

When thinking of all of the furniture in the market, you may wonder: “What happens to pieces that are deemed unsaleable?” A fun answer to that is Lot 100, which includes a lamp that was formerly a chair leg! It makes me wonder where the rest of the chair is!

Great opportunity is in the air, and if plucked correctly, the fruits could be sweet! During the course of a year, we probably sell between 800 to 1,000 pieces of antique English furniture (let’s define this time frame as between Charles II, 1660–1685 and Queen Victoria, 1819–1901). Out of that group, there are some real bargains, many have condition issues, some with major repairs, but some are lovely specimens worth a second look.

Lot 278: George III Style Oak Welsh Dresser

For instance, Lot 278 in our February 21st Exposition auction is a good quality Welsh oak dresser, circa 1830, with a nice old soft surface and a beautiful patina. With an estimate of $800-1,200, how can one go wrong? Twenty years ago this piece would have cost between $5,000-10,000.


Lot 14: Pair of a Regency Mahogany and Rosewood Crossbanded Console Tables

Another lot in the February 21st auction which caught my eye was Lot 14, a pair of Regency console tables, though they have later tops and backboards, and the mirror plates are questionable, they are stylish, very useful and saleable at $1,000-1,500. Our consignor purchased them from a good dealer in New York, and they will likely be bought for a fraction of their once retail splendor.

Even though tastes have changed, the market is ripe with great pieces of furniture at terrific values. Furnishing your home can be done affordably with a nod to the past but also to the present, because what was old will surely be “new” again in time!

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