In with the old if you want an investment you can live with
Property prices are rising, but furnishing your home with antiques could also be an excellent addition. Sharon Dale reports.
PROPERTY prices are rising and buyers are clamouring to put their money into bricks and mortar, but what’s inside could also pay dividends if you adopt an “out with the new and in with the old” approach.
The antiques trade is showing signs of revival and now is the time to buy period and collectable homeware, according to expert Judith Miller.
“The very top end has been very resilient throughout the recession and high quality items in good condition with good provenance have been breaking records. Chinese Imperial Ware is achieving world record prices thanks to Chinese billionaires. They are buying it because during the Mao period they weren’t allowed to know anything about their country’s history, so there is a huge amount of interest.
“In general though, the business has been through a very difficult period. Many shops have closed and prices for mid to low end pieces have fallen. This means that it is a very good time to buy, especially as the market looks as though it is starting to improve,” says Judith, whose latest books include a new edition of industry bible the Antiques and Collectables Handbook and Price Guide and The Antiques Encylopaedia.
“All the indicators point to reinvigoration and some of the dealers who owned shops are now trading online and others are selling from antiques centres. It’s certainly not all doom and gloom.”
If you’re thinking of investing and are on a low budget, Judith predicts that unfashionable brown furniture and Victoriana could soon see an upturn in value.
Interior trends suggest that she may be right. The fashion for bold patterns and ornate designs would certainly support the heavy, decorative 19th century style.
“My feeling is that the prices have dropped so low that the only way is up, and some of the Victorian pieces can be very useful. You can get a fantastic, solid mahogany chest of drawers for less than £200. It will last forever and it certainly won’t lose its value, unlike a new set of drawers from Ikea.”
Although she wouldn’t advise painting a Chippendale chair, she isn’t against a lick of Farrow and Ball or Annie Sloan.
“I don’t have any problem at all with people painting old brown furniture. It helps pieces fit in with a modern scheme and you can always strip the paint off.”
If you want to play safe with your money, then Art Deco and Arts and Crafts pieces are perennial favourites with collectors. Deco is especially fashionable thanks to renewed interest in the glamorous Jazz Age sparked by the recent Gatsby film.
Although it can be expensive, you can get some of the more common Susie Cooper and Clarice Cliff pottery at very reasonable prices , according to Judith
You could also look out for Art Nouveau items, which are not as popular and therefore more affordable.
For furniture hunters who can’t afford Georgian and who don’t want the large, heavy designs, typical of the late 19th and early 20th century, then mid century modern is an excellent era to target.
Furniture and accessories from the 50s and 60s look fantastic in both old and new homes and prices are buoyant. Originals by Eames and Scandinavian designers like Alvar Aalto and Finn Juhl are much sought-after. A 1950 Tank lounge chair by Aalto is now valued at £5,000.
Cheaper, but creeping up in value, are Ercol and G Plan pieces. The latter’s dralon, swivel egg chairs sell for between £100 and £300 and Ercol’s pebble nests of tables also fetch up to £300.
“Outstanding post Second World War design has, in many cases, quadrupled in the last few years. The styles are in tune with younger taste,” says Judith, who is a regular expert on the Antiques Roadshow, where she has spotted plenty of fakes.
“You have to be wary. Some things were faked as lot, like Lalique glass and Chinese pottery. If you’re just staring out collecting antiques out do lots of research. Read books on the subject, visit museums, stately homes and exhibitions. If you’re interested in ceramics go to places like the V&A and learn to spot factory marks. It also helps to buy from a good dealer or auction house.”
Judith is an avid collector and at the moment her passions are for period costume jewellery, Chinese and English ceramics from the 18th century or before and Monart glass, which as made in Scotland between 1924 and 1961. She also has a serious chair addiction.
Although she doesn’t buy as much these days, she still loves to shop for a bargain.
“Why have money in the bank when interest rates are so low? It’s far better to have invest it in something you love that’s nice to look at, although you have to be aware that antiques are a long term investment,” she says.
“I buy a bit online but I prefer to handle things myself. That’s all part of the experience for me. I love events like Antiques for Everyone at the NEC. I found a Royal Worcester saucer with a rare man in the moon mark there, which was very exciting.
“My best advice would be to buy what you love and you never know.
“We see it on the Antiques Roadshow all the time. People buy a vase at a car boot sale for £3 and find out it’s a Moorcroft worth £3,000.”
GOING UP: A Finn Juhl teak and leather Chieftain chair designed in 1949, valued at £3,500; left, a Clarice Cliff Bizarre tea set, valued at between £900 and £1,000; centre, a Roycroft Ali Baba bench with orb and cross mark, valued at £6,000; right, a Flight, Barr & Barr Worcester teacup and saucer worth £260.