The Week magazine joined the “Antiques are Green” brigade in its November 22nd issue, reiterating what the Daily Telegraph said the week before – collecting “brown” antique furniture, like Victorian dining chairs and dressing tables, is a low-cost environmentally-friendly way to furnish your home – and now is the time to buy.
You’re unlikely to find Chippendale antique desks or Gillows Victorian dining chairs “going for a song”, even in Preston. What you will find are lots of reasonably-priced ordinary items. But this doesn’t mean mass-produced tat. Judith Miller, editor of the Miller’s antique price guide, cites a pre-Victorian chest as an example. Solidly hand-crafted from sturdy mahogany or oak, it will last 500 years, yet is cheaper than a flatpack equivalent. What’s more, it’s far more environmentally friendly.
Modern buyers will argue that a lot of today’s furniture is made from recycled wood. This is true, but it takes a lot of energy to turn old wood into chipboard, not to mention the environmental costs of manufacturing and transport. And then there’s the longevity of the piece. Most flatpack furniture has a short lifespan, and can’t be reused. So it ends up in the landfill, while the owner goes off to buy a replacement. Georgian antique desks last forever, with a craftsmanship no modern piece can ever hope to emulate.
Antique traders have noticed a subtle upward trend in auction prices, suggesting that people are at last waking up to the allure of buying antiques. Victorian dining chairs, for example, are suddenly in demand and rising in price. Judith Miller offers some timely advice to buyers: purchase “harlequin sets” of similarly-modelled chairs, rather than a matching set, which has a higher price. Antique shops in Lancashire often have lots of bargains available to snap up – for example, many dealers have mismatched Victorian dining chairs in Preston and the surrounding area, so look around.