Rare and beautiful objects never go out of style, while good craftsmanship speaks for itself.
Moreover, it’s difficult to beat the charm and interest a good antique or vintage piece brings to any setting. When you add the fact that an antique grows in value over time, the initial investment is money well spent. The craftsmanship of earlier times created truly beautiful furniture can’t be replicated in the same way today. It is impossible to do so in any kind of cost effective way.
Here is an opportunity to make a wise purchase for both love and money.
Who (or what) do you love? You don’t want to miss an exceptional find because you don’t have a clue about what appeals to you in advance. In the same way you determined what your personal style is, (and by extension the style of home you want to live in), the same process is used here.
However, as with any significant investment in high quality, it’s important to educate yourself before you take the plunge. You need a knowledgeable overview of what you find most appealing.
Antique furniture can be segregated into four broad categories; English, European, American and Far Eastern. You might begin with an investigation into each category to distinguish the features that are consistent to the category and which of these you prefer.
Browsing with an adventurous and open-minded outlook as well as a scholarly approach, can net you unexpected “found” treasures. You could start out looking for an English side table but find yourself transfixed by the beauty of a pair of French Fauteuil (Fauteuil are otherwise known as “chairs”).
Fortunately, the pursuit of your higher education can easily start near home with the fine antique stores in the area. Augment your knowledge with scholarly tours through libraries and attending lectures and seminars.
While you’re at it, pore over auction catalogs and go to auction viewing rooms. These are also great places to see, handle and learn about antique furniture. There is no substitute for seeing and handling real furniture and accessories. It’s the best way to learn. You can’t appreciate the difference between a hand rubbed wood finish that has the patina of age and the standard wood finish you see on most new furniture, unless you see for yourself first hand.
Don’t be shy. Ask questions. Good dealers want to share their knowledge. It’s in their best interest that you are a well-informed buyer who understands the quality, the market and the value of their inventory.
While the best advice is always to buy the highest quality you can afford, a fine antique need not be museum quality (with the consequent price tag) to find a place in your home. There is such a thing as an excellent and reasonably priced antique. Think in terms of “usable antiques” such as small tables, or chests of drawers.
Another avenue to explore is high quality reproductions. There are times when it’s neither practical nor cost effective to wait for the perfect specimen to arrive on the market. Dining tables are a good case in point. The table of your dreams might not only be quite expensive, but if you do find it eventually, there’s an excellent chance that it won’t be a workable size. Antique French farm house tables are a good example of this.
Those in good condition can cost upwards of $10,000 and classic dimensions are 32″ wide by 10 feet long!
In a case such as this, a reproduction of the table you crave can be made to order, with workmanship, finishes and patina so fine, only a seasoned expert would be able to distinguish it from the original.
You did your homework, legwork and finally, you found It!
You love It, but where do you put It?
The most modern way to create beautiful rooms is to learn how to incorporate high end pedigreed furnishings with your own modest possessions or even interesting flea market finds.
There are two schools of thought on how to incorporate antiques with your current acquisitions. One school says, “Think in terms of contrast and juxtaposition.” This concept works best if you use pieces from different time periods. For example, what if you placed a very modern steel and leather chair from the 50’s next to an antique Japanese Tansu? The design quality of both stands out in high relief.
How do you make that work, again? Pulling this approach off throughout a whole room so it looks like you know what you’re doing is tricky. It can backfire to the point of complete discord.
Which brings us to the other school of thought, which takes a more deliberately harmonious stand…
Start here: Forget identifying the pieces by place and time, but rather just notice the color, shape, size, texture and/or design of the pieces you have chosen for your setting.
- What are the specific details of each item?
- Where do you see repetition or similarity in shape, size, curve, angle, color and/or design?
- How do the pieces reference each other? How about patterns that relate to each other by design and/or color?
For example, you might have two lamps that are different but are the same height with similar coloration or composition of materials. They could work flanking a sofa on either side if they both have the same type of lampshade.
When you use this visual process, the provenance of each item becomes coincidental. An unexpected combination of elements can elevate the aesthetic level from the “nicely decorated but ordinary” to “A Really Great Looking Room”.
Learn how to mix the Lux with the Lowly and you’ll look like a Genius.
Don’t forget the building blocks of good design.
The idea is to create a composition in three-dimensional space.
Put everything in place and ask yourself:
- Does your vignette looks balanced?
- Does the scale work? A small delicate item sitting next to a massive heavy object just looks wrong .
- Do all the assigned furniture and accessories work in relationship to each other or is any one piece placed too far out of the picture?
- Do you have a range of light, medium and dark tones?
- Is there a color punch somewhere?
Did you know that cocktail tables didn’t even exist before the 1920’s?
Don’t neglect to think outside of the box and be creative. That fabulous antique chest you just spied could also be used as a coffee table and your living room will be more interesting for the addition.
An historically accurate room that looks and feels like a time capsule isn’t a living space.
You want an environment that’s out of the ordinary because of judicious use of carefully selected, unique and special furniture and accessories. The final goal is to create rooms that you love to be in, the place you call “Home”. No decorating scheme should be so rigidly constructed that it can’t accommodate a “found treasure”.
This is true even if it takes awhile for the “found treasure” to land in the place where it will fit in the best. In the end, the provenance of an antique doesn’t matter as much as how it appeals to you.
“Home” means your rooms are meant to be lived in with objects you love.