Antiques and Collectables
Judith Miller

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No Ordinary Desk. . .

  • Judith Miller
  • 03 Dec 2008, 7:51 AM

A somewhat battered mahogany desk valued by Addisons auctioneers at Barnard Castle in County Durham for £800 went under the hammer for £97,000 including buyer’s premium last Saturday. It was of course no ordinary desk but a 250-year-old desk made by Thomas Chippendale, the 18th century master cabinetmaker and interior designer.

Bidding started at £600 on the 5ft 6ins long desk, which had been used as an office desk in a firm of solicitors since the 1920s; they had decided it was time to modernize their offices and put it into the auction. David Elstob, of Addisons of Barnard Castle, County Durham, said: "They had no expectations of it, they just wanted the desk sold. They couldn't quite believe it when we told them. We took delivery of it and recognised it as a good period partner's desk but we didn't know it was a Chippendale. We didn't have the chance to have a proper look at it because it was a late entry to the sale.”
The auctioneer knew it was a special lot when two well-known dealers came to inspect the desk before the sale. An antiques dealer from the north of England bought it and after restoration it’s thought it could fetch as much as £250,000.

    Fabulous Furniture Sells!

    • Judith Miller
    • 16 Nov 2008, 8:29 AM

    After my post about the difficulties faced by the antique furniture market my attention was drawn to this piece that sold at my old friends Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh. On November 5 this Charles Voysey secretaire went way over its modest £3000-5000 estimate and sold for £70,000 in their Decorative Arts sale. Bought by specialist dealer Paul Reeves,  it was among the exhibits at the 1905 Arts and Crafts Exhibition. The original drawings remain at the Royal Institute of British Architects.

    What does it tell us? There will always be pieces that are desirable and prized by collectors and we should always be aware that articles in the press and reports on our TV screens are often done by people with little knowledge of the detail of the subject they are reporting upon.

      Antique Furniture

      • Judith Miller
      • 15 Nov 2008, 3:31 PM

      There's an interesting article in today's Financial Times about the declining value of antique furniture. On Thursday Christie’s will be disposing of the stock of two of London’s leading dealers in antique furniture. Hotspur, founded in 1924, and Jeremy, which date back to1946, are both ceasing to trade. The official reason  is that the current owners, sons of the founding fathers and close neighbours in Lowndes Street, Belgravia, at 70 have no obvious successors. As the FT says, "it is difficult to ignore the fact that both dealers are giving up after almost a decade of declining fortunes for dealers in traditional English furniture. It is blatantly out of fashion."

        Furniture Prices at Auction

        • Judith Miller
        • 27 Aug 2008, 8:23 AM

        The Cotswold Auction Company has an auction today, so this will probably be too late notice for anyone to get along to their Cheltenham showroom, but the kinds of prices indicated in their catalogue just shows the opportunity to pick up some attractive pieces of furniture at very good prices. Take this late 19th century gothic revival library chair, signed "JAS Shoolbred and Co". They have a guide price of £30 - £50 (with a buyer's 17.5% premium). It's far rom the only interesting piece and their catalogue is online at their web site.


          • Judith Miller
          • 26 Aug 2008, 10:59 AM

          Many of the terms used in association with antiques can sometimes be difficult to fathom as to what they might mean; some use foreign words making it more difficult if you don’t speak the language, but some are very simple and obvious. Perhaps none more so than 'ladder-back' which is a type of chair. Unlike some terms it is not one that applies to a particular period or maker, as many different manufacturers over many years made ladder-back chairs.

          The chair back is made from horizontal slats or spindles between the two uprights; they first appeared in the Middle Ages and became commonplace in England during the 17th Century. They were also to be found in America and by the mid 17th Century chairs made out of walnut for more fashionable homes were introduced; hitherto ladder-backs were generally considered a more rustic furnishing. Over time their began to appear on the top slat, which was often slightly wider, designs. Sometimes these were simple holes to make the lifting and carrying of the chair easier. The ladder-back in the picture is an early 20th century Arts & Crafts chair.