I am not actually in the market for some new furniture at the moment – although the sofa could do with repair work – but I do enjoy scanning down auction house website catalogues every so often.

When clicking though auctions for domestic interiors though, I have sometimes been surprised not just how expensive some antiques can be, but also how comparatively cheap some can be.

As a long-term watcher of Antique’s Roadshow, I know that for some reason, tables seem to be shockingly expensive for what they are. I presume this is due to rarity, as not many families would have space for, let alone be able to afford a dining table 150+ years ago.

The same for simple looking kitchen chairs. Again I am guessing that the rickey old kitchen chair got thrown on the bonfire rather than restored after its 500th accident, so rarity adds value.

However, counterbalancing that is the seemingly good value that sofa chairs seem to offer.

Accepting that not everyone wants a chair that looks like the sort of thing your granny perpetually sat in when you were a tiny kid – but I often see chairs that could almost be modern – and at prices not that different from the high street. Oddly, actual modern chairs sold at auction are very expensive, because of the designer label.

I sometimes wonder if the people shopping in Ikea or John Lewis realise that they could buy a Victorian or even Georgian era chair for a price comparable to what they are paying for a good modern version?

Two Late 19th Century Victorian Leather Chairs
Estimate £300-£400 each

Eight 19th Century North European Dining Chairs
Estimate £75 – £110 each

Five mid-18th Century Mahogany Dining Chairs (George II era)
Estimate £100 – £125 each

Late Victorian Walnut Wing Armchair (OK, this is the granny chair!)
Estimate £500 – £700

I think that given the choice between a modern bit of mass production furniture and paying maybe 10% more to get something that looks comparable, but is over 100 years old, then I think I would prefer the older item.

The downside is that you can spend ages waiting for just the right item to come up for sale – then get outbid by another buyer. Then again, it took me over two months to buy my current sofa as it was perpetually out of stock and no other shops sold anything I liked.

I wonder how much cheaper items would be at house-clearance type sales as opposed to the rarefied airs of Christie’s as the items above are from.

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3 comments on “Buying new furniture
  1. M says:

    I wouldn’t agree that the white one is a granny chair but that’s probably because I love it. Maybe if the covering was flowery I would agree but the plain white looks great.

    Another advantage of buying an older item is that you know it’s built to last.

  2. Tim Jones says:

    This post really struck a chord with me. I’ve felt the same way for a while. I think it v.much depends on the style of your home. I used to move around a great deal, and it was helpful to define myself by my furniture – just so I didn’t go crazy. I was then following a sort of mid-century French style but using modern repros.; but the point was that it was timeless. Since getting married three years ago, our joint taste has developed around the turn-of-the-century, somewhat nautical, look of the (again repro) Starbay range (starbay.net). What we find now, having forked out for a ‘core’ number of pieces (it ain’t cheap) is that additional – original – furniture fits in just fine; and is much better value for the quality than much modern stuff (as you note).

    The antithesis of all this is the life-style being driven by the DFSs of this world and their up-market equivalents, who would have us all changing or upgrading every 3 years to the latest (made in China) style.

  3. Betty @ French furniture says:

    I love the Late Victorian Walnut Wing Armchair…I agree with M ..its true antique furniture would built to last long..I love old or antique style furniture,,thats why..anyway thanks for sharing some antique chairs here..