Forget Ikea – all the best bargains are antiques: They’ve fallen so out of fashion that they can be the CHEAPEST choice
- Research shows the number of people under age 45 buying antiques has risen
- Radhika Sanghani recounts filling her first home in London using antiques
- She believes there’s never been a better time to find a serious bargain
- She recalls turning a 1950s oak desk bought for £250 into a kitchen table
- Radhika advised on buying pre-loved items, haggling and attending auctions
When I look around my home, with its bright velvet armchair, built-in bookshelves and carefully hung artwork, my eye always stops on the same few pieces.
They aren’t necessarily the biggest or the most expensive items. But they’re the things that really make my house into a home.
There are lamps, chairs and tables that I woke up at 5am to buy. A mirror whose price I haggled over in the biting cold, before lugging it to my car. These pieces weren’t delivered in a factory-fresh box, but are antiques with their own stories.
I never thought I’d become an antiques lover. While my dad has always loved poking around flea markets, looking for dusty record players and clocks, I found it endlessly dull. I’d side with my mum, who tutted as Dad’s antiques cluttered up the matching oak furniture and Laura Ashley fabrics of our family home.
Radhika Sanghani (pictured) revealed how antiques can be a cheap and sustainable way to decorate homes
My generation, meanwhile, has become more accustomed to ‘fast’ everything — from fashion lines that change every few weeks in the High Street stores, to cheap and easy furniture from the likes of Ikea which can be updated to fit in with every passing interior trend.
But, just as we’ve grown tired of the endless treadmill of clothing trends, and are now seeking out sustainable options, more consumers are turning away from the uniformity of High Street furniture shops and powering the sales of antiques.
Antiques search engine Barnebys, which monitors more than 2,000 auction houses, says its furniture sales rose by 32 per cent last year. There’s been a particular increase in interest from people under 45 — most of all millennials in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are kitting out their first flat. And there’s never been a better time to buy antiques. In recent years, they fell so far out of fashion that prices plummeted, so today, you can pick up some serious bargains. That’s especially true of ‘brown furniture’, as heavy pieces made of dark woods such as mahogany and oak are dismissively known.
Prices for such items have fallen 45 per cent since 2002, says the Antique Collectors Club. As a result, you could spend less on a genuine treasure, built to last in the 19th century, than on a flimsy piece from a cool modern brand.
I turned to antiques two years ago to decorate my London flat. It was the first place I’d owned, so I didn’t have loads to spend.
The likes of Instagram and Pinterest featured identical Oliver Bonas and Made.com pieces leaning against sofas from Loaf. I didn’t want my home to be a copy of anyone else’s.
Radhika (pictured) bought a £250 Fifties oak desk from Sunbury Antiques Market in Kempton, that could be repurposed as a kitchen table
So, when a friend recommended I visit Sunbury Antiques Market in Kempton, I agreed to join the throngs hunting for hidden gems. That day, I picked up a Fifties oak desk for £250, to repurpose as a kitchen table, and a simple dark wooden chest for £35, which I use as a coffee table.
Since then, I’ve learned to talk to dealers, to ask about a piece and understand its price. I carry a measuring tape, carefully sizing up items. It’s a much slower process than ordering online — but so much more fulfilling.
I’ll never forget the joy of discovering a Twenties drinks trolley for £50 — especially after I then found mass-produced High Street copies for five times the price.
Pontus Silfverstolpe, co-founder of Barnebys, says: ‘Millennials know antiques are better for your carbon footprint and they also want unique, personal and quality items that last.’
Best of all, swapping flat-pack favourites for unique labours of love means you’ll end up with a home full of stories — your own and those of the pieces you buy.
It took me almost two years to fully decorate my home, but the end result is original and perfectly merges the old with the new.
Radhika (pictured) says it took her two years to decorate her London home, but it now perfectly merges the old with the new
Clever ways to snap up furniture for a song
ASK THE EXPERTS
At a ‘vetted’ fair, experts check every piece on sale is genuine. ‘I recommend our fair at Olympia in London, which is being held this month and in November,’ says Mary Claire Boyd, fair director at The Arts and Antiques Fair Olympia.
haggle… but not too hard
‘Dealers will often come down in price, so there’s no harm in asking,’ says antiques dealer Jeroen Markies.
‘But don’t haggle as if you were in a foreign market by halving the price. It’s more likely that you’ll get 10 to 15 per cent off.’
START WITH AN ACCESSIBLE ERA
If you’re new to antiques, don’t set out hunting for rare 16th and 17th-century pieces — try starting with 20th-century furniture. ‘Talking about 17th-century early oak is more intimidating than, for example, browsing Fifties lamps,’ says Mr Markies. ‘The 20th- century contemporary market is booming, so it’s a good place to start.’
Antiques dealer Jeroen Markies, advises looking for dealers with a good reputation and being open to pay a little more for pieces that are in the best condition
STICK TO VALUE VICTORIANA
Art Deco is in, but, if you aim for 19th-century furniture, Mr Markies says you can find good value. ‘Victorian pieces are underpriced, as they’ve fallen out of fashion. But some are beautifully made and can even be cheaper than modern furniture.’
While it’s easy to be swayed by a bargain, Mr Markies says: ‘Pay a little more and get the piece that’s in the best condition. If it’s been well cared for, it will last. Look for dealers with good reputations and buy pieces with a guarantee.’ To avoid the classic antique problem of woodworm, stick to woods such as mahogany, walnut and oak.
COMPARE PRICES ONLINE
Use your mobile to check online what you may pay elsewhere for a similar item. It can be hard to set a budget, though. Mary Claire Boyd says the best thing you can do is buy pieces you really love.
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