Purchasing an antique from the Victorian period can be considered as one of your smartest financial decisions of the year - what other investments can be so satisfying and offer this much fun? The discovery process is most rewarding and does not have to be confined to sitting in the kitchen browsing the web with a cup of coffee in hand, for soon the sun will be shining and the antique fairs and markets will be in full swing, antique centres are brimming with gorgeous stock and dealers throughout the nation are awaiting your visit - so seize the moment.
If you are fresh to the whole antique scene and are making the first steps into what could well become a lifetimes addiction then follow my personal favourite top 10 ‘Do’s and don’ts...’
Do relish the experience. It is a little daunting at first when you are presented with so much choice. Unlike the high street, where every offer is a repetition and you are purchasing the identical item as quite literally millions of others, you now have complete freedom to purchase what you want - not what the Head Buyer of this year’s range wants. Make the most of the variety and enjoy the vast array of what is on offer - touch, feel, absorb and wonder at the rich history in every item.
Do spend some money. There is undeniable pleasure to be had from walking the markets on a sunny day in search of a bargain, however the greatest reward comes from bringing an antique into the home. So always make a purchase - even if it is the smallest of pieces for just a few pounds it somehow cements the day in your mind and creates yet another addition to the legend of the item.
Do plan ahead. Keep the dimensions of that ‘space by the side of the chimney breast’ in your diary or telephone and decide just how big a kitchen table you need to seat you all. When you see the perfect piece, the one that raises your blood pressure a little, you need to be ready to say ‘yes’ and get the deal done - you know that it may be years before another antique this perfect comes along and you do not want it to go to another home because you were not able to know if it fitted. So measure up for all those future purchases and keep the information with you at all times because the dream piece comes along at the most unexpected times and you need to be ready.
Do use the internet. A wonderful source of reference and the place which many start at, but some never progress from. The choice is mind-boggling and the variety of pricing can be confusing, however if you stay with established sellers then all should be well. Talking directly to the dealers is encouraged and you’ll get a warm response to your questions; there is a place for emails but often chatting on the telephone with the seller reveals so much more.
Do remember that Antiques are Green. There is no greater example of sustainability than purchasing a Victorian fireside chair which has had its’ 150th birthday. It was produced by hand, in an unheated workshop using only natural materials by a man who walked to work - feel good about your decision because you really are saving the planet. As the custodian of the antique you know it will likely see many owners after you, and not simply become landfill as is the fate of almost every modern item purchased in the mainstream.
Don’t forget you are saving money. Sure when you buy an antique there is no ‘0% deposit and 5 years to pay’ but you’ll own your antique forever and it will maintain or increase in value - there is no sensible financial argument for purchasing a ‘new’ item of furniture.
Don’t expect perfection. Relish the slight signs of use that your antique wears with pride. Imagine the former owners using the piece and even add to the history yourself. There is a feeling of liberation when you realise that your son’s toy car repeatedly hitting the leg of your antique Victorian pine kitchen table is causing no damage whatsoever, just improving the character.
Do consider delivery costs. Moving a Victorian triple wardrobe from Dundee to Canterbury is going to cost some money. Remember to add it into your calculations. Some dealers will offer to deliver free of charge to their local area, and some even nationally. The wait is part of the enjoyment, especially if it is a signature item of furniture, and the countdown to arrival seems to last for ever for us impatient souls!
Do mix it up. When William IV was replaced on the throne by Queen Victoria nobody disposed of all their furniture. Instead there was a gradual shift and for decades houses throughout the land had an eclectic mix of Georgian, Regency and Victorian styles. Good design and quality craftsmanship are always in vogue so no need to feel ashamed if you wish to hang an ornate Victorian gilt mirror above a simple Georgian walnut chest of drawers - go for it and celebrate the fantastic history and diversity of British antiques. With modern lighting, colours and fabrics accenting the home the fusion of antique and contemporary has never been more appealing. Experimenting with styles is wonderfully enjoyable with the creation of a unique and comforting home the ultimate reward.
Don’t stop loving the Victorian period and the incredible changes brought about during this 64 years. Stunning buildings, amazing innovation and a legacy that will endure. In another 150 years all the antiques you own will still be here looking gorgeous, serving perfectly, and being treasured and enjoyed by your descendants.