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The Care and Enjoyment of Antique Furniture

Enjoyment of Antique Furniture Header

Antique Dealer with BookAntique furniture, a term ascribed to vintage, interior furnishings (PDF), often has distinct identifiable aspects (PDF) that sets the market value at a considerable rate. For instance, a vintage chair's age, rarity, condition, utility and other unique attributes could make the furniture more desirable to a potential owner. Antique furniture may not always have cosmetic value. In fact, many prospective buyers look for the overall utility that the vintage piece could bring into their lives. Antique beds and seating arrangements provide the necessary support and comfort for the human body, storage for garments, objects, and may have sufficient surface space to place other antique furnishings, such as lamps and jewelery boxes. Vintage drawers and shelves offer utilitarian storage for smaller objects, such as tools, books, clothes, and other knickknacks. Other ornamental pieces, such as clocks, lighting fixtures, and symbolic or religious pieces may offer utilitarian and sentimental value for those seeking a nostalgic interior design to their abodes.

The oldest furniture discovered was primitive and practical; however, designers started to emphasize decoration as time passed. Furniture became an early social status symbol, whereby wealthy homeowners demanded that their current furnishings reflected the lavishness of their lifestyles. The oldest piece of American furniture came from Thomas Mulninert, a joiner from the colony of New Haven that worked between the years 1639 to 1650. Cabinetry making did not become an established trade until well after 1680. European and American wooden furnishings are easily to identify, mainly because different types of wood were available to each of the designers during this period. Walnut and ash (PDF) were the primary wood choices to produce sturdy and long-lasting furnishings. A sudden explosion for mahogany imports from Haiti and Santo Domingo occurred between the years 1730 and 1840 to conform to the ever-popular Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, and American Empire designer styles.

How To Identify Antique Furniture:

Identifying antique furniture may seem like a daunting task at first; however, for the most part, antique furniture (PDF) pieces offered on the market often come limited to traditional English and American Colonial period and styles (PDF). In other words, rare and more desirable antiques like a Louis XV chair will not be found at a garage or an estate sale. The majority of the English and American Colonial styles have a broad range of usability, including the strictly ornate to entirely functional or brittle to the extremely durable. Antique furniture usually only retains its worth based on the age and fine artistry that created its overall uniqueness. Typically, antiques become clearly defined once breaching the age limit of 150 years or older as recognized by most prominent antique dealers. Generally, authentic antique furniture will not have origins from 1500 to 1600s; however, genuine reproductions usually extend from this time period and may have significant value.

Valuing and Appraising Antique Furniture:

Antique Cash RegisterA spark in curiosity may prompt an owner of an old piece of furniture to find out what an antique dealer offers in exchange for ownership. Finding a certified appraiser will help determine the value of that old hunk of furniture in direct correlation to its monetary worth. Appraisers have an odd number of years behind their belts, so it's wise to research and seek out their counsel. However, do not walk up and ask an antique dealer, "What's the value (PDF) of this old ragged piece of furniture?" The standard response runs along the lines of, "How much do you want for it?" Most antique dealers do not dish out free advice. Do not attempt to sell that old hunk of furniture to the same antique dealer that evaluated it because dealers tend to buy low and sell high in order to generate income. Keep in mind that the quality of that old piece of furniture makes it valuable. The overall condition will likely yield a higher value. Standard antique and collectible magazines only assign a perceptible worth, and will not necessarily mean an appraiser or antique dealer will agree to buy it. If you can not afford to pay an appraiser, then there are some options out there that will provide an evaluation absolutely free of charge.

Popular Periods and Pieces:

Antique furniture periods fluctuate according to popular demand. For instance, certain antique furniture styles overlap, when cabinetmakers continued to create the old furniture styles, such as the Queen Anne that was highly popularized during the early 1700s and merged into the Chippendale craze that started to rapidly grow. In fact, each period influences its successors with ornate evidence appearing on newly circulated furniture, which may be found on previous creations. The claw-and-ball feet design, often prevalent in the Chippendale style, may parallel semblances in the highly detailed shell imprint of a Queen Anne style desk. Cabriolet legs were also incorporated into both designs. This transition provides clues to narrowing down the particular age of readily available antique furnishings.

The major American antique furniture periods are broken down into two separate categories, including the Colonial and Federal periods (PDF). Each major period spanned between a period of fifty to one hundred years. The Colonial and Jacobean period ranges from about 1620 to 1720, while as the Queen Anne antique furnishing style last between 1720 to 1780. Even shorter of a time-lapse occurred during the height of the Chippendale frenzy, which lasted between the years 1750 and 1780. The Chippendale transition would also intrude on the major Federal period that would merge into the succession of the Hepplewhite style of 1780 to 1800. The Sheraton style began in 1790 and ended in 1810 before the Classical period emerged. Windsor, an unclassified style assigned no particular time frame, has origins in the 18th century, but requires an eye for detail to closely scrutinize each individual piece to determine exactly when it was produced.

Famous Furniture Makers:

There are many renowned furniture makers with popular styles that contribute to the world's modern antique furnishings market. Robert Adam, a Scottish neoclassical architect, interior home designer and furniture maker, developed the "Adam style," which contrasted room sizes and decorative schemes. Other previously mentioned furniture makers, such as Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite left an imprint in history still marveled by modern antique collectors. Charles-Edouard Jeannette, otherwise known as Le Corbusier, was a Swiss architect, interior and furniture designer, urbanist, writer and painter.Gustav Stickley was a furniture assembler and proselytizer for the American Arts and Crafts movement. Genuine antique furnishings manufactured by Stickely are quite rare; however, authentication can be verified by checking the decal on the furniture to see if it bears Stickley's emblem. Emile-Jacques Rulmann, a Parisian furniture designer, has several antique furnishings posted in museum displays. Rulmann lacked formal train and never personally made any antique furniture firsthand; however, his ideas and designs became the foundation for the modern design known as Art Deco.

Collecting and Caring for Antiques:

Prospective antique collectors must consider two limiting factors before diving into the hobby: ample spatial consideration and affordability. These two factors are based on personal circumstances alone, which means no formal training is required to start collecting antique furnishings. In fact, the taste of each collector will vary. Finding rare antiques might cause one buyer to snatch the opportunity while the next passes it by due to a conflict in taste. However, a beginner may want to acquaint his or herself with the massive availability and the broad spectrum of individual antiques outside of furniture. Finding out common information, such as the overall age, usability, nationality and comparative rarity should help the prospective buyer to solidify this frame of thought.

Rusty Flea Market SignBargain hunting for certain antique furnishings requires a keen eye for details and a sharp memory. Some styles can be found at estate sales, antique roadshows, flea marketsonline auction sites, and other antique dealers. The enormous obstacle to hurdling the competition and score at bargain hunting lies in possessing the appropriate knowledge of vintage furniture. Spot conditioning and reconstruction identification are also vital skill sets to master when considering bargain hunting for antique furnishings. Restored antique furniture makes the pieces less original, which lowers the overall value of the piece. Excessive imitations may also lower the cost of the piece to a fraction of the original, especially if there are many duplicates in existence. Another challenge surrounds antique furniture care of past owners and the future responsibilities of having to maintain the upkeep to preserve its current condition.

Antique Furniture Resources:

  • From France2You: Antique Furniture Resources
  • Accetera: Antiques and Collectibles: Antique Furniture Resources
  • Oley Valley: Architectural Antiques and Furniture Resources
  • Clubfurniture.net: Antique Furniture Resources Directory
  • Dr.Woodall: Wood Elixir: Additional Resources for Antique and Wood Furniture Repair, Restoration and Refinishing
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