A few specialists are cautiously optimistic:
In March (11 March 2016) in the Financial Times there was an excellent article by Thomas Seal where he considered the market for antique furniture and illustrated it with depressing figures about “brown furniture”:
“Figures from Art Market Research Developments reveal that the value of high-end antique furniture dropped by 9 per cent in the year to the end of 2014 and plummeted 28 per cent over the past decade. By comparison, no other asset on the index has depreciated: art was up by 10 per cent over the same year and classic cars by 16 per cent.”
“Yet collectors need to look more closely, as the drop is far from uniform. The figures reveal a change in tastes — and the old world has fallen decidedly out of fashion.”
“English pieces from the Regency period and the 18th century are worth 30 per cent less than 10 years ago and French 18th-century furniture has halved in value over the same period. Worst of all, the most recent figures from the Antique Collectors’ Club reveal Victorian and Edwardian furniture have lost more than two-thirds of their value since 2003. “
In the same article Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Wealth Report, seemed to agree:
“But what some people call the ‘brown furniture’ … doesn’t really fit into the design aesthetic of the current times.”
“People want the ‘Scandi’ style, a cleaner style. A lot of very wealthy people want lateral, apartment-type living. And a lot of old furniture is very big [and] you might not get those Regency pieces up the stairs in Mayfair.”
Not a happy picture, and unsurprising to most people who have had to sell family furniture in recent years. But Mr Seal’s interesting article was not entirely without hope. He quoted the very experienced Patrick Sandberg (http://www.antiquefurniture.net/) “the price curve may already be bottoming out as people recognise the potential investment. At the moment I see green shoots. . . . but I’m not saying we’re back to the great days.”
In the same article, Natalia Miyar (design director of Helen Green Design – http://www.helengreendesign.com/), shared a similar view “Currently the trend is for mid-century furniture. . . .but there will undoubtedly be resurgence in the popularity of Regency and Georgian — if only for the high-quality pieces. These will maintain their value.”
And earlier in the year, Lynnette Peck had collected several opinions for Homes & Antiques under the heading “2016’s 18 best antique buys”
and included this suggestion from Will Thomas, Managing Director at International Antiques & Collectors Fairs:
“From a buyer point of view more people are bearing in mind the green credential of antiques. Whereas some flimsy modern drawers* get thrown out, we are seeing more people purchasing brown furniture to last. It has been through a slump for the last ten years but is now going up and while not flying in value, there is an increase in the amount being traded. Although I am not a dealer I have observed more of it being sold than in the previous decade. Shabby chic is no longer in, so get buying the classics instead.”
Were they right?
Well, see the auction reports in that essential weekly Antiques Trade Gazette (22 October 2016 – www.antiquestradegazette.com) headlined
“Furniture market fights back – encouraging signs of recovery in recent sales suggest a better future after challenging times”.
Terence Ryle writes that Woolley & Wallis (Salisbury), Wilkinson’s (Doncaster), and Hutchinson Scott (Ripon) all give upbeat reports on their recent sales.
And on another page it’s reported that at Fellows’ (Birmingham) “Despite the perception of brown furniture being in the doldrums, furniture sold well across the board – does this mark the return of its popularity?” Their Mark Huddleston says “some of the prices for better pieces were higher than they have been for the past two years”.
And ATG reports that at Peter Wilson’s (Nantwich) “furniture from early oak through to Edwardian pieces found buyers in 85% of cases” and quote Peter Wilson’s well known Managing Partner Robert Stones as saying he wished he had been able to offer more.
So – justified optimism, or dead cat bounce? We’ll happily suggest Where To Sell, but we leave when to the experts. But perhaps it is time to pop out to the garage, take the dust sheet off that bow front chest and check it for woodworm. . .
*no comments, please, about saving them for the warmer weather.