Look for originality. ‘You don’t want things that have been badly restored or altered,’ says antiques dealer Peter Woodward. ‘An old dealers’ trick used to be to extend sets of chairs by making new ones out of parts of others.’
Think twice about chairs that may need restoring. ‘Restoration is expensive,’ says Judith Miller. ‘Factor it in as it could turn out more than the value of the chair.’
Check for sturdiness as chairs need to withstand a lot of wear and tear. ‘Before you buy your chair, sit on it, wiggle it, turn it upside down and check the bottom,’ says Judith.
Look out for woodworm. ‘Damage from woodworm is a big concern and is the major reason for parts having been replaced,’ says Peter.
Buy the best you can afford. ‘Go for the best quality of construction and material for your budget,’ says Holly Johnson. ‘Even if it seems more expensive than modern design, it will last much longer.’
Choose a standard style and buy individual pieces. ‘Dealers find it hard to shift single chairs,’ says Judith. ‘By choosing a common design such as a Queen Anne dining chair, you can have a cheaper harlequin set (a set of chairs that are similar in style but vary in details).’
Arts and Crafts: designers such as Ernest Gimson, Edward Barnsley and other members of the Cotswold school are good to invest in now, recommends decorative antiques dealer Holly Johnson. Or look out for 18th and 19th-century mahogany: ‘Standard mahogany chairs from the Georgian and Victorian periods are selling very cheaply and they’re good chairs,’ says antiques expert Judith Miller. ‘Fashions are cyclical and I’m sure they will go back up in value.’ 1980s designers‘ chairs seem poised to take the spotlight: ‘They’re not easy to come by but chairs by pupils of John Makepeace and other 1980s designers are an emerging market that we are investing in,’ says Holly. ‘Look out for Alan Peters designs – he’s not as well known as Makepeace but he still made beautiful pieces.’
This guide was originally commissioned by and published in Homes & Antiques’ July 2016 issue.
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