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Christie’s, for one, regularly uses big-name decorators not just to finesse, but ‘curate’ whole sales of ‘eclectic’ home interiors. And the practice has filtered through to regional salerooms

The eye and the talent

Cambridge-based Cheffins, which hosts monthly interiors sales, employs interior designers on an ad-hoc basis for different kinds of sales.

“Interior designers have the eye and the talent to transform what could, to the untrained eye, look like a fairly standard piece of furniture into something beautiful,” says Sophie Richardson at Cheffins. The key tool in the designer’s armoury is the room setting.

To help market Cheffins’ fine sale in March and its auction of the Hertfordshire Country Council’s art collection the same month, Carlos Sánchez-García furnished two rooms of his own Norfolk farmhouse with upcoming merchandise.

The photos were perfect fodder for interiors-friendly social platforms.

“The content from the project has been used for our social media platforms, on our website and in print catalogues,” Richardson says. “But in particular it has made a difference to our Instagram feed and certainly helped to drive traffic to the sale.”

‘Updated’ country house

For the Dreweatts Interiors sale in October 2018, which included the contents of Kingstone Lisle Park and a property on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, the firm employed an interior designer for the first time.

Mark Gillette was asked to create ‘an updated country house aesthetic’ in room settings at recently refurbished Donnington Priory, in Berkshire.

Dreweatts then hosted a preview dinner in situ, bringing designers and key private buyers together to talk about interiors and take inspiration from what was around them.

Joint marketing of the sale by Dreweatts and the designer was part of the deal.

“The lead-up to sale day saw staggering levels of interest which was reflected in the prices ultimately achieved – some lots going for more than quadruple the top estimate,” said Joe Robinson of Dreweatts’ estates and collections team.

Freedom to choose

For those considering using an interior designer, Cheffins and Dreweatts agree the best results happen if the professionals have freedom to choose what they want, and not necessarily what the auctioneer might be keenest to promote.

Robinson said collaboration with Gillette “demonstrated that the new and the old, the expensive and the less expensive can be presented side by side, sitting harmoniously together”. But such a partnership takes “a willingness to express confidence in personal taste and to explore design ideas”, he adds.

Richardson says Cheffins gave “Carlos absolutely free rein on the items which he chose to use”. The result, she says, was “incredibly natural shots which really showcased both the items for sale and Carlos’ fantastic taste”.