Younger buyers with a focus on the environmental benefits of buying second-hand and those moving from city to country are among the purchasers fuelling the demand for good-quality pieces. Here is a selection of their comments:
Robbie Timms, of Bedfordshire’s S & S Timms Antiques: “During the pandemic people were wanting more functional items. When they were stuck at home they were keen to buy desks, for instance. They are still buying furniture but there is a tendency toward choosing things for their home that have a use. So, pieces that have a function and look good, rather than just because they look nice.
“Sustainability is also a growing reason. This is definitely having an impact on buying decisions – people know that antique furniture is more sustainable than buying new.”
Joe Chaffer of Vagabond Antiques set up a showroom in Petworth in 2020 and has found a niche selling to younger people, especially those around the age of 40 who have moved from the city to the country. “We’re finding that people in Sussex are buying pieces as they come out here and need guidance in picking out a new look.
“They’ve been city-based, living in London flats and apartments and are moving to four- or five-bedroom houses so they need a lot more upholstery to fill the space and dress spare rooms for when people come to stay.
“There’s a different look and feel when people come to the country. They want to things to look more authentic, lived-in and English. That’s where antiques come in.”
Belgravia dealer Timothy Langston, who has a shop near London’s Pimlico Road, said: “As a dealer I’ve noticed prices for antique furniture across the board have been strong, both at auction and when buying through the trade.
“This is owing, presumably, to the increased demand from private buyers as they are now embracing more traditional, colourful and individual interior design.”
Dorian Caffot de Fawes in Church Street, Marylebone, specialises in early 20th century Continental furniture and lighting.
“Business has been terrific. We have been incredibly busy even with fairs cancelled and the shop closed during three lockdowns. I have had new clients, many from the US, as well as returning customers, who are usually in the 30-50 age bracket.
“I thought lockdowns would be quiet but unfortunately I had no time to learn how to make bread! Business has continued to increase since then and we were delighted to return to the buzzing energy of the Decorative fair in Battersea in January.”
Mark Hill, well known as a dealer in Czech glassware, has also been an accredited lecturer with The Arts Society since 2014 and travels the UK and further afield speaking at events. He reports that those attending his lectures (in person and on Zoom calls) have mentioned the growth in younger people buying antiques.
“Many have commented how increasingly their children or grandchildren are buying antiques and that they are mixing and matching their furniture from different eras.
“The mythical return of brown furniture is actually a real thing. The young really are buying brown furniture. That’s what I can conclude from my lectures. And this is an occurrence across the UK – from North Yorkshire to the West Country, this is a regional phenomenon, not just in Metropolitan Islington.”
Hill also notes an increased interest – across all age groups – in lighting. “During the recent pandemic and beyond people have wanted to feel nestled and nurtured at home. Some large room lights are so clinical and bright. People are preferring small lamps and lights across a room.
“Lighting can give great mood and style. Great lighting can behave like a sculpture with colour and form.”