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Learn About Antiques

With such great variety available making antique purchases can seem overwhelming, to help make the process as easy as possible we have compiled lots of useful information below, including antique terminology and a breakdown of different periods of furniture. Read on to discover more!

Antiques Terminology

COFFER –  A coffer is a chest that sits low to the ground, complete with a lid. Coffer’s are often intricately carved.

HARLEQUIN – Harlequin is a term used to refer to chairs that have been placed in a set that are similar but not identical.

OCCASIONAL FURNITURE – Occasional Furniture refers to pieces that are small and can be moved or used in different ways, depending on the occasion.

PATINA – Patina describes the sheen that develops on the surface of a piece of furniture over years of use, age, exposure and wear.

SETTLE – A settle is a wooden bench that is typically large enough to accommodate a number of sitters. They generally have arms and a high back.

SPLAT – A splat is the central support of a chair’s back, typically flat and decorative in shape and cut.

TALLBOY – A tallboy is an alternate name for a chest-on-chest, so it is essentially a large and tall chest of drawers.

WHATNOT – A whatnot is a type of moveable storage, typically a stand with shelves for smaller items.

To learn more about antiques terminology, read our terminology blog post!

Antiques Periods

Early AntiquesEarly antiques are considered here to be any piece made prior to 1700. There are a variety of design styles that fall under this category Rococo, chinoiserie and the Baroque style was predominant in Europe from the 17th century right through to the middle of the 18th. The British pieces that have survived from this period tend to be simpler in design, mainly in dark woods and some with elaborate carving. 

GeorgianThe Georgian period spanned between 1714 and 1837, five monarchs and over a hundred years there are a large variety of Georgian antiques. Earlier Georgian furniture was sturdy and heavy, however as time passed, symmetry, light and space determined the delicate furniture that was later made. The later Georgian period is often thought of as a golden age of furniture design. Hugely influential furniture makers of the period included George Hepplewhite, Robert Adam, Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale. Palladian designs were favoured in this period, inspired by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, Palladian designs were often proportionate and symmetrical. Neoclassical designs also gained popularity, favouring classic motifs and forms that had been present in Ancient Greece and Rome and were elegant and drew heavily on symmetry.

Regency  – The Regency period was known for its elegance, a classic and romantic style, as the Romantic Movement was in full flow when the period was established. The period is generally considered to have lasted from 1800 to 1830, though 1811 and 1820 was when it was most prevalent. Characteristics of Regency furniture include ornate decorations including flowers and leaves as motifs. The Rococo style is seen in the incorporation of shells and rock shaped ornamentation, with curved lines; these additions reflected the use of nature as inspiration during the period. Regency furniture makers of note in the period were George Smith, Thomas Hope and Henry Holland. Henry Holland drew upon chinoiserie and classical styles, while Thomas Hope’s designs largely featured Egyptian and Greek influences. The colours favoured during the period either to delicate muted schemes such as duck egg blue or creams, though crimson and royal blue also featured. 

Victorian – The Victorian period refers to the reign of Queen Victoria between 1837 and 1901, during which a number of design movements developed. These movements included the Gothic Revival, Rococo, the Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movements. Victorian furniture is mainly associated with intricate, elaborate detailing and carvings, and colours were generally deep blues, rich reds and strong greens. Prominent furniture makers from the period included George Hunzinger, the Merklen Brothers and Allen and Brother. The Arts and Crafts Movement favoured simpler designs than were typically popular in the period, focusing on traditional craftsmanship and the artist William Morris heavily influenced the movement.

Swipe through the images below for examples of antique period interiors.

Edwardian – The Edwardian period spans between 1901 to 1910, in this short period there was a shift from the heavy, gothic influences that characterised the Victorian period. Edwardian style was light, cheerful and fresh; stained glass was a popular feature. The Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts Movements continued to influence design during this time and Thomas Sheraton’s furniture was also popular. Wicker and bamboo furniture were also first introduced during the Edwardian period. The colours favoured in the period were generally light creams, yellows, greens and terracotta.

Early 20th Century – Early 20th century furniture is characterised as furniture produced after 1910 and before the 1940s and 1950s. This encapsulates design movements such as Art Deco which first appeared after the First World War and continued to be popular up until the advent of the Second World War. The Art Deco style rose in popularity alongside the freedom and frivolity of the 1920s, embodying sophistication, glamour and luxury. Art Deco pieces often had intricate and ornate detailing, geometry and symmetry were a central part of Art Deco design and pieces often had very angular shapes with rich and bold colour schemes. Initially the furniture designs were fairly classic, developing to include ebony and ivory as well as enamels and stained glass additions. Exotic woods such as teak and ebony were imported for use alongside mahogany. Art Deco furniture makers of note included Pierre Patout, Edgar Brandt, Christian Krass, Eileen Gray, Raymond Sbes and Rene Prou.

Mid Century – Mid Century furniture produced between the 1940s and 60s was sleek and bold, there was a great deal of Scandinavian influence and the Danish style teak sideboard was an extremely popular piece. The 1960s saw an increase in sleek style furniture, with curves as a prominent feature. The colours from this period were oranges, reds and beige. Popular mid century designers included Charles and Ray Eames, who produced furniture incorporating a variety of materials. Alvar Aalto, Florence Knoll and George Nakashima were also prominent designers and makers during this period.

Vintage Vintage furniture refers to items that are not contemporary pieces but are also not in the age range to be classified as antiques. Generally vintage pieces are considered to be anything less than a hundred years old, so from around 1920. This incorporates a vast number of design styles from Art Deco design in the 1920s and 30s to ercol pieces from the 1960s and 70s. Vintage provides an umbrella term for some of the periods that have been discussed in this section.

The World of Woods

Pine Pine’s use in interiors helps provide a rustic charm to any setting. Incorporating pine pieces often creates a classic light finish that provides a wonderful backdrop. With its pale wood and delicate grain, pine complements many colours and themes within interiors. In recent years, antique pine furniture has seen a resurgence in popularity and can work extremely well in both period and contemporary properties.

Oak – Oak furniture comes in many forms, and it’s actually difficult to think of a piece of furniture that hasn’t at some point been made of oak.  As oak is indigenous to Britain, this was one of the first timbers used to make furniture and has remained in use ever since. It is popular with both craftsmen and furniture makers due to its strength, durability and ease of use. Oak has been an intrinsic part of antique furniture making from the earliest of days.

MahoganyMahogany’s use in antique furniture is synonymous with British interior design and this timber has been utilised to create some of the most wonderful interiors. Mahogany has been a firm favourite for furniture makers since around 1730 when it was first introduced from overseas into Britain. This is due to its durability, ease of use, straight even grain and magnificent red sheen.

Walnut – Walnut’s use in antique furniture is prized for its decorative, wavy grain, uniqueness of colour and its ability to be polished to a high shine. Walnut was highly sought after during the eighteenth century due to its fine decorative qualities, although it had been in use for centuries before. Walnut’s popularity continued throughout the 19th century and early 20th century and was used to create some fine pieces of furniture.

Reclaimed WoodFurniture made using reclaimed wood are environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing pieces. Reclaimed wood is so effective for adding a rustic charm and individuality to a space. Creating unique pieces with materials that have a charming history makes reclaimed wood furniture an ideal choice.

Pitch Pine Pitch pine has dark resinous lines that contrast with the paler honey colour traditionally associated with pine. Pitch pine is also considered a denser wood and has been favoured from the early 20th Century in religious buildings within Britain. Churches and chapels generally used pitch pine to make their pulpits and pews, and here at Penderyn Antiques the wood still in situ at our Chapel Showroom is pitch pine.

Swipe through the images below for examples of antique woods in interiors.

Your question answered

We would recommend a simple routine to care for your antiques. Firstly, you need to consider the placement of your pieces, we always advise to keep the piece out of direct sunlight (using a protective cover or blinds where necessary) as well as using coasters to avoid any marking.

Another effective aspect of care is using wax or spray polish when necessary. Where furniture has a natural finish use wax, and for pieces with a lacquer finish a gentle spray polish is best. 

For more details on how to produce the best effect, read our blog, living and caring for antique furniture.

For antique valuations and appraisals, we normally recommend contacting your local auction house, which should have designated valuation and appraisal days and often offer these services for free. There are also a number of specialists in the field who offer more in-depth services, providing you with a full report. The cost of these services varies, so it’s worth considering the extensiveness you’re looking for and whether you require an official report, as the more extensive the service the more costly it will be.

If you’re looking to sell an antique, online marketplaces like eBay are normally the best option, as the fees are low compared to selling through an auction house, where sizeable commissions are typically charged.

When looking for antique restoration services, we recommend looking for specialists in the area you need restoration. For example, if you need a piece re-upholstered, always look for a professional upholsterer. Similarly, you can find professional french polishers and other craftspeople who specialise in different areas of antique restoration. Remember, poor repairs and restoration not only negatively impacts an item’s functional integrity but also can significantly devalue the piece, so it’s always worth taking the time to find a highly regarded professional.

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