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Intellect, mystery, we’re not describing the latest mini-series. There is a recipe for buying quality antiques. It can be applied to any area of the decorative arts; however, we are focusing on English furniture.

First, the knowledge. Here’s a curriculum made to your specifications: It’s self-paced and self-graded. There’s no homework and there are no tests. Read and study the periods thoroughly. Visit museums to see the very best examples. Go to auctions and examine the items up for bid. Visit antique shops. And everywhere, ask a lot of questions. Do all this before buying anything.

Second, the mystery, each piece of furniture will reveal it's history if you can "read" the clues. Imagine that, while shopping , you find a chest described as “English, William and Mary, ( Ca. 1700 )“ with beautiful walnut veneer. You’ve already learned that, during that period, walnut was the predominant wood, and beautifully grained veneers were the main decorative element. So next, open the drawers and check for several clues:
These are some of the main aspects to check when studying a chest. Each type of furniture has it's own checklist. Keep in mind that periods did not change overnight, and transitional furniture may still be period without falling into a specific category. Furthermore, the country furniture styles lagged behind the city styles.

Finally comes the passion. It balances the technical knowledge, because furniture should "speak" to the owner. Antiques bought as investments are more beautiful and tangible than stocks and bonds and they nourish the soul daily. Even heavily restored or less detailed pieces have a warmth, beauty, and patina that new, highly lacquered furniture lacks.

*Published in NFocus magazine July 1998

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