'A piece of furniture that possess a beauty and quality that transcends the bounds of the era or even the field of art is represents' qualifies for masterpiece status of antique furniture according to the furniture expert Lyn Sack Wall.
Antique furniture simply does not mean old furniture but furniture of high quality and artistic merit that has transcended the bounds of time. Antique furniture is impeccably handmade by skilled craftsmen. A number of these fabulous creations are even signed by the makers. Antique furniture is auctioned in high-end houses like Sotheby. One such instance is the sale of a single mahogany secretary bookcase made by Christopher Townsend in 1740 for a whooping $ 8.25 million.
Period antique furniture
Period antique furniture refers to those made from mid to late 1600s through the first half of the 19th century. Many periods of antique furniture overlap in-between. It can be seen that every subsequent period was influenced by the style of its predecessors. The age of the antique can be determined by looking at the way the furniture is styled.
Historical records reveal that the Goddard Townsend family of Newport in Rhode Island produced some of the most valuable pieces of furniture made during this period. These styles are the epitome of the American furniture design and have been copied through the decades.
Windsor: Another antique furniture style is Windsor. This style does not fall under any specific time frame. The period is normally assigned to the later half of the 18th century. It is said that Windsor pieces are oft-imitated styles. A curator should be able to examine closely with an eye for quality to determine exactly when the pieces were produced.
Depression Era Furniture: Depression era pieces dates back to the 20s, 30s and early 1940s. Though technically these are not antiques, as they are not more than 100 years old yet, they can be regarded as ‘antique’ as they are popular with collectors and decorators and are offered for sale at steep prices.
Some furniture pieces belonging to the Depression Era are immensely popular. China and curio cabinets with curved fronts and glass panels, dressing tables with benches and side mirrors that can be adjusted to show the face, profile and back of the hair and small tables with fancy inlays and veneers command highest prices. The disadvantage of depression Era furniture is that they are larger than today’s pieces and occupy a lot of space in the home.
Characteristic features of antique furniture
Antique furniture categories vary from wood and types of materials used, methods of construction and style of decoration. Woods used in antique furniture: Most antique furniture is made of solid wood. Over periods of time, the technique of decorating the furniture by applying veneers developed. This afforded the use of thin sheets of expensive woods and allowed the maker to create decorative effects from using different grains and patterns called ‘figuring’ of the wood. In veneered furniture, the body is solid and made of less expensive wood such as pine or oak. Some of the most frequently used types of wood in antique furniture are discussed below:
Color of antique furniture
One important aspect that an antique collector of furniture should know is the fact that furniture attains a rich mellow color over the years from an accumulation of wax polish and dirt. Most of the furniture is not the same color all over as the grooves and carving tend to look darker. The surfaces that are exposed to the sunlight may become lighter.
Style of decoration in antique furniture
Carving, veneering and inlay work were the decoration styles frequently seen in antique furniture. Carving in walnut and mahogany furniture is immensely popular in antique buys. Carving is finer and more intricate in antique furniture. Original carved decoration added to the desirability of the piece.
Veneering has important bearing on the price of the antique piece. In many veneered furniture, four pieces of wood create a pattern. Banding with strips of veneer laid around the edges of drawers was also popular then. Inlay or marquetry refers to pattern made of veneers with differently colored woods. English and Continental furniture from the 17th century had inlay works on them and these add greatly to the value of the piece.
Caring for antique furniture
The beauty of antique furniture that has been cleaned and waxed simply goes to reflect the loving care bestowed on it by its owners over the years. Antique furniture deserves to be maintained in the best possible conditions. It is regular care and maintenance that will give years of life to the antique furniture and satisfaction to the collector.
Tips on buying antique furniture
Antique furniture no doubt adds to the style and grace of carefully maintained interiors of a home décor. There are certain basic factors that need to be considered before choosing / buying an antique masterpiece: