Restoration Roadshow. BBC 2. 20 Episodes from August 9 2010
As the age of austerity takes its toll on family budgets everywhere a new BBC programme demonstrates why it now makes sense to restore those forgotten antiques from the past.
“There has never been a better time to buy antiques”, says Tim Akers, one of the team of restorers in the programme who travelled round the country restoring heirlooms for members of the public during the show. The items are valued before restoration and once they have been brought back to life the owners have the difficult decision of whether to sell the pieces at auction or keep and enjoy them with renewed affection.
More younger people are now turning their back on the sort of mass produced furniture that does not last more than a few years and are showing interest in restoring and using ‘real’ furniture made of real wood grown slowly and naturally. This furniture has already lasted a lifetime and can be handed down to future generations.
Said Tim Akers: “Antiques have been out of fashion with younger buyers for some years, but the trend for minimalist and cheaply made furniture now seems to have run its course. This furniture has its place, in a student’s digs, and should just about last the life span of a degree course. But it lacks the soul, warmth and beauty that belongs in a family home.
“There is something satisfying and welcoming about furniture that has lasted 100 years and will continue to give pleasure for many more. It brings a unique sense of wellbeing and continuity to a room. There has never been a better time to enjoy antiques again, with prices at an all time low. *See price comparisons below.
For the best value Tim recommends buying at an auction, which is now much more public friendly than in the past, but don’t rule out shops or fairs – there are excellent opportunities there to do deals!
Tim Akers’ tips for buying at auction include:
1. Go to several viewing days intending not to buy, but just to familiarise yourself with experience.
2. When you are ready to buy, stand back and take a good look at the piece; don’t ask yourself what is wrong with it, ask yourself what is right with it. Everything should be in balance and proportion.
3. The veneers should be slightly cockled (rippled); the external corners and edges should be rounded and bruised, but not evenly; and the polish should not be too smooth and not too bright (This is called character!)
4. Close your eyes and "look through your fingers"; as you stroke the furniture, any deviation in its lines will be more apparent to the touch, and this will signal a possible repair or replacement.
5. Don’t be afraid to turn the furniture upside-down, look at the unpolished underside, it should be evenly scruffy.
6. To help age a piece, look at the thickness of the veneer along its edge. 18th century furniture had hand cut veneer which was at least 2mm thick, 19th century veneer was machine cut and much thinner.
7. Whatever you decide to buy, do keep an eye on its condition and factor in the cost of professional restoration, I can highly recommend any member of BAFRA for this work.
8. Try to buy as genuine a piece as possible, and one that only needs a moderate amount of repairs, originality is the key word.
If all this seems a bit daunting, don’t be put off, there is help out there. Many people, such as Tim, can provide a finding and buying service, where you can be guaranteed authenticity, integrity and fantastic value.
Adds Tim: “There is a wonderful world waiting to be discovered, the hunt is such enormous fun and the reward lasts a lifetime. Don’t exist with your furniture, live with it, it has a fascinating past waiting to share with you. We had huge fun making the BBC series, and above all, it proved just how much people loved the antiques they brought along. It was lovely to see the expression on their faces once the antiques were restored"
PRICE COMPARISON – OLD VERSUS NEW
Victorian mahogany framed chaise longue. Price 2000: £500-700 Price 2010: £150-200. IKEA equivalent: Tylosand chaise longue £389.
George II mahogany dropleaf dining table. Price 2000: £400-500 Price 2010: £100-150. IKEA equivalent: Bjorkudden gateleg table £149.