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07/03/2022
By Emma Hooton

How to choose antiques to decorate your home

Antiques have long been basking in the interiors spotlight. Whether it’s our fascination with the past, or an avoidance of the shiny and new, a dash of antiquity can transform an interior. Antiques dealer and marketplace owner, Jane Walton, shares her views with us on how to choose and use antiques in the home.

Jane Walton. Founder, The Decorative Collective:

“Antiques bring instant character, warmth, a sense of home. They unconsciously transport you back in time and, having been around a lot longer than you have, they come with a few tales to tell. Immediately this creates a bond that you can’t get from something new. 

Buying antiques you love builds on that bond. You want to walk into a room and feel happy and at one with your space. Choosing pieces you love is especially important if you’re going to look at them every day, but they don’t have to be pristine or perfect. The original patina is a vital part of the charm. 

I’m often asked where I put my money. Although my first love is garden ornament and sculpture, if I was furnishing a home, I’d invest in a really comfortable period sofa and chairs. I’d go for something like a Howard & Sons armchair or sofa, as they are well known for their quality British craftsmanship and timeless designs. They also remain incredibly popular because of their country house appeal and signature large generous seats. Yes, such items can be pricey, but antiques are no different than other luxury items. You get what you pay for, but be sure to buy from a reliable and experienced source.

Large 19th century Howard & Sons Wimborne sofa £18,950 from Decorative Collective dealer Drew Pritchard.

Dean Antiques, Drew Pritchard and William James are great for that sort of thing and finding a reputable dealer with the right specialist knowledge is important. There’s a lot of diversity in the antiques field. My advice would be to find a good dealer (you can do that through the Decorative Collective website), speak to them, and to never be afraid to ask more about a piece’s history or provenance, or whether it’s had restoration works.  Good dealers are only too happy to share their expertise. 

If you do want to hunt for antiques yourself, go to as many antique fairs, shops and showrooms as you can. They’re all excellent training grounds. If there’s one thing all dealers have in common it’s that they’ve picked up, turned over and inhaled the smell of an awful lot of antiques. There’s no better way to learn the trade.”

Top tips on choosing antiques: 

-Only buy items you love – Especially if a piece is large and in your eyeline every day 

-Visit antique fairs – It’s where all antique dealers hone their skills 

-Go for quality vs quantity – It’s better to invest in one or two really good pieces 

-Don’t rush your search – Impulse is your worst enemy, take your time 

-Restore antiques sensitively – Use a professional restorer if a piece needs help living on

Emma Hooton. Founder, Studio Hooton 

“Antiques play a supporting role in most of our schemes, bringing texture, depth and interest. People have a natural fascination with the past and antiques not only tell a story, they create a sense of place and belonging that’s comforting to the soul. 

That said, most people don’t want a home that looks like an antiques showroom. A few curated pieces that feel like part of the fabric of the place are better than lots of pieces that compete. A room should look as though it has evolved organically around the antiques. Crowding out a space with lots of antiques, especially if they’re at eyeline, will make this harder to achieve. 

As always, styling is everything. While it’s great to mix and match different periods and styles, I find some combinations work better than others. Super contemporary styles for instance often work beautifully with antiques but mixing antiques with a vintage midcentury modern interior or putting a 60s sideboard next to a Georgian antique dresser can be a harder look to pull off. A standout antique piece can also look brilliant but only if it’s integrated with the rest of the scheme.

I especially like antique furniture that connects to the house or its owner in some way – for example, it could tell a bit about the local area or reflect the owner’s interests or roots. It can be a great talking point and a unique feature you can be sure you won’t find anywhere else. 

Obviously you need to keep an open mind when searching for antiques, but when designing a scheme, we often suggest an interesting storage or other functional piece to complement the design. It could be an antique dresser, a chest of drawers, console table or a dining table with a few knocks, but that’s fine. You don’t want it to look brand new. Its age and history bring character and interest and build on the story of the home.”

Where to find antique dealers: 

-Garden ornaments: Arabesque Antiques

-Stained glass and architectural antiques: Drew Pritchard

-Decorative antiques & interiors: Brownrigg Interiors

-English oak furniture and other items of character: Spencer Swaffer Antiques

-Howard & Sons furniture: Dean Antiques

For the full list see Decorative Collective.


Main Image: Studio Hooton Country House project featuring antique chair upholstered in Penny Morrison – Lucknow Green | Photo by Martingardner.com

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