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Chic antiques: top tips from an antiques expert on finding your perfect piece

PUBLISHED: 15:00 22 June 2017

One for homes on the slightly larger side with a little more cash to splash; this Mosasaurus fossil is 80 Million years old

One for homes on the slightly larger side with a little more cash to splash; this Mosasaurus fossil is 80 Million years old

Archant

Mary Claire Boyd, director of this year’s Art & Antiques Fair atOlympia London gives her expert advice for buying timeless antiques to make a statement in your home

Barbara Macfarlane's Red London will be on sale. The birds eye view of the Thames was created in oil and ink on linen and measures 140 x 230 cmBarbara Macfarlane's Red London will be on sale. The birds eye view of the Thames was created in oil and ink on linen and measures 140 x 230 cm

Mary Claire Boyd knows a thing or two about buying antiques. The director of The Art and Antiques Fair, which takes place at the Olympia for one week between 26th June and 2nd July, knows all the tricks of the trade when it comes to sourcing pieces, bargaining down the right price and building relationships with all the right dealers.

Here she her insight into the world of antiques, and gives her expert advice on how to find the perfect piece for your home.

Started from the bottom

A five drawer Cuban mahogany Empire commode with ormolu mounts depicting Roman and Egyptian figures and motifs, circa 1880.A five drawer Cuban mahogany Empire commode with ormolu mounts depicting Roman and Egyptian figures and motifs, circa 1880.

Starting an antique collection is a hugely rewarding experience. Not only are you creating something that you can display with pride in your home and potentially pass down to future generations, you will be learning so much as your antique buying journey is hugely educational.

My top tip? Whether you are buying for love or for an investment piece, the most important thing is that you’re buying something that fits with your home and your way of life.

Shop around

Kim Sloane of the British Museum will be giving a talk including James Thomas Watts' 1850 'November Evening in a Welsh Wood'Kim Sloane of the British Museum will be giving a talk including James Thomas Watts' 1850 'November Evening in a Welsh Wood'

Firstly, visit art and antiques fairs, museums and national galleries and work out what you like. The variety of pieces on offer is extraordinary. In London we are spoilt for choice! At The Art & Antiques Fairs at Olympia you can see works by Picasso, Miro and Warhol all under one roof as well as a number of paintings for just over £100.

Build bridges

Build up relationships with dealers. Once they know you and you know them, they will be willing to find things for you based upon your taste and budget. Discovery is often the hardest job so enlist their support as they are most well placed to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and capitalise on their vast expertise.

For sale, a Peartree Collection Silver & Tourmaline Jardiniere made by William Hutton & Sons in 1902For sale, a Peartree Collection Silver & Tourmaline Jardiniere made by William Hutton & Sons in 1902

Start small

Good entry level pieces for beginners are often the simplest pieces, such as a console table, a side table or perhaps a statement vase for your flowers.

If you don’t know, ask

If you’re unsure, seek advice from an interior designer who can provide help on where a piece would go. They know that just one piece of antique furniture, even in a very modern setting, will make a space sing. They will also have the knowledge of where to place a piece in the perfect position so don’t be afraid to ask. Quite often furniture dealers are interior designers too so would be happy to help.

Stand out by fitting in

As Susie Rumbold, Chairman of the BIID says: “Identify gaps in your rooms that could take items of furniture and know what size you can accommodate without crowding in the room. Generate well-lit spaces for eye-catching pieces by adding table lamps (either old or new) to provide mid-level lighting. Be aware of scale: small paintings for example that worked in your first flat may look too small in a larger family home, so hang them in tight groups to give them more impact.”

Try before you buy

Art and antiques encompass a whole range of pieces. Think laterally; sometimes a textile on a wall, for example those sold by Boccara, can give a room lovely warmth and texture. Many dealers will let you try a picture or a piece of furniture in your home before committing.

Always be prepared

If shopping for large pieces of furniture, shop armed with measurements. As the Editor of the Interior Style Hunter Grant Pierrus says: “It’s also a good idea to have photos on hand of the space that the item will go into as well as exact measurements. This will stop you for looking for unnecessarily items and those that just won’t fit.”

Don’t fake it, authenticate it

Making that first purchase can be daunting, so protect yourself. The art and antiques world has two key trade associations, BADA and LAPADA, so make sure the person you’re buying from is a member of one of these. This will greatly reduce your chance of buying a fake. Similarly, major London fairs have a strict vetting policy to help visitors, meaning that each and every piece has been thoroughly vetted before opening to the public, with over 100 experts checking every single piece to verify it is genuine and of sound quality.

Knowledge is power

Keep up to date with news. Visit fairs, research websites, talk to people and educate yourself. As Grant says: “If you are new to the antique hunt a little research goes a long way and by simply browsing the internet and antique websites you will begin to see what you like and what you imagine in the aforementioned space. Nowadays with programs such as Pinterest it’s also so easy to save all your ideas and references and relate back to them so then you can try something similar to what you have seen somewhere else.”

If you don’t love it, leave it

The chances are you are going to be investing a significant amount of money on your antique collection so be sure to absolutely love the piece you’re buying. Make sure you have a personal resonance with it, an emotional connection that will stand the test of time far beyond fashion and your current home.

The Art & Antiques Fair takes place between 26th June to 2nd July at the Olympia, Hammersmith Road, W14. The Winter Art & Antiques Fair will take place between 31st October and 5th November. Visit the website for more details.

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