Old English Furniture

the first chapter INTRODUCTION

HEN I first began, in a small way, to collect a few pieces of old English furniture, the present craze was almost in its infancy. There were, of course, a host of distinguished collectors, but the vast army of small bargain hunters had not sprung into being. Most people were then content to furnish according to the house-furnisher's taste, and you did not hear every couple setting up housekeeping chatter about old oak and Chippendale. The modern movement is undoubtedly a change in the right direction, for despite the fact that it has created a demand for and brought into existence a vast array of bad imitations of the work of the eighteenth century masters, these copies are an improvement on what went before. It does violence to one's feelings to see the twelve by ten drawing-room in a suburban villa furnished with "old carved

oak" (made in Belgium or the Midlands) backed by an "art" wall-paper, or to see cottage chairs of the Chippendale period in the drawing-rooms of the wealthy; but at least these things show a hankering after improvement. It is not every one who has instinctive feeling for what is beautiful in design and correct in form—not every one who is born with a sensitiveness which is outraged when a beautiful piece of furniture is insulted by being placed in unsympathetic surroundings, and I am not at all sure that the vast majority are not much to be congratulated on the circumstance. The modest collector, who has scraped up a little knowledge and is the easy prey of the modern manufacturer, often forgets, if he ever knew, that the furniture of the great makers was intended for certain styles of rooms. The oak-panelled rooms and tapestry-hung walls took their dignified solid oak and exquisite walnut-wood work, and the painted rooms of a later period show up the dainty work of Sheraton, Adams, and Hepplewhite. Divorced from their proper surroundings, you miss half the effect which the designer saw. I do not suggest that there are not a fair number of people who have this inborn knowledge which 2

Old English Furniture

OAK DINING TABLE. Tudor period. {At one time in the possession of S. E. Letts, Esq.) This table is probably a later one than that shown in the preceding-illustration. The struts are no longer square in section and are slightly ornamented by grooving. The square parts of the legs are noticeably smaller and shorter, leaving no room for brackets, which shows that the tendency towards lightening furniture had already begun. The ball feet are an interesting feature.

enables them to detect at once the false from the genuine, and approximately date every piece of furniture. I am not prepared to say that I am one of them, but I wish here to express my thanks firstly, to Mrs. C. W. Wyllie, whose intuitive knowledge exceeds that of any one I have met, and who has come to my assistance in the writing of this book; secondly, to Mr. James Orrock for allowing me to include certain photographs of examples in his fine collection; and thirdly, to Mr. S. E. Letts, who has also lent photographs, and whose knowledge of Chippendale furniture is, I imagine, unrivalled in England. I am particularly glad to include specimens of Mr. Orrock's collection, because I do not think it is sufficiently widely known how much he has done to uphold the merits of English furniture, to insist on its undoubted superiority in workmanship to French furniture, and to arouse a feeling of national pride in the work of the best makers. He gathered round him an almost priceless collection, and though it has now been dispersed under the hammer, there was at one time no better education for the would-be collector than a visit to his house under the owner's intelligent guidance.

And now to go back for a moment. When some years ago I first began buying a little furniture, one of the charms of acquiring old things was that, apart from their aesthetic value, they were very much cheaper than their modern equivalents. A beautiful Sheraton chest of drawers, with dressing-table fittings, did not cost more than a japanned deal atrocity. Chairs could be acquired from half a crown upwards. A bureau was the cheapest form of writing-table in existence, and those fine old wardrobes and tall chests of drawers stood neglected in dark corners of dealers' shops. Now all is changed; the genuine antique is hard to find. It is either on its way to America or its price is prohibitive to those of moderate means. There is one direction though in which the enthusiast, with a little knowledge, can do real service. I take a little credit to myself that I have saved sundry beautiful pieces from the rubbish heap. Few people are courageous enough to buy a much dilapidated article which appears to be tottering on broken legs to the wood heap, but I have been occasionally marvellously repaid for so daring. I have for long had the services .of an extremely 4

skilful and intelligent workman at my command, and nothing in my possession gives me greater pleasure than a little Stuart cabinet which he took in hand when it was in the last stages of decrepitude, and to which he devoted three weeks of careful work. It is one of the curious things about the poor collector that he will reluctantly pass by a table or cabinet offered to him in perfect condition for, say ^25—considering that the price is beyond him; but if he can buy it for, say £10, he will cheerfully pay another ^15 for having it restored. Restoration is often difficult, but it saves many a gem from a terrible fate. I have been over factories in the Midlands and elsewhere and seen in full swing the horrid work of transforming genuine but faulty pieces of furniture. Beautiful square pianos are transmogrified into secretaires; carved chests are cut up into cupboards; chairs are taken to pieces, and bits of the old wood are put into half a dozen new imitations. The clever ignoramus is then allowed to scrape a genuine leg with his pocket-knife, and goes away quite satisfied about the antiquity of the wood, and hugging himself with the thought that he has secured a bargain, although nine-tenths of the chair

How To Sell Furniture

How To Sell Furniture

Types Of Furniture To Sell. There are many types of products you can sell. You just need to determine who your target market is and what specific item they want. Or you could sell a couple different ones in a package deal.

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