Tracking Down Antique Treasure
With the retro trend in full swing, we look at how to navigate the world of antiques
In recent years, the temptation to fill your home with quirky one-off pieces of furniture has taken off, and people are shunning the run-of-the-mill mass produced pieces in favour of something unique. South west London and Surrey are blessed with ample antiques fairs, markets, quirky car boots and independent boutiques where you can bag yourself a fascinating statement piece to bring a bit of personality to your home.
Edward Cruttenden from Sunbury Antiques Market – the umbrella company that puts on both Sandown and Kempton antiques fairs – has witnessed first-hand the upward trend for quirky retro interiors and says it’s showing no sign of abating, with a younger audience driving it. “This generation really has an eye for different vogues,” says Edward, whose mother started up the family affair in Kempton in 1979. “Antique collectors are the main market but the dealers are really having a second bite of the cherry with the younger crowd,” he says.
Pippa Roberts from The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair – which takes place three times a year in Battersea Park – also credits the popularity of antiques fairs to the millennial crowd. “Young people have a keen interest in the story behind the objects they acquire, whether old or new, and all antiques come with a built-in background history, whether that be provenance – who has owned an item, or past purpose – why it was created.” Pippa also points out that these fairs are the antithesis of the throwaway society – an environmental aspect that is gaining momentum across the UK. “There is, of course, the re-use / recycle aspect to buying pre-owned and loved objects. I love that antiques fairs are 100% recycled. ‘Throwaway society’ is just so wrong, I never did get around to chucking out the chintz!”
Phil Taylor from Cool Stuff Across the Pond – which exhibits at the decorative fair and The Old Cinema in Chiswick – adds another advantage: “Usually, antique or vintage furniture and items are better quality, look more interesting in your home and will not require an allen key and two bottles of wine to put together!”
The atmosphere is also a huge lure, as is the prospect of a real find. “It’s a really cool vibe and you never know what you’re going to find. No matter what you are looking for, somebody will be selling it. Imagine your favourite Parisian flea market and furniture shop all rolled into one. We recently had a guy buy a ceramic vase for £90 which went on to be sold for £70,000,” explains Edward. “It’s free too, so you just turn up, grab a coffee and there is a real community aspect with traders getting the wine and cheese out,” he laughs.
The fairs are undoubtedly a mine of quirky treasures waiting to be found, but attending a market on the level of Kempton, Sandown or Battersea can be intimidating for beginner antiques buyers.
Joe Berry is a trader exhibiting his collection of interiors at Kempton Park, Ardingly Antiques Fair, Sandown Fair and Battersea Antiques Fair and advises being prompt and fastidious when conducting your search. “The early bird catches the worm – while it won’t always be a bargain, if you want to get the biggest opportunity of what is on offer, it’s best to turn up at the start of a fair. If you are less picky or your needs are less precise, often the best deals are found towards the tail-end of an antiques fair as dealers are more likely to want to move on any stock that remains. Do several laps of the fair – the volume of pieces on offer is normally large so it’s easy to be overwhelmed, if you change your routes each time, you will see pieces that you haven’t seen before and that others may have missed.”
Joe recommends being approachable and friendly with traders. “Offering an insulting price is likely to offend, many dealers won’t be making huge margins so being silly with the price won’t get you anywhere, if you want to offer a price or ask for a deal – build rapport and be courteous.”
Sunbury Antiques Market, Kempton Park Racecourse on the second and last Tuesday of every month Sunbury Antiques Market, Sandown, Tuesdays and Sundays. The Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair will be coming to Battersea Park from 1 – 6 October.