Information about Art, Antiques and Auctions in Ireland and around the world
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    This fine Regency mahogany and satinwood bureau, possibly a Cork piece, made a below estimate hammer price of just €650 at the James Adam Library Collection sale

    Who would have guessed that the longer term salvation of the antique furniture market might be in salvage. In a world where fast fashion needs to be reconsidered and sustainability is on the up there is more room than ever before for products that are restored and recycled. An antique piece preserves scarce resources and has a long life cycle. Old furniture was created with hand operated tools, glues and dyes from natural sources using the ultimate green practices.  Contrast this with today where around 90% of furniture comes from countries with not much in the way of regulation about water pollution, air pollution or responsible forest management. In the UK it is estimated that around 1.7 tons of furniture waste, which is not recycled, is generated each year.

    This set of six chairs including two carvers made just €22 at a South Dublin Auctions sale 

    A study by carbon clear compared an antique chest of drawers with a newly made version and concluded that antique furniture is likely to have a carbon footprint 16 times lower than modern furniture.  Many people who buy furniture are completely unaware of this even though the majority of buyers will consider sustainability. There is much competition at auction for the best pieces but the market for ordinary antique furniture has been at rock bottom for years.  It is possible to pick up pieces for next to nothing at many sales. Buyers have been looking the other way for so long that many auctioneers will simply refuse to consider taking old tables, chairs, cupboards, wardrobes, even the beautiful  Georgian linen presses that once graced elegant homes to the market.  Given that the cost of cartage is more than many such pieces will actually make at auction it is not too difficult to see where they are coming from. If the heirs don’t want it – as is so often the case – once treasured objects from house clearances end up in the skip.  In a world of diminishing resources  and massive climate change this is nothing short of madness.

    This Edwardian oak gateleg table sold for just €30 at Sheppards

    Brown furniture is lovely.  It isn’t all new and shiny nor should it be.  There is nothing wrong with  signs of wear and tear on a chair or a table that has already given years of service.  Something that is far gone can be restored or re-purposed imaginatively.  It can be repaired, stained, varnished, painted, stencilled or otherwise upcycled.  Processes like this help the planet.Antique and vintage pieces come from an era when things were made to last and expected to give a lifetime of value.  The abhorrent idea of built in obsolescence, widely practiced now, was unheard of then.  So instead of supporting the sort of greedflation rampant these days you might profitably consider making one small change by opting to buy old rather than new.  The opportunity to do so is available at auctions everywhere.  In the process you will help our earth to survive and almost certainly help your own budget as well.  There is some way to go before salvation of the antique furniture market is achieved and the planet is salvaged. 

    This 19th century Irish pine dresser made a hammer price of €210 at Fonsie Mealy’s sale at Borleagh Manor in April.

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