Furnishing A Period Home? Head For The Saleroom

Furnishing A Period Home? Head For The Saleroom

01/10/2023     General News

Much as the internet has allowed collectors, dealers and other bidders to see instantly every lot which we offer for sale at the saleroom in Aylsham, so the web enables us to take a peek at the fabulous properties which are for sale in our fine county.

It is not so long ago that a £1 million house was a rarity in Norfolk.  But as I write this today, Rightmove shows that there are currently 223 properties for sale with asking prices in seven figures.

Partly this is a reflection of a housing market which has only recently cooled off after an extended boom period, but it is also an indication that our county has a plethora of fine homes, ranging from grand stately homes to large former rectories, stunning barn conversions to architect-designed top-end modern houses.

Inevitably in a county with so much history, a large proportion of those bigger homes are period properties.  And for the people who decide to make such places their home, finding appropriate furniture is not the simple process you might imagine.

Buying off-the-shelf modern pieces is not really an option if you want to maintain a fitting feel for your Georgian or Victorian home.  Yes, you can commission reproduction pieces, but this can be an expensive option, and given our increased concern about how we eke out our planet’s scarce resources, not the most sustainable choice either.

Perhaps it is that plentiful supply of large period homes in Norfolk which is driving a growing demand for antique furniture in the saleroom, bucking a national trend which has seen furniture sales in the doldrums for some years.

At Keys we are seeing strong demand and solid hammer prices for good quality antique pieces, and even for those larger items which seem more difficult to sell in other parts of the country.

Our Summer Fine Sale saw brisk bidding for just this kind of item, from a large and impressive 18th century gilt framed wall mirror which sold for £3,100 (three times its pre-sale estimate) to an 18th century walnut and burr walnut veneered bureau bookcase which sold for £1,450 against a pre-sale estimate of £800-£900.

George I and Queen Anne walnut chests of drawers were particularly in demand, with three sold in a matter of minutes during the sale, all well above their estimates.

It’s not just furniture where the strong local market in period homes is mirrored in the saleroom.  The 18th and 19th centuries were the heyday of impressive house-building in Norfolk, and art from the same period is also very popular, especially when created by East Anglian artists.  Norwich school painters such as John Crome and John Sell Cotman are always in demand, as are later landscape artists such as Campbell Mellon and John Arnesby Brown.

Our county’s impressive roster of large period homes continues to see strong demand for furniture and furnishings from the same eras in the saleroom.  This is good news: not only is it preserving our important local heritage, but it a much more sustainable way forward than commissioning ever more new pieces.

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