01/07/2023 General News
Henry Hammond explores the changing trends in dining room furniture
The world of antiques is as influenced by lifestyle trends and fashions as much as any other sector, and nowhere is this more evident than in the rapidly evolving market for dining furniture.
As recently as the 1990s, many of us wanted our homes to have a traditional look, with mahogany and other dark wood pedestal tables in high demand. This was the era of the formal dinner party, and our dining rooms were decorated accordingly. We wanted our dining rooms to be a throwback to an earlier, perhaps more elegant age.
In the intervening years, formality in life generally has declined rapidly, replaced by a relaxed, flexible lifestyle. As a result, the dining room has evolved from somewhere which might perhaps be used once a week, to a versatile family space – and the furniture in it has to play a different role.
The dining table has now been repurposed, as likely to be used for working from home or for the kids to do their homework as it is for eating. This has come alongside a trend in house design which is seeing the dining table more likely to be located in a large, open-plan kitchen/diner/family room, rather than tucked away in a separate dining room.
In the saleroom, that has resulted in a dramatic change in demand, with traditional, highly-polished dark wood tables (and especially reproduction furniture) much less sought-after; now it is more flexible, more hard-wearing pieces from a more recent era which are getting the bidders going.
In particular, lightwood pieces from the post-war era are very much on trend. This is a good example of the circular nature of fashion: not so long ago, you couldn’t give away Ercol and G-Plan furniture, now it is making good money at auction.
In particular, good quality post-war Danish furniture is very much in demand, with makers such as Niels Moller, Solborg Mobler, Arne Vodder, and Pedersen all making serious money. Certain English producers are also selling well, in particular Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson (so-called because he included little carved mice on his pieces) and Norfolk furniture-maker Jack Grimble, who had his workshop in Cromer.
Lighter woods in particular are what people are looking for, to fit in with modern interior décor; in addition, because the table is likely to be used more regularly and take more of a battering from daily family life, robustness and cleanability are also things that buyers are looking for.
Some commentators have pointed to the fact that many modern homes are built without a dining room at all as evidence that the dining table has had its day. That is certainly not true – there is still a vibrant market for dining furniture. It’s just that as the role of the dining table has evolved from an occasional place for formal dining towards a flexible, multi-purpose, integral part of family life, the type of dining table people want has also changed.
Keys’ second three day Fine Sale of the year takes place on Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th and Friday 28th July, and includes a significant furniture section. Full details can be found at www.keysauctions.co.uk.