At 11 years old my daughter has a “style.” She likes chevron patterns and clean asian-inspired pieces. Maybe because I am more “boho” and artistic and like to clutter my space with trinkets she swings the opposite way? My 10 year old daughter likes fluffy and pink and anything with unicorns. Years ago before either of them were born I went to a yard sale with cash in my pocket. I had no idea I was going to purchase anything, but I had just gotten my first large paycheck.
The yard sale was at the home of a cabinet maker. As people perused the front yard I wandered around to his woodshop in the back where a head and footboard were leaning up against the shed. “Is this for sale?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to include it in the yard sale.” I offered him all of the cash in my pocket and took home a Jacobian chest from the 1600’s that had been turned into a twin sized bed in the 1800’s. Still visible was the hole where the key would have fit.
Both of my girls have used the bed. When I moved and downsized my house I redecorated and realized it was time to let go of a lot of things, some antiques included. I asked my daughters if either of them wanted the bed for their new room, and they both responded, “no, but you have to keep it so we can pass it down to our children.” It may not fit their style, but it sure fit their heart, and I was proud that they realized the value. It is still the sturdiest piece of furniture I own.
Below is a story by writer Mark Palmer for The Daily Mail. Read as he shares his experience with collecting antiques and the response of his own daughter:
“My daughter is finally leaving home. Not before time, you might say, since she’s in her mid-20s.
Olivia is teaching at a state primary, where she doesn’t earn much, but seems to be well rewarded in terms of job satisfaction.
“She is going to be sharing a flat with a friend and it should be reasonably bright and cheerful once I’ve finished with the paint-roller. What’s more, I told her the other day that apart from a bed and a sofa, she hardly needs to buy a stick of furniture.
“That’s because I’ve accumulated so much of the stuff and have been waiting for years to offload as much as possible to my children, if and when they could afford a place of their own.
There are chests of drawers, bookcases, sideboards, tallboy chests, a couple of wardrobes — even a dining room table, which, if you put in the two spare leaves, can seat 12 with- out feeling you’re wedged in like commuters at rush hour on the London Underground.
“Some of these bits and pieces are in better condition than others. I have a lot of them in my own home and a great deal more in storage, where it’s been gathering dust ever since my mother died more than ten years ago. All of it falls under the broad brush description of antique furniture. And that seems to be the problem.
‘Dad, I really don’t want loads of your old brown furniture,’ said Olivia, not unkindly but with enough feeling to make me realise there was little point in arguing the case.
And so we got in the car and headed off for a dispiriting pilgrimage to Ikea, where her head was turned by soulless, mass-produced, self-assembly kits that would have my grandparents spinning in their graves.
“How could she choose something assembled by an Allen key in place of my late granny’s precious mahogany bedside tables, which were made by specialist craftsmen during the latter part of Queen Victoria’s reign?
“Well, she can — and she does.
“This helps explain why the value of antique furniture has plummeted to such disastrous levels that many dealers are throwing in the towel or jettisoning the old in favour of more modern alternatives.
“Prices for ‘brown furniture’ are at their lowest since early in the last century, when the death toll from World War I meant the market was flooded, but with few buyers to take advantage of the rock-bottom prices because so many young men — who would have married and set up homes — had been killed. Today, other factors are at play.
“According to many in the antiques trade, popular TV programmes such as the Antiques Roadshow and Cash In The Attic have contributed to the attitude and tastes espoused by my daughter.
“Young people regard the Antiques Roadshow as ‘just for pensioners’ and don’t want to be associated with the sort of items, however precious, that people show to the experts with that compelling mixture of curiosity and pride.
“Expert Simon Myers has said they give the ‘perception that antiques are the prerogative of old people’. Earlier this year, the Antique Collectors’ Club’s annual furniture index concluded: ‘The market remains in a parlous state.’
“It’s such a pity.
“On the one hand, we all have a growing interest in our personal heritage (and an appetite for knowing about other people’s backgrounds, if TV series such as Who Do You Think You Are? are anything to go by).
“And yet we no longer seem to cherish furniture that has been passed down the generations, each piece with its own story to tell.
Young people will come to regret this, I’m sure, but only when it is too late to do anything about it.
“I am writing this article at the desk that belonged to my father. It is made of walnut with a leather inlay and has four drawers down each side and one bigger drawer in the middle. There’s not a nail (never mind a piece of Ikea plastic) to be seen in its construction.
“It isn’t valuable, but even if it were, it would break my heart to part with it. My father spent hours at this desk, writing letters, shuffling papers or just reading the newspapers. His beloved black labrador used to sit in the well, warming his feet. I couldn’t put a price on memories such as that.
“Britons spent nearly £14 billion on new furniture last year, according to market researchers Mintel.
‘People are replacing things more often, helped by the availability of cheap furniture,’ said an analyst. ‘Young couples starting out tend to buy cheaply at first.’
“And there’s the folly. Those same young people — my daughter included — will be throwing out their cheap furniture within a year or so and replacing it with something a little more ‘of the moment’, but still utterly forgettable in the longer scheme of things.
“And the price argument doesn’t stand up. I came across a George III drop-leaf dining room table the other day priced at £320 — a few years ago it would have cost almost £1,000. Clearly it was built to last, but what struck me was how practical it would be for a modern home, where space is at a premium.
Beautiful Hand-Carved Roping on the arms of this antique chair, certainly one of a kind
“Yes, it was brown, but there’s no rule to say you can’t strip down furniture and paint it with one of those soft greys or milky whites that will have your neighbours crowing about your sophisticated Scandinavian-style taste.
‘Furniture has always been cannibalised — and now is a great time to do it, with brown furniture selling so cheaply,’ says John McCall, managing director of John McCall Interior Design.
For example, he recommends buying a big mahogany wardrobe and knocking out the panels, replacing them with mirrors and then bleaching the whole ensemble so that you end up with a solid but elegant piece of furniture that will stand the test of time. Also, it would work out cheaper than a modern equivalent.
“There’s a lifestyle issue here, of course.
“Many young people don’t have the time — or the inclination — to polish furniture, never mind silver or brass.
“And a trip to the local recycling centre to dump a table and chairs that have fallen apart in less than six months (and TVs that are not quite as flat-looking as the latest models) is now part of their weekend routine.
An English Welsh dresser, more “brown” furniture. To paint this would surely be a crime!
“But all is not lost. James Podger, who runs the Great Grooms Antique Centre in Hungerford, Berkshire, says that antique furniture is still prized highly by Americans.
“The problem is just that people such as my daughter will come to realise this later than previous generations, who, frankly, just felt fortunate to have furniture of any kind passed down to them.
‘Everyone graduates towards quality eventually,’ says Mr Podger. ‘When you think about it — and contrary to conventional wisdom — the young tend to do a lot of things later rather than earlier.
‘We always think they grow up so fast, but when it comes to understanding the real value of something such as beautifully made furniture, they seem to take their time.’
Let’s hope he’s right.
“I don’t mind my parents’ old furniture languishing in storage (where I visit it occasionally), but I hope the penny drops for my children before I’m dispatched to my final resting place — which, I suppose, will be another piece of polished brown furniture, otherwise known as a casket.”
Article by Mark Palmer for The Daily Mail at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3371357/Why-millennials-prefer-Ikea-family-heirlooms-MARK-PALMER-asks-question-daughter-turned-nose-beautiful-antiques.html