Embrace antiquity with timeless elegance

When I was a child, my parents would load us into the car to tour the junkshops of the South Island, filling our Austin 1800 to the hilt with fabulous antique pieces, bought for a song. While I have fond memories of that time, these days, real antiques are pricier. That doesn’t mean a stately decorating scheme is out of the question – you may just need to mix old and new.

How do I start?

Even the most humble abode can be transformed into an antique-style pile. It’s a popular and enduring look, so there’s lots out there for you to choose from.

It can be great fun looking for suitable items – new or old – in charity and antique shops, auction houses, department stores and of course online, where Trade Me has revolutionised the second-hand industry.

If you’re lucky enough to have bought antique furniture back in the days when it was cheap – or even inherited some – use these pieces as a basis for your scheme and add modern “old” items to complete the look. Once friends and family members get to know what you’re doing, you might be surprised how many contributions you get. Many people hold on to family heirlooms that don’t fit with their style because they feel guilty selling them. Passing those items on to someone who will treasure them can feel much better!

Where can I find tips & ideas?

The antique look is still huge in England and the US and there are many websites specialising in advising decorators. If you prefer your inspiration on paper, have a look at your local magazine retailer, where there are some great imported magazines packed with memorable pictures. Due to our strong dollar they’re often surprisingly inexpensive.

Antiques in New Zealand

The incredible success of Sam Morgan’s brainchild Trade Me has led many antique dealers to move out of their physical stores to sell online.

It’s a good option for them because anybody anywhere can view the auction and the market dictates the price. Meanwhile, high-end auction houses such as Cordy’s continue to do well as estates and other collections come on the market. This is because they have the contacts, expertise and marketing power to target buyers with particular interests.

Andrew Grigg of Cordy’s has noticed increased interest in quality silverware recently and says that good quality Chinese items always do well. New Zealand Crown Lynn pottery is a sure seller as is the ceramic work of Keith Murray. Andrew advises potential buyers to inspect the item carefully and be aware of any damage before bidding.

If you get daring and decide to bid, you can usually do this by phone or over the net. There’s nothing like the atmosphere in a real live auction house, but if you think you’re liable to get carried away, stay home, place your best price bid and wait for a call to say you’ve been successful.

What about colours?

If you’ve decided your aristocratic new look is going to incorporatedark furniture, you’ll probably want a reasonably lively colour on the walls, curtains and furnishing fabrics. In the past – especially in Victorian times – décor was very dark and often gloomy. What you’re doing here is taking the best bits of the past and putting them together in a more modern way, so make the most of the wonderful contemporary colour range at paint and wallpaper retailers. Cream, pale blues and greens, and even daring pinks and purples can look great.

Related stories

Get your favourite magazines home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.