Pair of pale tan high backed Gothic leather armchairs. Upholstered in new leather using original studs, 1890: c£3,200 (Dealer: Victoria Harvey)

Antiques For Modern Living

27th March 2009

“After many years of minimalism and simplicity, I think people want to add more personality into their homes…” Sir Paul Smith

There are antiques fairs… and then there is the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, which offers not just fabulous items from the past, but a ‘look’ for decorating. It was one of the first fairs to do so, and its themes remains fresh and new each time (if there isn’t an inherent contradiction in describing an event with its feet firmly in the past as ‘fresh and new’…)
The recent statement [left] by the eponymous British designer Sir Paul Smith may be one of the reasons why the Decorative Antiques Fair has seen continued growth in the past year, with an unflagging demand from increasing numbers of both decorators and private buyers for the stock they bring to the Fairs. Those who traipse from fair to fair report this one as ‘the most inspiring and relaxed antiques event in the UK’.

Even if you’re simply in search of ideas and inspiration, rather than actively looking to buy (although prices start at a very reasonable £100), the Fair is worth a visit. The special theme in the foyer of the Spring 2009 Fair is The Club Room, recreating a classic gentleman’s retreat: a complete Victorian billiard room, comfortable leather seating, a library area, sporting and gaming memorabilia, drinks-related items and associated decorative touches. It’s the perfect antidote to minimalism, celebrating the trappings of a comfortable lifestyle that has been appreciated for centuries – and if you’re tempted to replicate any or all of it in your own home, all items will be offered for sale from exhibitors at the Fair.

The unique aspect of the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fairs, and that for which it is renowned, is the quirky and the unusual: dealers have a great eye for spotting objects that work as decorative highlights in a home. You might find industrial or factory furniture, architectural antiques, shop fronts and fittings, even fossils and other natural objets trouvés. Whatever it is, it will endure.

1950s small curved Italian sofa: £2,650 (Dealer: Quindry)

Current trends…

Of course, the beauty of adding an antique to an already established interior is the touch of individuality, the guarantee that no-one else’s home will look exactly like yours. Even so, though, trends within interior design do extend to antiques, so if you want to be sure you’re bang on the money, then take a note of the following:
:: black accents: look out for lamps, small furniture such as ebonised or japanned chairs, desks and occasional tables, and glassware.

:: upholstered furniture: more popular than ever, this was apparently flying off the stands at the Autumn 2008 fair. Carefully selected antique pieces can offer better quality value-for-money than new.

:: the Hotel Chic look: boudoir glitz and gold, with 20th century furniture (especially in unusual finishes such as parchment, vellum and lacquer), antique Venetian mirrors, and lots of antique gilding – furniture, frames or lamps.

:: industrial lighting vs feminine crystal: top sellers at the moment include quirky wall lights, original Anglepoise lamps, modernist glass chandeliers, extravagant antique crystal chandeliers and all kinds of floor-lamps.

:: floral and colourful textiles: used as a ‘statement’ in a room, just one piece of upholstered furniture will get the look, or try cushions and bed/sofa throws using antique textile lengths such as 18th century toile de Jouy and chintzes.

:: useful, English & Decorative wood furniture that complement wallpaper schemes: chests of drawers, side tables, consoles. It’s a great time to buy. Some prices are half what they were in the 1990s…

The Spring Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair takes place from Tuesday 21 to Sunday 26 April in The Marquee, Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ.
Tickets are £8, including catalogue (which allows free return to Fair). The Fair is open 12pm – 8pm Tuesday; 11am – 8pm Wednesday & Thursday; 11am – 7pm Friday; 11am – 6pm Saturday & Sunday. Nearest Tube is Sloane Square; a free shuttle service runs from Sloane Square to the Marquee every 10-15 minutes during opening hours. See or call 020 7624 5173 for more info.

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