It’s podcast day today and it’s a good’un. Useful too. Sophie and I discuss garden furniture and how the key to getting it right is to take in the indoors out – sofas and lamps rather than deck chairs that collapse on you. Think about creating an outdoor sitting room and you’re on the right lines. It needs to be as comfortable so it outside as it is to remain indoors basically. Also when it comes to choosing the furniture don’t default to that grey boxy furniture if that’s not your interior style. It’s still your space even if it doesn’t have walls and ceilings.
My garden furniture is grey as my house was when I bought it. I can’t justify changing it but am contemplating recovering the cushions in something brighter and jollier to make the whole thing a little more uplifting. For more ideas you can listen here.
Next we discuss the current trend for what is now called tablescaping (we used to call it laying the table) but it’s not just about that. Buying vintage china at auction is massive and you can still pick up great bargains. The Victorians regularly catered for four courses for 12 people so you can get huge sets for not much money.
Patterned tableware fell out of fashion in the 90s when it was all about white plate and big wooden serving boards but it’s on its way back now and the joy this time round is that it doesn’t have to match so you can build up a collection gradually.
We spoke to Cheffins auction house who told us that the old Willow Pattern is still very affordable and if you keep an eye out you can still find Constance Spry whose scallop shaped vases and jugs are being heavily copied by the high street just now.
Other names to look out for include Masons Imari, Spode and Wedgwood. Keep an eye on Etsy as that’s often a good source for vintage china. Brett Tryner, a director in the fine arts department at Cheffins offers the following advice if you’re nervous about auctions.
If you’re there in person and buying a big box you should be allowed to take out the pieces and inspect them. If you can’t get there then ask for a condition report. Check for maker’s stamps on the bottom of each piece.
Brett says the key thing if you’re a first timer is not to be intimidated. It’s not all about selling Old Masters for millions of dollars. There are monthly sales of stuff which have come from ordinary houses like your Granny or your neighbour where things just need to find new homes and aren’t necessarily high value.
Accidental bidding isn’t really a thing. The auctioneers are trained to spot the difference between someone scratching their nose and wanting to buy something.
Auctions move fast so turn up early – you will need to register and get a bidding number before you can take part. This applies to online as well as in real life. And if you are attending in real life then allow time to inspect the items you are interested – don’t forget to measure if it’s furniture.
You will have heard this before but don’t forget it – set yourself a top limit. The adrenaline can kick in and you can get carried away and spend more than you wanted to.
Finally have fun. There are often lots of hidden gems at local auctions and many will have a tea room so make a day of it and enjoy it. Buying this way means you will get something with history and character as well as something that no-one else has.
Just remember if you’re buying vintage china that it probably can’t go in the dishwasher.
With huge thanks as ever to our series sponsors Harlequin.