Antiques Q&As

Antiques and Interiors for 2018

According to some of the top designers in the world Antiques are becoming more popular than ever before.  There’s been a resurgence in the so called ‘brown furniture’ meaning such styles as Victorian, Georgian, as well as the classic French styles.

Why, because people are becoming a little bored with the overabundance of mass produced rubbish that not only disposable but detrimental to the environment.

Designers are anchoring modern looks with a fabulous antique to give the look charm and focus that might otherwise be lost in a monochromatic design.

According to Mark Hill from Designcurial in London

‘The only rule for 2018 is that all rules are off,” reckons Mark Hill, fellow author and another expert on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. “We buy antiques today because they appeal immediately to our eyes and hearts, and then they enrich our minds.  Before, interiors were strictly defined – from the Georgian dining room to the ubiquitous ‘shabby chic’ French country look.”

What exactly does this mean for interior design? “Eclecticism,” Mark argues, “is the new minimalism – mixing and matching seemingly disparate pieces together to build a unique and individual look that defines you. Quirky is cool.  1970s Italian goblets on a sideboard from the 1790s?   A collection of Victorian transfer-printed and guilt plates arranged asymmetrically on a stark chalk-white wall?  Why not?”

Antique Warehouse carries an extensive collection of french, england and belgium antiques and ships to the USA and worldwide.  Visit our website for a full list of our current french antique inventory.

Mark Hill, Antique and Collectable Expert, formerly of Sotheby’s and Bonhams.

Then again, he does see some trends coming through in 2018 in this new world where there are ‘no rules’. “Bold forms, or richness in terms of colour and pattern, layered against a strong colour, are on trend.  Also, watch out for the return of what is inadequately descried as ‘brown furniture’.  I’m seeing more and more buyers returning to Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian furniture”.

“There’s also a rise in interest in pieces that show the hand of the craftsman,” he continues, giving the examples of a “sparkling cut glass vase, or a wonderfully weathered piece of folk art.  Our eyes have been assailed for too long with mass-produced, machine-made rubbish lacking in soul!”

We couldn’t agree more. We’ve seen a rise in popularity that’s increasing globally. In fact, it’s more difficult then ever to source great pieces at formerly reasonable prices.

Here at the Antique Warehouse we’re shipping more and more to the four corners of the world than ever before.

Antique Warehouse carries an extensive collection of french, england and belgium antiques and ships to the USA and worldwide.  Visit our website for a full list of our current french antique inventory.

Old Georgian Home Wood World Globes Study Antique

But this new trend is hardly new from where we stand.  We’ve seen this going on here at the Antique Warehouse for the past few years. Good stand alone pieces with quality and substance are always in demand. We curate our collection carefully based on this.

Thanks for reading.

Mark LaFleur

http://www.antiquewarehouse.ca

 

 

 

The ‘Feasts’ of Christmas Past

While waiting to board between flights for Europe, I decided that instead of being glued to my computer and iphone like everyone else in the lounge I would revert to an earlier period in my life where reading a newspaper or magazine was all there was to pass the time. What a refreshing change that was.

I selected an English publication I had not heard of before ( by English I mean published in England ) that had written a fascinating article about a man named ‘Ivan Day’, an art historian by trade whose passion it was to examine cooking throughout the centuries. As I love to cook I read this article from beginning to end.

The article conjured images of roasting suckling pigs, fabulous meat pies, quince and pheasant pies, dinners by candlelight and roaring fireplaces. What could be more festive. Fascinating insights into how people celebrated the Holidays over the centuries.

 

 English Antique Furniture

Ivan Day photographed in front of his amazing creations.

The article written by Polly Russell ( Russell herself is a curator at the British Library), states that Ivan Day is a noted authoritarian on food making throughout the ages and runs food courses, advises museums and archives their collections and exhibitions. Day also has a website and has appeared on the BBC.

Day’s home is a charming authentic low beamed Medieval farmhouse in Cumbria that dates back to the 1600’s, replete with his collection of all the equipment needed to produce recipes as far back as the 1500’s. Day has a Medieval fireplace with a spit from the 1700.s that can roast a mutton, he also has antique copper moulds, both pie and jelly, fascinating implements for pie and pastry making that date back to the 1600’s.

Day’s passion began at the age of 13 when, after ducking into an antique store to escape the rain, he discovered a tattered old book published in 1723 by John Nott titled ‘The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary’. He took one look, purchased the book as was hooked!

 

 English Antique Furniture

Ivan Day preparing a dish in his home surrounded by antique copper molds.

Since we’re well into the Holiday period, Ivan discusses the Christmas Feast and how it was enjoyed throughout the ages. In fact, I learned that Medieval people dined more lavishly than we do now. Feasts of 2 courses of 20 dishes each were prepared days in advance to insure a memorable experience at Christmas. It’s little wonder gout was such a problem back then.

 

 English Antique Furniture

Typical Tudor dress of the era.

Ivan Day explains that roast mutton was a staple at Christmas along with turkey, pheasant, swan, and other wild fowl (all served during the same seating). By the time Christmas came about these birds and animals were at their fattest and ready for butchering. As early at the 1500’s farmers were encouraged to grow Turkeys because they produced the most meat of any bird.

The Christmas pie was the centerpiece of the table. A chef named ‘Francatelli’ produced a pie in 1848 that consisted of truffles, turkey, pheasant and a small york ham that took two days to produce and 6 hours to cook. To produce a pie like this today, Ivan claims, would cost over $600!

 

 English Antique Furniture

A partridge pie created by Ivan himself. In the medieval period the chef would take the head and feathers of the actual bird so that people knew what they were eating.

Ivan also discusses the preparation that went into making desserts and sweets over the ages.

 

 English Antique Furniture

A ‘motto’ shortbread from the Victorian Era.

In a Christmas Day bill of fare by Robert May dated 1660 you can see below all the dishes that were prepared and served!

A BILL OF FARE FOR CHRISTMAS DAY AND HOW TO SET THE MEAT IN ORDER
by Robert May, 1660

Oysters
1. A collar of brawn [pork that is rolled, tied, and boiled in wine and seasonings].
2. Stewed Broth of Mutton marrow bones.
3. A grand Sallet [salad].
4. A pottage [thick stew] of caponets [young castrated roosters].
5. A breast of veal in stoffado [stuffed veal].
6. A boil’d partridge.
7. A chine (a cut of meat containing backbone) of beef, or surloin roast. Here’s May’s recipe:

To roast a Chine, Rib, Loin, Brisket, or Fillet of Beef
Draw them with parsley, rosemary, tyme, sweet marjoram, sage, winter savory, or lemon, or plain without any of them, fresh or salt, as you please; broach it, or spit it, roast it and baste it with butter; a good chine of beef will ask six hours roasting.

For the sauce take strait tops of rosemary, sage-leaves, picked parsley, tyme, and sweet marjoram; and strew them in wine vinegar, and the beef gravy; or otherways with gravy and juice of oranges and lemons. Sometimes for change in saucers of vinegar and pepper.

8. Minced pies.
9. A Jegote [sausage] of mutton with anchove sauce.
10. A made dish of sweet-bread (Here’s a recipe from A New Booke of Cookerie by John Murrell, published in 1615: Boyle, or roast your Sweet-bread, and put into it a fewe Parboyld Currens, a minst Date, the yolkes of two new laid Egs, a piece of a Manchet grated fine. Season it with a little Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, and Sugar, wring in the iuyce of an Orenge, or Lemon, and put it betweene two sheetes of puft-paste, or any other good Paste: and eyther bake it, or frye it, whether you please.)
11. A swan roast.
12. A pasty of venison.
13. A kid with a pudding in his belly.
14. A steak pie.
15. A hanch of venison roasted.
16. A turkey roast and stuck with cloves.
17. A made dish of chickens in puff paste.
18. Two bran geese roasted, one larded [larding is inserting or weaving strips of fat in the meat, sometimes with a needle].
19. Two large capons, one larded.
20. A Custard.

THE SECOND COURSE FOR THE SAME MESS.

Oranges and Lemons
1. A young lamb or kid.
2. Two couple of rabbits, two larded.
3. A pig souc’t [sauced] with tongues.
4. Three ducks, one larded.
5. Three pheasants, 1 larded.
6. A Swan Pye [the showpiece: a pie with the dead swan’s head, neck, and wings sticking up from it].
7. Three brace of partridge, three larded.
8. Made dish in puff paste.
9. Bolonia sausages, and anchoves, mushrooms, and Cavieate, and pickled oysters in a dish.
10. Six teels, three larded.
11. A Gammon of Westphalia Bacon.
12. Ten plovers, five larded.
13. A quince pye, or warden pie [pears or quinces peeled and poached in syrup, then baked whole in a pie].
14. Six woodcocks, 3 larded.
15. A standing Tart in puff-paste, preserved fruits, Pippins, &c.
16. A dish of Larks.
17. Six dried neats [calf] tongues
18. Sturgeon.
19. Powdered [salted] Geese.
Jellies.

And you know, nothing says Christmas like powdered geese and jellies.

No where does it mention how many people were served at this feast. But we can assume it was more than 4!

 

 English Antique Furniture

Quince Tart or ‘Pastello de poma cotogne’ – or quince tart made from a recipe in Maestro Martino, Libro de arte coquinaria, perhaps the most important cookery text of the early renaissance. The hollowed out quinces are stuffed with bone marrow, sugar and cinnamon and baked on a puff paste base.

If your ambitious and think you’d like to try a Quince Tart or Pie, there are several modern day versions on the internet. You could try the original recipe dated in the 1660’s posted below: (if you can understand it…also the creation of the pastry is just assumed )

Quince Pye Recipe C.1660

Boil your Quinces in Water, sweetened with Sugar, till they be soft, then skin them and take out the Cores; after that boil the Water with a little more Sugar, Cloves, Cinnamon and Lemon peel till it becomes of the thickness of a Syrup; when cold lay your Quinces in Halves or Quarters, scattering Sugar between each Layer; put a pint of the Syrup, or more according to the Biggness of your Pye or Tart, make the Coffin round with close or cut Covers, and bake it pretty well. And thus you may do with Pippins and Pearmains, or with Winter-Fruit, and also with green Codlings.

If this article has you hungry for more, you can always fly to Cumbria and take one of Ivan’s 2 day courses at a cost of $600. Here’s an example of his course on Pie and Pastry Making

 

 English Antique Furniture

Pies created in the Pastry making course.

Pie Making and Pastry Course:

SATURDAY

10 am – Welcome and Introduction to the Course. This course is for those who want to improve the quality of their pastry and to learn to raise pies to a very high standard of workmanship. We will learn how to re-create English historical recipes from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Our sources will included recipes from Murrell, May, Kidder, Nott, Francatelli, Mrs Marshall and Gouffé.

10.45 – 13.00 – Hot water crust, freehand pie raising and wooden pie forms – we will make and decorate a number of raised pies from historical sources, including a Cheshire Pork Pie, a Stump Pie and some Marrow Chewitts.

13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch

14.00 – 17.00 – Lining Paste, Cold Water Paste and Metal Pie Forms – Using 19th century pie forms and boards for printing sprig decorations, we will make a very ambitious raised pie based on one of Agnes Marshall’s recipes.

17.00 – 20.00 – Free

20.00 – Historic dinner (lots of pies of course) at Wreay Farm

SUNDAY

10.00 – 13.00 A Lamb Pasty – we will make a highly decorative lamb pasty based on a design in Edward Kidder’s beautiful Book Receipts of Pastry and Cookery from the early eighteenth century.

13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch

14.00 – 17.00- Fine Pastry, Torts and Tarts – We will learn to make puff paste and paste royal and make some taffety tarts and a banniet tort.

As much as I love the sounds of all of this I am here in France. I’ve heard from friends that the very same thing exists here. I’ll see what I can find.

Until next time.
Thanks for reading.
Happy Holidays!

Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse
226 SW Marine Drive
Vancouver, BC

Please visit our website at http://www.antiquewarehouse.ca

Off Gassing and Out Gassing of New Furniture

Outgassing and off-gassing of furniture

Outgassing (sometimes called offgassing, particularly when in reference to indoor air quality) is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen, absorbed or adsorbed in some material. It can include sublimation and evaporation which are phase transitions of a substance into a gas, as well as desorption, seepage from cracks or internal volumes and gaseous products of slow chemical reactions. Boiling is generally thought of as a separate phenomenon from outgassing because it consists of a phase transition of a liquid into a vapor made of the same substance.

The reports that you’ve been reading about off-gassing of new furniture are correct. In many cases, the offending products are indeed made in China and swathed in formaldehyde, although this isn’t always the case. China often takes the blame because so much is made there and quality control is often lacking, but when it comes down to it, the manufacture of off-gassing furniture knows no geographic boundaries. And formaldehyde is a common culprit because it’s used to cure particleboard, pressed-wood and plywood, all manufactured composite woods. In reality, a stinky smorgasbord of chemicals can off-gas, not just formaldehyde, so while it’s good to be aware of the “F” word, don’t restrict yourself to it.

Outgassing can be significant if it collects in a closed environment where air is stagnant or recirculated. This is, for example, the origin of new car smell. Even a nearly odourless material such as wood may build up a strong smell if kept in a closed box for months. There is some concern that softeners and solvents that are released from many industrial products, especially plastics, may be harmful to human health. Some types of RTV sealants outgas the poison cyanide for weeks after application. These outgassing poisons are of great concern in the design of submarines and space stations.

HEALTH EFFECTS

Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness. The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.

Ways to prevent toxic outgassing in your home:

  •  Avoid furniture made from formaldehyde-treated composite woods and opt for “real” (preferably sustainable) wood furniture. In this day and age, this may prove to be difficult, so always consider going the vintage/secondhand route.
  • Consider buying a floor model, if possible. This way, the furnishing has had an ample amount of time to off-gas before it enters your home. Plus, you’ll probably save a few bucks.
  • Some furniture manufacturers/retailers give you the option of letting your purchase off-gas in their warehouse for a few days before you receive it. The extra wait may not be fun but if you’ve suffered adverse reactions from new furniture before, it’s well worth it. Just ask if this is possible.
  • Although the looks and dimensions of a piece of furniture are paramount when making a purchase, it does help to see where exactly it was manufactured. China should set off alarms although, again, furniture made anywhere can be treated with chemicals.
  • Ensure that any paints, stains and finishes used on the furniture are low- or no-VOC.
  • If shopping for upholstered furniture, make sure it’s not treated with toxic flame retardants (PDBEs) or are marketed as being “stain-resistant.”

An Introduction to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study” (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. TEAM studies indicated that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.

Sources

Household products including: paints, paint strippers, and other solvents; wood preservatives; aerosol sprays; cleansers and disinfectants; moth repellents and air fresheners; stored fuels and automotive products; hobby supplies; dry-cleaned clothing.

Basic Information on Pollutants and Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Asbestos
Biological Pollutants
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Formaldehyde/Pressed Wood Products
Lead (Pb)
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Pesticides
Radon (Rn)
Respirable Particles
Secondhand Smoke/ Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, and Chimneys
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Read “Care for Your Air: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality”

Levels in Homes

Studies have found that levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.

Steps to Reduce Exposure

Increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs. Meet or exceed any label precautions. Do not store opened containers of unused paints and similar materials within the school. Formaldehyde, one of the best known VOCs, is one of the few indoor air pollutants that can be readily measured. Identify, and if possible, remove the source. If not possible to remove, reduce exposure by using a sealant on all exposed surfaces of paneling and other furnishings. Use integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for pesticides.

Use household products according to manufacturer’s directions.

Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.

Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.

Keep out of reach of children and pets.

Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.

Follow label instructions carefully.

Potentially hazardous products often have warnings aimed at reducing exposure of the user. For example, if a label says to use the product in a well-ventilated area, go outdoors or in areas equipped with an exhaust fan to use it. Otherwise, open up windows to provide the maximum amount of outdoor air possible.

Throw away partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals safely.

Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step could help lower concentrations of organic chemicals in your home. (Be sure that materials you decide to keep are stored not only in a well-ventilated area but are also safely out of reach of children.) Do not simply toss these unwanted products in the garbage can. Find out if your local government or any organization in your community sponsors special days for the collection of toxic household wastes. If such days are available, use them to dispose of the unwanted containers safely. If no such collection days are available, think about organizing one.

Buy limited quantities

If you use products only occasionally or seasonally, such as paints, paint strippers, and kerosene for space heaters or gasoline for lawn mowers, buy only as much as you will use right away.

Keep exposure to emissions from products containing methylene chloride to a minimum. Consumer products that contain methylene chloride include paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints. Methylene chloride is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, methylene chloride is converted to carbon monoxide in the body and can cause symptoms associated with exposure to carbon monoxide. Carefully read the labels containing health hazard information and cautions on the proper use of these products. Use products that contain methylene chloride outdoors when possible; use indoors only if the area is well ventilated.

Keep exposure to benzene to a minimum

Benzene is a known human carcinogen. The main indoor sources of this chemical are environmental tobacco smoke, stored fuels and paint supplies, and automobile emissions in attached garages. Actions that will reduce benzene exposure include eliminating smoking within the home, providing for maximum ventilation during painting, and discarding paint supplies and special fuels that will not be used immediately.

Keep exposure to perchloroethylene emissions from newly dry-cleaned materials to a minimum

Perchloroethylene is the chemical most widely used in dry cleaning. In laboratory studies, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. Recent studies indicate that people breathe low levels of this chemical both in homes where dry-cleaned goods are stored and as they wear dry-cleaned clothing. Dry cleaners recapture the perchloroethylene during the dry-cleaning process so they can save money by re-using it, and they remove more of the chemical during the pressing and finishing processes. Some dry cleaners, however, do not remove as much perchloroethylene as possible all of the time. Taking steps to minimize your exposure to this chemical is prudent. If dry-cleaned goods have a strong chemical odor when you pick them up, do not accept them until they have been properly dried. If goods with a chemical odor are returned to you on subsequent visits, try a different dry cleaner.

Standards or Guidelines

No standards have been set for VOCs in non industrial settings. OSHA regulates formaldehyde, a specific VOC, as a carcinogen. OSHA has adopted a Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) of .75 ppm, and an action level of 0.5 ppm. HUD has established a level of .4 ppm for mobile homes. Based upon current information, it is advisable to mitigate formaldehyde that is present at levels higher than 0.1 ppm. Levels in Homes

Studies have found that levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.

Click here to read a story from an individual who bought a cabinet from Crate and Barrel

Antique Furniture Joinery

Antique Furniture Joints – Determine the quality of your antique furniture.

mortise and tenon joint

Recognizing different kinds of furniture joints can help you determine the quality of antique furniture.

If you discover that a chair is constructed using mortise and tenon joints as opposed to dowel construction you can be sure it’s a high quality chair. The same is true about furniture with dovetail construction on the drawers as opposed to rabbet joint drawers. Dovetails are a better joint and will last indefinitely.

A basic knowledge of antique furniture joints is also important in antique furniture repair for a number of reasons. If joints are loose on a piece of furniture, you’ll probably have to disassemble the piece to re-glue it.

When you look at the exterior surface of a joint, you may only see a line where the two pieces of wood meet. Your knowledge of antique furniture joints can give you understanding of what’s hidden below the surface of that line, enabling you to work the joint loose without breaking it. If you have a broken joint or pieces are missing, knowing the type of joint you’re working with allows you to repair it properly.

Butt Joint

A butt joint is made when two pieces of wood are butted together and glued. Boards are commonly joined end grain to edge grain, edge grain to edge grain, or edge grain to face grain, although other configurations are possible. When you glue an end-grain surface of one board to another wood surface, the joint won’t hold unless it’s reinforced with dowel pins or some other reinforcement. The reason for the reinforcement is that the end grain of wood doesn’t provide enough solid surface for the bonding process to take place. When magnified, end grain looks much like the end of a group of drinking straws bunched together. Consequently, the open end of the grain fibers absorbs most of the glue you apply to the joint and doesn’t leave enough on the surface to provide a good bond.

When you use the butt joint to glue two or more boards side by side, or edge grain to edge grain as when making a wide top for a table, however, the joint can be quite strong. You must make sure that the joining edges are planed smooth to form a perfect fit, though, and that the joint is glued and clamped sufficiently.

butt joint

Lap Joint

Lap joints are created when two pieces of wood overlap one another at a right angle. Usually at least one piece of wood is notched out, allowing the other piece to fit down into it. This kind of lap joint is called a full-lap joint. Both pieces may also be notched to half of their thickness, allowing them to fit into each other. These lap joints are known as half-lap joints.

lap joints

Miter Joint

miter joint

The miter joint is formed by cutting corresponding angles, usually 45 degrees, on the ends of two pieces of wood and joining them together. The most common use of the miter joint in furniture is in mirror and picture frames. The miter joint may be reinforced with pins or dowels or with the installation of a wooden back panel, often 1/4-inch plywood.

Rabbet Joint

rabbet joint

When you notch the end or the edge of a piece of wood and use that notch to join two boards, you’ve created a rabbet joint. You can also make a rabbet joint by notching both pieces of wood. The rabbet joint is not a strong joint in itself and is usually secured with fasteners like nails or screws. Sometimes drawer sides are joined to the fronts with rabbet joints. Rabbet antique furniture joints are used in casework furniture like chests or in some drawers to join the sides to the front and/or back. Cabinet backs can also be joined to the case with rabbet joints.

Dado Joint

dado jointA dado is a groove cut across the grain of a piece of wood. A dado joint is formed by cutting a dado in one piece of wood the exact size as the square-cut edge of another piece. The square-cut edge of the second piece is then inserted into the groove of the first piece to form a tight, secure joint. This type of joint is also usually glued. Dado joints are commonly used to join wood at right angles, as in bookcase shelves. Sometimes the dado is hidden because the groove is not cut all the way across the board to the front of the bookcase. This kind of dado joint is called a blind dado.

Mortise and Tenon Joint

mortise and tenon jointThe mortise and tenon joint is one of the strongest antique furniture joints, and its use usually signifies quality furniture. The mortise and tenon joint is normally formed by cutting a square tongue (the tenon) on the end of one piece of wood and an equal size square hole or slot (the mortise) in another. The tongue of the first piece is then inserted into the slot of the second. Although not necessary, sometimes a pin or peg is also inserted through the joint, perpendicular to the tenon, locking the joint together. Mortise and tenon joints have been used not only in furniture but in the construction of centuries old wooden bridges, barns, and houses. Many of these structures still stand today, a testimony to the strength and stability of the mortise and tenon joint.

Dowel Joint

dowel jointDowel joints are basically substitutes for mortise and tenon joints. Many modern pieces, particularly chairs, are constructed using dowel joints. A dowel joint is made by fitting a butt joint and then drilling corresponding holes in the two pieces of wood to be joined and inserting the dowel pin or pins before joining the pieces. Glue is used in this type of joint, and the dowel pins serve as round tenons, holding the two pieces together. Although dowel antique furniture joints are commonly used and are easier to make than a mortise and tenon joint, they usually aren’t as strong.

Dovetail Joint

dovetails jointsThe dovetail joint is one of the most distinctive and best antique furniture joints used in furniture construction to join wood at a right angle. Easily distinguishable by its multiple flared tenons, which interlock like fingers and look like doves’ tails, the dovetail forms a strong, durable joint. Most commonly used to attach drawer sides to drawer fronts, dovetails joints almost always indicate quality furniture. Antique and handmade furniture were built using hand-cut dovetails created with fine-toothed saws and chisels. Modern manufactured dovetails joints are cut by machine and are usually distinguishable from the hand-cut type because the interlocking flared tenons, called pins or tails, are exactly the same size and are evenly spaced. Hand-cut dovetail antique furniture joints usually have tails that differ slightly in size and may vary in spacing. Machine-cut dovetails joints are excellent, strong joints, but the old hand-cut variety is still hard to beat.

Dovetail joints can be constructed using either “through” dovetails or “half-blind” dovetails. Through dovetails are cut all the way through the thickness of both joining pieces of wood, with the “fingers” visible from two sides. Half-blind dovetails are cut so that the dovetails are visible only from one side. An example of a half-blind dovetail joint would be where a drawer side is joined to a drawer front with dovetails that are not visible on the face of the drawer front.

Thanks for reading!

Mark

Can You Spot a Fake Antique?

Spotting a fake Antique is no easy task.  We know. We spend all our lives separating the real from the fake.  We have to do it in a split second at times, particularly when we’re buying in France.

When I first got into this business I was making mistakes all the time.  Larry of course, was in it much longer than I, and was constantly pointing out the areas of ‘newness’  or ‘fakeness’ that had tricked me.

Almost nothing gets by me now.  It took years to train my eye, so don’t expect to become a ‘pro’ after reading my blog.  I will point out things to watch for,  but a trained eye will always have an edge over someone who is a novice.

Reproduction antique style mirror

This may look old, but in fact it’s brand new. We’re Okay with that. We bought it! But we also sold it for what it was. A good quality reproduction produced within the last 20 years. It also sold for a fraction of the price of the good antique ones.

TRUST YOUR SOURCE

This may sound odd, but the first thing I consider when looking at a piece is who or where am I getting it from.  There are people and venues I trust, and those that I don’t.

That doesn’t mean I let my guard down completely, but I can relax a little more. However, this is not always the case.

I remember trusting this one dealer.  I had bought many things from him the past and been pleased with my purchases. That is, until I bought what I thought was an old 19th Century wooden Chandelier. It looked gorgeous. I thought it was a wooden hand carved ‘Italian’ piece from the 19th Century or earlier.  It was red on gold and really stunning.

He had it hanging quite high in his warehouse and I asked if it was old. He said it was.  So I bought it quickly without any hesitation, trusting him at his word.

It wasn’t until it arrived in Vancouver that I discovered the grim reality.  It was a fake, a big fat fake.  The worst kind.  An expensive fake. I had paid a lot for this piece and I would have had to retail it for around $5000.

Not only was it new, it was plaster painted to look like wood.  And broken to boot!  Unfixable, unsellable ( except for a huge loss ) and unbearable.

Mistakes like that cost me big time.  Not only in money, but also in sourcing. It’s hard to find honest Antique dealers anywhere, but particularly in France. And now, with the economic crises it’s become much worse.  You really have to know what you’re doing.

I called the French dealer who duped me,  and had a heated exchange with the guy.  He told me I never asked if it was old.  That’s the thing I hate the most. Challenging my intelligence.  I knew what I had asked and I am not that old that my memory’s slipping that much.

'French' fake armoire spotted in a Vancouver Store

This ‘French’ fake was spotted in a Vancouver Store ( Not ours of course ) Look at how poor the carving looks and the plastic like finish. Not a great look and this Armoire was over $5000!!!

Suffice it to say, I never bought a thing from him again.

I would have let it go if he had offered me a refund or credit, and above all not challenged my mental faculties.

But refunds in France ( except in large department stores ) are unheard of.  NOTHING is exchangeable.

So trusting the source is paramount on my list.

Larry and I did a Research trip around the world about 6 years ago.  We purchased an around the world airline ticket so stopped in many ports of call. Buenos Aires was the first stop, Thailand was the last.

We saw so many reproductions in Thailand that I seriously have no idea what a real Thai antique would look like.  We liked Buenos Aires but decided we couldn’t trust the shipper and heard horror stories of complete containers disappearing without a trace.

Fake Antique Chairs in Bangkok

These chairs were being sold as Antiques. The only problem is every dealer in this Antique Mall had the same ones. Upon closer examination NONE of them were old!

In Bangkok, we hired a guide took us to some antique dealers who didn’t have one piece that was old.  In fact several dealers were selling the same thing, the EXACT identical piece all claiming it was old.  Like these chairs featured in the photo.  Every dealer had this exact same chair, and upon closer examination all these chairs were NEW.

This same guide insisted on taking us to stupid things like jewelry dealers and tailors who virtually pounced on us like unsuspecting lambs.  The guide insisted that we get clothing made, and buy jewelry, because he got a kickback.  Needless to say, we cut our tour short and bolted for our Hotel.

Frankly, the poverty and child begging was so disturbing that we could hardly wait to get out of Bangkok.  My impression of Thailand, particularly Bangkok was not good to say the least. We are truly blessed to live in Canada.

OVERALL APPEARANCE OF THE PIECE

Second most important thing after trust, is the overall appearance of the piece.  If it looks too perfect there must be something wrong.  Perfection in a piece is not a good sign unless it’s very very expensive.  Something in fabulous condition is rare and you and I will pay a good penny for perfection.

Fake Antique Armoire

Looks at how the overall appearance of this looks too perfect. It has an almost ‘plastic’ appearance. This Armoire was spotted in the same store as the Armoire above.

Antiques are old, and age does things to furniture.  Age warps, splits, and wears down wood, etc.  You want to see all that when you buy something.  It’s called the ‘patina’

That doesn’t mean because it’s warped it’s old.  Warping can come from new furniture not being aged properly.  I mean a warp, like on an old table that is solid plank.

Splitting usually occurs on solid woods as well.  It’s almost inevitable that a split will occur on anything that’s solid wood and over 100 years old.  In fact, you should seek out splits.  They’re a good thing, and do not harm the integrity of the piece.

GENERAL RULE
Real antiques are imperfect and the flaws are inconsistent due to natural use and human construction. Reproductions are symmetrical, smooth and the flaws are contrived rather than authentic.

Example of Distressed or Faked Aging

Here is an example of distressed or faked aging. Wood would simply not go white like that and be so consistent. Also the carving is poor and not detailed.  And the price?? Are they kidding? Incredible for a poor quality reproduction.

WOOD: Look under chairs and drawers, anywhere unexposed, to see if those parts are constructed with a different type of wood than the rest of the piece. Real antiques are usually made with more than one type of wood. In the past, carpentry materials were harder to obtain, and it didn’t make sense to use expensive wood in places where no one would see it. On the other hand, reproductions tend to be made from the same type of wood from top-to-bottom.

SIGNS OF WEAR: Genuine antiques will show signs of wear in places that would naturally sustain the most contact. For example, the bottom end of chair arms should be more worn than the upper part or underside of the arm. Scratches, stains and dents will be unevenly distributed on a piece whose flaws are the result of normal use. If the patina is too perfect, there’s a good chance it’s a reproduction.

CONSTRUCTION: The use of modern materials like fibreboard, staples and Phillips screws all indicate a reproduction.

GLUING: Older antiques have reinforced joints in addition to gluing. Look for dowels, mortise or tenon. If a piece is exclusively attached by glue, then it might be a reproduction.

ODOR: Real antiques will smell musty and sometimes mildewed. Reproductions might smell fresh with the scent of the wood still discernible

Chinese antiques are among the worst to determine authenticity.  Absolutely a nightmare in some cases.  Dealers will have a real Antique, then break it in parts, and re attached the severed parts to several new pieces to create several ‘antiques’ instead of just one.  They know where a specialist will scrape or flake a tiny piece to see if it’s old.  They do this even to sculptures. You know those lovely Chinese terracotta horses you see.  99% are not old. Decorative but not old.

I remember having a client introduced to me as a ‘Chinese Collector’ with lots of money and interest in collecting high quality antiques.  I spent tons of time with this guy, emailing him photos from Parisian dealers I knew,  touring with him, showing him my sources ( in Vancouver ).  We went to a store, Panache, who is owned by a lovely dealer Joan Bilchik who is an expert in the area.  He hummed and hawed at her pieces but said nothing.  I asked him after we had left if he liked anything she had and he said he’d think about and suggested that some things were probably fake.

I asked Joan about the authenticity of her collection and she assured me they were all authentic.  I know Joan so I know she was telling the truth.

Then this same client and I went to an auction to see some Chinese antiques. The auction house had evaluated one particular piece for $50,000.  It was a Chinese scroll painted by a Chinese artist.  The client told me it was a fake and wasn’t worth more than $200.

I immediately called the owner and alerted him to what this supposed ‘collector’ and expert client of mine had said.  He was frantic, turned the whole place upside down trying to authenticate the piece.  Turns out it was real.

I felt like a complete ‘you know what’, and immediately dropped this client. That was the end of my dealing with individual Chinese collectors.  Please don’t get me wrong. I do have some lovely Chinese clients who do buy furniture, not necessarily Chinese Antiques, but are great clients whom we have a great relationship with. It’s just that there are so many fake Chinese antiques out there that it boggles the mind.  And even the experienced dealers have a difficult time separating the real from the fake.

Chinese 'Antiques'

These are supposed Chinese ‘Antiques’ that you see all over Vancouver. They are NOT old, and not good quality.

We come across Antique Chinese furniture in France and if we are lucky enough to get it at a good price we buy it.  Other than that, real Chinese antiques are few, rare and very expensive.

Any dealer who claims to have ‘real’ Chinese antiques at a cheap price is lying through his teeth.  They DO NOT exist.

This photograph on the left is example of ‘Chinese Antiques’ that simply are not old.

I hope this week’s blog helps shed some light on the tricky business of fakes vs. real Antiques.

You’re best bet… leave the spotting of fakes to the pros.  They can do it with ease now so you don’t have too.  If you trust your dealer, that’s all you should concern yourself with.

Happy Hunting!

Mark LaFleur

Furniture Timelines

Mark LaFleur Furniture Timeline: A complete summary of antique furniture history.

Have you ever wondered what ‘time period’  the various styles of furniture were created?

If so, see the chart I have set up this furniture timeline for a quick overview on antiques and their origin. Of course you should keep in mind, that every style continuously gets rebuilt after the original was born. So for example a Baroque bed isn’t necessarily 300 years old! But then on the other hand an Art Nouveau buffet can never be 200 years old.

You will notice some time periods highlighted as a link. Click on that link to see furniture examples on our website.  Please note, not all furniture is ‘period’ but only the manner or style of the period.   We usually state right on the piece whether it is period or style so there is no confusion. Click the desired style for more information and illustrations.

Mark and Larry are on TV!   Click on the link to see what they have to say about some of the amazing finds at the Antique Warehouse.

Date British Monarch British Period French Period German Period U.S.Period Style Wood
1558-1603 Elizabeth I Elizabethan Renaissance Gothic Oak period
1603-1625 James I Jacobean Renaissance
1625-1649 Charles I Carolean Louis XIII Early Colonial Baroque
1649-1660 Commonwealth Cromwellian Louis XIV Renaissance/Baroque
1660-1685 Charles II Restoration Walnut period
1685-1689 James II
1689-1694 William & Mary William & Mary William & Mary Rococo
1694-1702 William III William III Baroque Dutch Colonial
1702-1714 Anne Queen Anne Queen Anne Early mahogany period
1714-1727 George I Early Georgian Régence Rococo
1727-1760 George II Louis XV Neo-classicism Chippendale Neo-classical Late mahogany period
1760-1811 George III Late Georgian Louis XVI Early Federal
Directoire
Empire American Directoire Empire
Empire American Empire
1812-1820 Regency Restauration Charles X Biedermeier Late Federal Regency
1820-1830 George IV
1830-1837 William IV William IV Louis Philippe Revival Eclectic
1837-1901 Victoria Victorian 2nd Empire Napoleon III Victorian Arts & Crafts
1901-1910 Edward VII Edwardian 3rd Republic Jugendstil Art Nouveau Art Nouveau

Solid Wood Furniture Vs.Veneered – Is one better than the other?

People are always asking if solid wood furniture is better than veneered.

I always respond the same way each time.

Neither is better than the other.

In fact ‘veneering’ can be an indication of a very fine antique, depending on whether it’s veneered on a ‘solid core’ or ‘composite’ carcass.  ( The latter usually found on mainly modern furniture )

There are so many other factors in determining a piece of furniture’s level of quality. Detailing, carving, type of wood used, joinery, age and condition should be considerations any time your purchase an antique or piece of furniture.

Did you know that veneering has been a common practice among fine cabinet makers for centuries dating as far back as the Egyptians?

At first antique furniture was made from solid wood, but as cabinet making improved, the technique of decorating furniture by applying veneers (thin sheets of wood which can be cut from the tree in several ways) developed. This was an economical way of using expensive woods, and allowed the maker to create decorative effects from the different grains and patterns (called figuring) of the wood.

French Transitional Style 'Veneered' Commode from Paris

French Transitional Style ‘Veneered’ Commode from Paris

Veneered furniture has a carcass (solid body) made from a different (usually less expensive) wood. This secondary wood, as it’s known, is most commonly pine or oak. I’ve seen mahogany used as the core wood on French antiques.

The first real vogue for veneered furniture came in the walnut period, 1680-1740, when the decorative effects of cutting veneers from walnut, laburnum, olive, tulipwood and so on, was appreciated. Originally these veneers were hand cut with a saw and were fairly thick – up to an eighth of an inch. They could be cut along the grain of the wood to give a straight, plain effect without much figure, or across the branches to form oysters.

Burr veneers were obtained by malformations of the grain due to injury, such as lopping. Mahogany veneers of great decorative effect were also much used from about 1745. From the Victorian period, paper thin veneers came into use and were obviously attractive because of the saving in wood. These days all modern veneered furniture is covered in these thin knife-cut sheets.

Veneering was used for the same reason then it is used today. Decoration. To decorate a piece of furniture to give it life and charm.  Some of the most highest prized Antiques and Decorative furniture are intricately veneered to achieve the look and feel that the cabinetmaker desired.

Here’s a fact that might surprise you.  ‘Solid Wood’  does not always guarantee a superior piece of cabinet making either.

Why?  Because a solid piece of wood that isn’t ‘cured’ properly will have a markedly shortened lifespan. I’ve seen solid wood furniture ( usually manufactured off shore in dry, arid climates ) deteriorate within a very short period of time after purchase. Far Eastern factories produce furniture in bulk to keep the prices low.  They simply don’t have the time needed to let wood cure properly.

So what is ‘curing’ you ask?

Curing means the wood has been dried slowly in a controlled drying environment until the moisture is depleted to a certain level.  Around 6%. In some cases this process can take several years.  In fact, some old cabinet makers that produced some the finest Antiques ever made left the wood to cure for an entire generation ( 50 years ) before ever touching it!

I hope this post has made you a little more aware of the differences between veneered furniture and solid wood furniture. Feel confident that most antiques are done with solid core, but not always.  Always ask if a piece is ‘solid core’ rather than veneered or solid wood.  A respectable dealer will be impressed by your knowledge.

For more information click on the links below for additional information on the craft of veneering.

Best Regards,

Mark LaFleur

http://www.rockler.com/articles/how-to-veneer.cfm

Want to sell your Antiques but aren’t sure how?

With the advent of the internet, buying and selling Antiques has changed dramatically.  For those who aren’t sure how to sell their pieces there are many options and factors to consider.

My name is Mark LaFleur and I’ve been dealing with Antiques almost all my life. From my early days of collecting with my Mom, to where I am now.  The owner of a wonderful store.

Selling your Antiques can be a daunting and emotional process.   After all, these things may have great sentimental and intrinsic value.  Day after day, I have calls from frustrated people who have no idea where to start.  Some have even made some serious errors and come to me when it’s already too late.

Here’s some tips to consider before doing anything!

1.  LISTING ON A FREE WEBSITE

Listing on a free website has become popular at the moment. At first this sounds like a great idea.  You can do it yourself and not pay any commission to anyone.  But hold on!  Not so fast!  It can be not only unproductive but potentially dangerous.

I’ve heard stories of people being ‘scoped out’  after a supposed ‘buyer’ came to the house just to be broken into later.  When you open up your home to a complete stranger you’re putting yourself at all sorts of risks.

I’ve heard of people selling ‘stolen’ goods or goods without people’s permission.  Like children selling Mom or Dad’s favorite antique while they’re out of town!  Don’t laugh, that actually happened.

But enough of the potentially serious pitfalls.  Hopefully they won’t happen to you!

The biggest drawback is simple.  People just don’t know what they’re doing.

Most people have no idea what they have or how to evaluate it.

In most cases the average person thinks they have something highly valuable.  These people price their items far too high, and what’s worse, misrepresent what they have.  It’s not their fault, they aren’t professionals!  Their product sits and sits and never gets sold and frustration sets in.   I am constantly shaking my head by what people think is an antique but is actually a worthless item. ( Believe me, there’s lot of that out going on out there!)

The last problem is an important one to remember.  People always turn to a dealer once they’ve had no success with a free marketplace. Why is this a mistake?  Because it’s too late!   Once your valuable piece has been laundered on a low-end public venue most reputable dealers will not touch it.  Too many people nowadays shop via the internet and will compare all stores and free marketplaces.  No dealer wants to represent a former ‘loser’ on a Craig’s List or Kijiji.

AUCTION HOUSE

Auction Houses make their money on high volume and sell things quickly.  You may not always realize the total value for your piece depending on what it is, and whose in the auction room that day!  You will also have to wait six weeks to get paid after the auction.  An auction is a better venue however, then a free listing on a low end website.  At least their no risk of undesirables and time wasting triflers.

CONSIGNMENT

A reputable dealer usually has a large clientele that trust and know him.  A dealer knows the actual value of your Antique. He sells Antiques every day, and knows what people want and what they are prepared to pay.  Your piece is exhibited in a professional surrounding and sold by an expert who can properly assess and represent your piece.

There’s also no danger for an undesirable showing up to your personal space, and you don’t have to have it sold right away either.  A dealer will usually give you 3 months before any reductions or decisions need to be made.  Sure some dealers command 50% or more as a commission but you can be sure they’re going to get the best dollar they can.  It’s a win-win situation for both parties.

No dealer will want to represent a low end piece of worthless furniture.  It’s a waste of his time and effort.  If a dealer will accept your piece consider yourself fortunate.  It can be very profitable for both you and him!

I hope this article has taken some of the confusion about selling your Antiques or Vintage Furniture.  Remember, you wouldn’t call a Doctor about a tooth ache, or worse try to deal with it yourself.   Always consult a professional especially when dealing with something of value like an Antique!  Call up any antique store and see if they take consignments.  Shop and compare!

Do you have something you think is consignment worthy?  If so, e-mail us a photo and we’ll tell you right away! ( during regular business hours ) .  Send your photo in small format please ( 100K or less)  to: antiquewarehouse@telus.net

If we’re not interested we can direct you to the appropriate dealer than can help!

This is an example of what we sell.  Although we focus on antiques, we can help you sell anything of excellent quality as long as it works with our store!

French Louis XV Washstand with Marble Top

French Louis XV Washstand with Marble Top