Antiques Blog

You’re seriously going to paint your Antiques?

Yes, folks.  People are now painting their antiques at breakneck speed. White seems to be the color du jour, but already that look is tiring quickly.

While most Antiques lovers consider painting an antique a sacrilege, I’m a little less of a puritan than that. If that’s what you want, then go right ahead. But consider reading my blog carefully before lifting that paint brush!

Believe it or not, some antiques actually do look better when painted. I examine each piece on a case by case scenario before deciding to paint or not.

These are the factors I consider!

1.  How old is the antique?

If it’s 50 years old or less than it’s usually a good candidate for a lick of paint. However, a 100 yr old broken down French Antique Henri II piece could be painted.  And look quite wonderful too. These pieces are usually made of Oak, and oak takes paint nicely.

2. How valuable is the antique?

I wouldn’t paint any antique I paid a lot for. We have lots of pieces in our store that are cheap and cheerful and would look amazing with a coat of ‘antique french white’. In fact a cheap antique once painted can double in value if done right. You wouldn’t believe how many people come in and purchase an expensive antique and then announce they are painting the thing!  It happens way too much and I always suggest a less expensive alternative.

3. What is the design of the antique?

If the design of the antique is quite linear and is dependant on the veneering or inlays for the design than painting such a piece may disappoint. I have found that an antique with lots of carving is the best candidate for paint. The carving ‘pops’ when painted and looks sensational.  Like the antique Henri II piece I mentioned above.

Antique Buffet Hutch

An antique like this buffet hutch on the left, while it a shame to paint, would take a coat of paint quite nicely and change the appearance dramatically.  All the carving and detail would literally ‘pop’ off this antique!

We recently painted a lovely early 20th Century antique French Commode with simple lines but veneered with lots of exotic and rare woods. I wouldn’t have painted this antique for the world, but the client wanted it.  Because the design of the antique was simple the piece ended up looking less exciting than a highly carved antique. This was a mistake as far as I am concerned but the client was thrilled. And I was happy he was satisfied.

4. How interested are you in reselling or handing down the antique in later years.

You should know that once a good antique has been painted, that’s virtually the end of the line for the piece. That’s why I highly discourage anyone from doing anything to a higher end antique. So many lower priced alternatives are out there.

Once paint has been applied to the antique the original patina of the piece is obviously gone,  but even if you change your mind months or years later and decide to restore the finish you will never regain the original patina of the antique. You can NEVER restore an original patina that took years of oxidation to develop.

Consider the wood of the antique?

If the antique is a beautiful piece of Mahogany made furniture, paint it if you want, but consider this… will NEVER be able to change your mind and get the original finish back.  You could get something close, but it will cost hundreds maybe thousands of dollars to restore a mahogany finish that would please you.

Is the original finish shot?

If it’s a very old antique and the finish is completely gone, than a painted finish could do the trick. It’s going to need refinishing anyway, so painting may be a reasonable alternative.

We had a 19th Century French antique games table with a completely ruined finish.  Every square inch of the piece needed refinishing. It would have taken hours, and frankly, wasn’t really worth it. We painted it a matte black ( it was mahogany too ) and it sold within days. It was gorgeous!

However, this is a story that sickens!

We had a client who bought an absolutely gorgeous burled walnut veneered antique bookcase/china cabinet that she paid a lot for. The piece was an early English 20th Century high end piece with a patina to die for.  We almost choked when the client told us she was painting it white.  I suggested maybe select something else, but no, this client was insistent.  And so it went, this absolutely stunning antique China Cabinet, to the painters. That was sad.

I also had a client who was nuts about silver.  She silver leafed everything. She bought a beautiful 19th Century antique French Settee with it’s original walnut patina.  It was gorgeous and expensive with beautiful detail and carving.   She told me she was going to ‘silver leaf’ the thing and I shuddered with disbelief.

Hey I’m in the business of selling antique furniture, so if someone wants to silver leaf an antique period Louis XV piece than go right ahead.  It’s sacrilege in my opinion and I’d love to say I won’t sell you the piece.  But business is business and I wouldn’t be open for long if I started shoving my values down people’s throats. I ALWAYS recommend another alternative but if a client is insistent than what can I do.

Thankfully this client decided against painting the piece! I sighed a deep breath of relief when she told me she took my advice.  Good thing too…because three years later the lady had to resell her antique.  She got almost full value because she hadn’t touched the integrity of this fine 19th Century antique!

So my advice about painting Antiques.  I wouldn’t unless it’s something you feel would look better painted.  If you need advice in this area contact us first for a final evaluation. We will definitely help stave off a mistake you may regret down the road!

Happy 2012 to all!

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To Strip or Not to Strip….That is The Question

It’s amazing how many phone calls I get from people wanting to know how to strip their antique furniture because the finish is damaged in some way.

After a brief discussion with the person we can sometimes determine that a total strip and refinish may not be necessary at all. Some expert touch and minor repair up is all that’s required.

If the original finish is damaged and beyond redemption, than stripping may be your last resort. In this week’s blog we’ll explore how to determine whether a total ‘strip’ is required or not.

We’ve all heard experts tell us daily, altering the finish can destroy the furnitures value. In most cases this is true.  For example, a 17th Century hand painted finish on a rare American or Continental piece can spell disaster if stripped.  People hunt and pay dearly for those ‘distressed’ finishes that were done by hand over 250 years ago.  They are rare and should never be touched, other than with a light cleaning.  And even a cleaning can be touchy unless you know what your doing.

We’ve also heard of the person ‘cleaning’ or ‘polishing’ up a piece of furniture and completely destroying the original patina and devaluing the piece many thousands of dollars in some cases.  This is true in more cases than not.

Then there are the people that decide they want to refinish a lovely old piece to make it look ‘better’.  I see wonderful tables that come in to my store, where the client has totally refinished the piece.  The original color, depth and patina has been destroyed, devaluating the piece to a fraction of what it might have fetched.

Many finishes that look absolutely horrible may be salvageable with a little oil and wax.  It’s amazing what we do with pieces that come in from France that look like deaths’ door and after a little TLC they end up looking wonderful.

I would only strip a piece of furniture if the following applies.

A. Deep dark water marks have burled there way into the wood

B. The finish has chipped off in some way over the entire surface.

C. The finish has deep cigarette burns or fire burns.

D. You want a different color.

I would suggest either contacting us first, or sending a photo and we can let you know whether a little touch up will do the trick or if a complete ‘refinish’ or ‘restoration’ is necessary.

If you notice I have used the word ‘restoration’.  We do much restoration to finishes without totally stripping a piece.  This keeps the integrity of the piece intact, and leaves the original finish which is always preferable.

If you’ve scrutinized the finish and determined it’s beyond help, you may want to strip and refinish the piece.

Another prime candidate for stripping and refinishing is a piece that was originally finished in a wood finish but has since been painted over within the last 50 years. Usually you’ll find that the paint was applied directly over the original finish, making it easier to strip because the paint pigments have not been able to penetrate the wood grain. Stripping and refinishing this kind of piece often exposes beautiful wood hidden under an opaque finish.

Keep in mind, however, that some pieces were made to be painted; stripping them usually uncovers inferior or mismatched wood pieces that will not finish well. If the paint has been applied to raw wood, it’s usually an indication that the piece was meant to have a painted finish. In such cases you may still want to strip furniture paint to repaint the piece, or you may be able to simply repaint over the old color. To find out whether the paint is directly on the wood surface or atop another finish, scrape the paint or apply solvent to it in a small, inconspicuous area. If the paint pigment remains in the wood grain, it was probably painted originally; if not, the paint is over a natural wood finish and refinishing may be in order.

You may want to consider joining one of our French painting classes held at the store and conducted by painting guru Kathy Van Gogh.  She will show you how to produce a ‘faux finish’ that will look many decades old.

Another case for stripping is if the finish is so far gone or damaged that it simply cannot be renewed. Old finishes can become brittle or flaky as a result of age and mistreatment. Finishes can also be damaged by water or fire and often can’t be restored without stripping and refinishing. Water can make some finishes lift and discolor permanently, while heat and smoke can blister or blacken finishes.

Yet another reason to strip and refinish a piece: You don’t like the finish color or shade. For example, if you’re putting a piece in a particular room or with another piece of furniture, you may want to blend or match the room’s other furniture or the area’s decor. But again, before deciding, consider the piece itself: If it’s a valuable piece blessed with an original finish, you’d be better off saving the finish and buying another piece of furniture to fill your need!   To me it’s like buying a piece of artwork to match the color combination of a room and not for the artworks sake itself.

Remember, it’s easy to strip a piece ( with a lot of elbow grease involved ) but it’s quite another to ‘refinish’ the piece.   There are so many types of finishes to choose from that it can be daunting.  But I can almost guarantee you, unless you’re a pro you may regret ever trying to refinish a piece yourself.  This is where you definitely need to consult a refinisher.  And even then, there are good and bad refinishers.  I know of one who simply sprays a lacquer finish on pieces.  So many times, more often than not, I see this done to furniture. The look is dull, flat and plastic.  I hate this finish, unless its a super high gloss clear coat on an art deco piece or something very modern.   And be careful about putting a high gloss clear coat on an antique.  The look is simply awful.  The antique looks too new, and looks like it should be in the showroom of an Ethan Allen or some other new furniture vendor.  Dont do it!!  It will devalue and ruin the piece for ever.

My advice, go ahead a strip the piece if you want, but let a professional apply the final finish unless you are truly confident you know what you’re doing.

For more information on stripping furniture click on the link

How to remove Candle Wax from your Antique Furniture

Christmas Tree Fireplace















It’s Christmas Time.  The most wonderful time of the year.  I personally love Christmas and getting together with friends and family.

This is also the season for candles. And lots of them. Either on your beautiful dining table to create a warm and charming ambience, or placed throughout the home infusing holiday scents into the air.  Whichever it is, candle wax can get on furniture. And removing it can damage your antique furniture if you’re not careful.

The first thing to remember that candle wax must be left to harden before attempting any removal of any kind.  Follow these simple steps outlined below and removal will be problem free.

Tools and Materials you’ll need.

• Soft cotton rag

• #0000 steel wool

• ice cube

• credit card or plastic scraper

Removing Candle Wax from Furniture

1) Freeze the wax

Use an ice cube to harden the wax drippings, making them brittle.

2) Scrape the area

Use a plastic paint scraper or the edge of a credit card to scrape all the wax from the furniture finish surface as gently as possible.

Removing Candle Wax from Furniture

3) Rub out the affected area

Apply a cream polish to the furniture surface using #0000 steel wool. Rub with the grain of the wood; this will remove any remaining wax residue.

4) Polish the area

Buff the repair area to a luster similar to that of the surrounding finish using a soft cotton cloth.

Please note, that neither I nor the Antique Warehouse accept any responsibility if you damage your furniture.  This blog is meant as a suggestion only.

Wine Bottle Candle Holders

Removing Water Marks from your Antique

The upcoming blogs are going to be about the care, restoration or repair of your precious antiques.  While it’s always best to let a professional handle these delicate matters, these blogs should answer some questions about whether a piece is salvageable or ready for donation to your local thrift store.

First we are going to investigate the ‘water stain’.  While usually all water stains are treatable, some can be much more difficult than others.  If a water stain is white, that’s a good sign.  If it’s dark, well, that’s a different story

Water and other kinds of liquid can cause ring stains in finish and wood. Shellac finishes are more susceptible to this problem than other types. Stains that are in the finish are usually white, while stains that have gone through the finish and into the wood will appear dark or black.

Dark water stains can’t be removed without refinishing, and even then, they are difficult to get out. You may be able to remove the finish, bleach the stain, and refinish the surface.

White water stains, or those still in the finish, can often be removed without stripping the finish. The longer the stain is in the finish, the deeper it will penetrate into the surface. The deeper moisture penetrates into the surface, the harder the stain is to remove, so it’s important to remove water stains as soon as possible.

Finish discoloration that’s caused by moisture is a result of moisture being trapped in or under the finish. To remove water stains, you must get rid of the trapped moisture. This can be done in one of two ways: Use a chemical called an amalgamator to soften the finish long enough for moisture to evaporate before the finish hardens, or use an abrasive to cut into the finish to the depth of the moisture, allowing moisture to escape and causing the stain to disappear.

Remove water stains using amalgamator

Amalgamator is an alcohol-based mixture sold by finish and touch-up supply stores to soften an area of the finish and cause the moisture stain to dissipate. The technique for applying the amalgamator to the finish surface is similar to that used for French polishing. If you can’t get amalgamator, try using denatured alcohol instead, but be careful not to cut too deeply into the finish.

Removing Water Marks from Antiques

1) Apply amalgamator to a pad
Use a soft cotton rag to make an applicator pad. Ball or roll up the rag in a comfortable size to hold in one hand (about the size of a large egg). Smooth out the part of the rag that will make contact with the finish surface. There should be no wrinkles or creases. Apply amalgamator to the pad, allowing it to soak into the rag.

2) Disperse the amalgamator
Tap the padding rag into the palm of your other hand, causing the amalgamator to spread into the rag until the surface of the rag is damp, but not wet.

3) Pad the stain
Pad over the surface of the finish on top of the stain with a pendulum-like stroke in the direction of the wood grain. Briefly touch the padding rag to the stain surface, and then lift it off, keeping the pad in motion when it’s in contact with the finish surface. The water stain may not immediately disappear, so continue to pad the area, adding more amalgamator to the rag if necessary. The trick is to keep your padding rag damp enough to soften the finish but not wet enough to cut through the finish to the wood surface.

4) Blend-in the repair area
When you finished to remove the water stains, allow the area to dry. Next, rub the finish down with #0000 steel wool to blend the sheen. Paste-wax the finish if necessary.

Remove Ring Stains Using Abrasives

You can use any of a number of fine abrasives to remove water stains from the finish, including #0000 steel wool, rottenstone, pumice, and 600-grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Adventuresome refinishers have even used toothpaste or cigar ashes as abrasives. The depth of the stain will determine which one will work for you. Start with a mild abrasive. If that doesn’t work, go to sandpaper. However, the less cutting into the finish to remove water stains, the better.

Removing Water Marks from Antiques

1) Rub the stain area using steel wool 
Rub #0000 steel wool over the stained area of the finish, rubbing with the grain and using firm pressure. If the stain is shallow, this may remove water stains. If not, go to Step 2.

2) Rub the area using sandpaper
Use 600-grit wet-or-dry sandpaper and a felt block to sand the stained area if steel wool doesn’t get the stain out. A little soapy water or mineral spirits will work as a lubricant for the sandpaper. Use firm pressure and sand the area well, rubbing in the direction of the grain. If the stain doesn’t disappear, go to a coarser wet-or-dry paper (500- or 400-grit), but remember that coarser papers may dull the sheen in the repair area and can even cut through the finish to the wood, so be careful. If you use a coarser paper, follow it by sanding with 600-grit paper to try to bring back the sheen.

3) Rub the area, again using steel wool
Rub out the finish using #0000 steel wool and paste wax, if it’s needed to blend the repair area with the rest of the finish.

As a last word of advice, all these techniques require skill and a delicate touch.  While I have posted these methods, I assume no responsibility if you damage a piece.  Consult a professional and let them do the work.

At the Antique Warehouse we can fix almost anything.  If you like, send us a photo by email no larger than 100K, and we can estimate how much it will cost to have your piece looking great again.

Happy Holidays to you all.

Mark LaFleur

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.


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.


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.

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

Buying Antiques at Flea Markets while on Holiday

I am writing this blog today from the fabulous city of Paris.  I have been in France for just about 10 days filling up the last of a container.  ( It’s finally done! )

This weekend is a statuatory and religious holiday for the French.  November 1 is known as ‘All Souls Day’ and this year falls on a Tuesday.  So what do the French do, they take the entire four days off!

So as doing business was out of the question, I decided to head back to Paris and spend the weekend enjoying the sights and sounds of this magnificent city.  I could be a tourist for a change!

At the same time I just happened to stumble across a couple of Brocantes or Flea Markets.  My tour of this Brocante prompted me to write this week’s blog!

Antiquites-Brocante Flea Market in ParisThe photo to the left is the Flea Market I was at today.  It was held between the Madeleine Church and the Paris Opera House.  Approximately 8 blocks long.

I did manage to buy a couple of things but the selection was limited ( in real antiques that is ) and not all that great either.

While these Street Fairs or Flea Markets can be fun, it’s buyer beware more often than not.  At this particular Flea Market the booths were flooded with cheap reproductions from Asia and the Middle East.  In fact I’ve been to two street markets in Paris since my arrival and both times, the same reproductions appeared.

I decided to test the honesty of some of these small dealers just for the fun of it.  I had no problem posing as an American tourist as most of the dealers spoke some English.  I saw everything from elaborate gold gilt Mirrors from Asia to highly polished ‘Art Deco’ from Egypt.  Most of the dealers ( not all ) were honest when I asked the key question ” Is it old?”

Capucine Flea MarketThis photo illustrates a typical booth put together by a French Dealer.  It looks appealing and is displayed very nicely.  Priced and labelled.

This particular booth wasn’t too bad and had a lot of older pieces.

The next photo below was an entirely different story.

Fake Art Deco Desk

The desk that the dealer was sitting at is a reproduction design of an Art Deco piece.  It looked stunning and in fact would fool most anyone. In fact every piece of furniture and decorative accessory in this dealer’s booth was new!

I was interested to see just how old this desk was.

I examined the piece and immediately discovered it was fake.  How?

By pulling out and examining the drawer for starters.  No dovetail joints, plywood bottoms on the drawers, stained wood to look old.  This piece had a life span of maybe two years at best.  My examination ended there.

The minute I examined the drawer, the dealer knew I was another dealer.  Most tourists would never do that.  The dealer gave me a dirty look so I knew I didn’t even have to ask whether it was old or not.  I moved on from this booth too.

Now in this next photo I came across a real Art Deco piece.  While this ‘desk’ probably started out as a vanity, at least the piece had some age.

Antique Desk

I asked the dealer if it was old and he assured me that it was. I asked if the hardware was original and he again assured me that it was.  So what I did is pulled out a drawer and in fact it was old.  Beautifully done dovetailed joinery along with solid wood ( not plywood ) bottoms of drawers.  And the hardware had not been replaced.  The leather top had been glued on to the top of the peice rather than being inset.   This indicated that the piece did not start out as a desk but was most likely a vanity.   The dealer had polished it up to a high gloss so the piece looked gorgeous.  His price, however, was way out of line.  I would have had to ask over $6500 for this ‘former vanity’ piece if I decided to buy it and ship it home.  So I passed on this piece too.

Parisian Antique Dealer and DaughterThis dealer photographed here with his lovely young daughter,  had a small very pretty Louis Philippe Commode which interested me at first glance.  He also had a gold gilt mirror that also interested me at first.  Immediately he started talking price ( I told him I was a dealer ) and telling me what a deal I was getting.  ( The proverbial  ‘car salesman’ type )

This gregarious guy kept on side tracking me from examining each piece by inviting me to date his daughter etc. etc.  ( Also his price was coming down minute by minute )

Unfortunately the commode, while nice, did not have its original marble top ( which I pointed out and he agreed )  But I’m quite sure if I hadn’t spotted the marriage of marble to antique, he would have never volunteered the information.  And the mirror was of very poor quality, although old.

So I thanked him and told him I’d think about it while he kept dropping the price if I bought the two together.  ( They were now 40% of his original asking! ) Again I moved on.

Chinese Antiques?  I think not.

Chinese Antique FakesThese dealers are among the worst offenders.  Most of these dealers ( particularly in Vancouver ) represent this stuff as ancient!  When I asked this French dealer whether these pieces were old she shook her head slowly and gave me a ‘get lost’  face.

I didn’t even have to examine these pieces as they’ve been flooding the market by one particular dealer in Vancouver for years now.  He still represents them as ‘Antique’.  It’s amazing to me that this guy still gets away with it.

If you like the look and are not concerned whether it’s old or not than go right ahead.  They can be decorative and inexpensive but bear in mind you get what you pay for.  Expect problems with these pieces sooner than later and when it comes to re-sell value, don’t expect anything near to what you paid.  ( Unless you trick some other non suspecting person )

Real Chinese Antiques and they look nothing like these pieces.  We’ve come across one or two pieces that we’ve sold in the store, but they are rare and very costly.  ( Anyone remember that gorgeous Rosewood Palace Gong we had about two years ago? ) It was beautifully carved, with intricate detailing, crisp and fine.

Bronzes and Art Deco Statues etc.

I see reproduction Bronzes and Art Deco statues at every Flea Market.  In fact absolutely every one that I saw at this Brocante was a reproduction.

How do I know they’re fake?  Because good Bronze will cost you many many thousands of dollars.  At a Street Fair like this, no one is going to market a real antique bronze for $15,000 minimum price.  There is also a simple test you can do that I will discuss later.

Most of these pieces are made in Asia and can look very good at first glance.  So how do you know if it’s the real thing or not.  Just scratch it with a key or another metal object.  ( Not while the dealers’ looking of course )

If the scratch is copper color it’s bronze.  If it’s grey it’s spelter.

Spelter is a pot like material that is softer and the poor cousin of bronze.  Now, many great bronze casters used Spelter all the time.  They did this because of cost.  And because it was affordable to the masses.  The asking price of a piece usually indicates whether it’s bronze or not.

I have a rather pathetic story about a client who is an avid collector of Art Deco.  This man and his wife absolutely loved all Art Deco and had thought they had bought a rare and valuable piece out at the former Cloverdale Antique Mall which closed down last year.

Now, these people had a good eye, and had collected pieces for years so when I saw this supposed ‘Bronze Lamp’ I couldn’t believe that these collectors could be fooled like this.

I explained to them that what they had was not bronze but spelter.  We did the scratch test and sure enough.  But worse, the piece was not old.  In fact it wasn’t less than 2 years old if that.

Also I pointed out the rather crude workmanship of the piece. The detailing wasn’t crisp, proportions were awkward etc.  The wiring was also new.  So many things jumped out that I was surprised that these people didn’t know.

In any event, they were extremely disappointed that their purchase wasn’t a great find.  I asked them what they paid, and in fact the price they paid was right for a cheap reproduction.  Albeit it was misrepresented, the old adage rears its ugly head yet again.  ‘You get what you pay for’

To sum it all up, Flea Markets and Street Fairs no matter what country are always fun to wander through.  But don’t expect to find ‘rare’ or ‘valuable’ pieces.  These dealers may be small time, but they do know their stuff.   Be very careful about spending your hard-earned cash.  And always ask the key question ” Is it an Antique”  or ” Is it old ” .  Go ahead and pull out drawers and examine them carefully.  The dealer will think twice about trying to pass off a fake!

I will be home next Friday and look forward to seeing you all then but until then, it’s La vie en Rose in Paris for the next few days.

A bientot,


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
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

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!


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 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.


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: [email protected]

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