The Dealer: The best places to find antique furniture in London

Antiques expert Ian Butchoff elaborates on his picks of the capital’s best furniture, and pays homage to the great Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

If I was asked this week where to go in London to see great furniture, I’d suggest three places.

First, and perhaps most obviously, there’s the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A has the most wonderful and comprehensive display of furniture and decorative art within the British Galleries.

(Sadly it’s a bit gloomily lit in order preserve these wonderful items as best they can.)

Apparently they hold a daily hour long tour and it would be a good grounding in how to use the resources they offer effectively.

“The Geffrye is one of those gems that, if you have never been, the first sight of which will make you question why”

If all this sound a little too academic, and the prospect of a little light observation accompanied by something nice to eat is more up your street, then my second suggestion would be the Geffrye Museum out in Shoreditch, or the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square.

The Geffrye is one of those gems that, if you have never been, the first sight of which will make you question why.

It is housed in a collection of Georgian Almshouses, once owned by the Ironmonger’s Company before they moved out in the early 20th century to Eltham – as was considered “healthier”. It also now has a spectacular modern addition at the back.

If you travel there over ground to Hoxton you can get a bird’s eye view of the elegant award winning herb and period gardens at the behind museum, as well as the atrium-like café, of which I have heard good things.

There are eleven room sets, illustrating the changing taste in a typical middle class Londoners sitting/parlor/drawing rooms, and they run from 1600 to the present day.

It won’t show you a row of Edwardian sofas, or Georgian what-knots but what it will do is show in a simple but comprehensive way how tastes change and you may come away with a better understanding of the style or period that “speaks” to you and guides you towards what you would like to purchase for your own home.

“If the name doesn’t ring a bell with you, his most famous piece of gothic revival architecture will – he is the man who designed the tower that holds the iconic Big Ben”

If the gilt and luxury of French furniture is more your thing, then beat a path to the Wallace Collection which has 25 galleries of the very finest 18th century furniture, paintings and porcelain and has to be seen to be believed.

There’s the outstanding Sevres porcelain in pink, and its unmistakable blue and green, plus furniture of exquisite quality by Andre Charles Boulle. (You’ll soon start to recognise Boulle’s work and will be able to impress family and friends with its identification – he was the master of embellishing his furniture with tortoise or turtle shell and brass in a delicate marquetry.)

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin octagonal table on display at Butchoff Antiques

Source: Butchoff Antiques

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin octagonal table originally from Windsor Castle on display at Butchoff Antiques.

Also last week I heard that a new biography of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin is to be published. His was a life which packed in a lot in a short span of years.

If the name doesn’t ring an instant bell with you, his most famous piece of gothic revival architecture will – he is the man who designed the tower that holds the iconic Big Ben, along with the Palace of Westminster.

His is a fascinating story – along with being another whose birth was 200 years ago this year, Charles Dickens.  

A son of a Frenchman who fled his county during the evolution, by 19 he was being employed to design furniture for Windsor Castle. He was then bankrupt, shipwrecked and widowed by the time he was 21 and it was only then that he turned his attentions to architecture.

He published his influential work Contrasts when he was only 23 and the Big Ben Tower was his final design, dying very shortly after at the early age of 40.

I tell you all of this as I wanted to illustrate this week’s missives with an image of a wonderful oak octagonal table we currently have in the showroom that came originally from Windsor Castle, and which is firmly attributed to the great man. Do pop by and see it and meet the team here if it takes your fancy – anyone mentioning LondonlovesBusiness.com gets extra biscuits with their cup of tea!

Ian Butchoff is the founder and owner of Butchoff Antiques, located on Kensington Church Street. He entered the trade aged 11 and is today recognised as a leading authority on 19th century furniture. He is a co-founder and board member of the dealers’ association, LAPADA, and writes a regular column for LondonlovesBusiness.com.

 

Social Bookmarks