Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Early-Bird Bargains; Weekend Previews at Auctions Offer a Leisurely Chance to Pick out a Winner

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Early-Bird Bargains; Weekend Previews at Auctions Offer a Leisurely Chance to Pick out a Winner

Article excerpt


IF YOU need to furnish your house on a budget, or simply want a good excuse to rummage through the intriguing contents of an old country house up for sale, look no further than the weekend views this month.

Everywhere mentioned below has at least a small cafe and they all welcome the dawdling, pram-pushing and question-asking classes.

Weekend previews of antiques sales have become sociable affairs.

Rooms are stacked, Aladdin's-cave style, with treasures, all clearly marked with their lot numbers. You can leave commission bids on anything that takes your fancy, so on the day of sale, the auctioneer will bid on your behalf up to the amount you specify.

First stop must be Bonhams's lovely, light Salem Road rooms. The glass-walled cafe is the best appointed of the food stations, as you can view the saleroom as you slurp your tea.

There are impromptu guided tours every Sunday. When the room fills up an expert will appear, give a brief Antiques Roadshow-style talk about selected items and answer questions.

The sales are ideal for the private punter on a budget. Every Monday, about 300 lots of general antiques go under the hammer, including furniture from late 17th century oak to Edwardian mahogany. Bestsellers of last month were the chests of drawers, which start at around [pound]200 for a good, clean Victorian example. Best buy of all was a late 17th century coffer, offered at [pound]300-[pound]400, in excellent condition, molasses brown and carved with simple motifs.

Go to the view this weekend and you will catch the mirrors and lighting extravaganza. The sale also includes a number of davenports, those elegant desk-cumchests of drawers, with a leather-clad sloping top for writing, introduced in the late 18th century but ideal for the 21st century spacestarved London flat.

If your tastes run to tracery and pointy arches, pop up to New Bond Street to the view of the Croft Castle sale.

The late Lord Croft was Honorary Keeper of Contemporary Art at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and combined an extraordinary eye for 20th century masterpieces with a passion for the Gothic look. The family castle in Herefordshire was stuffed with English oak from the 16th and 17th centuries and countless homages to Gothic style, such as a set of four George III side chairs, circa 1760, estimated to fetch [pound]4,000-6,000 (lot 17) and a set of eight 19th century Gothic revival chairs, with sparer lines and offwhite paintwork, estimated at [pound]3,000-[pound]5,000 (lot 40).

Top lots will go for five-figure sums but there are plenty of reasonable buys: estimates start at [pound]50 for a walnut dining chair (lot 178), while a George III-style chest of drawers is expected to fetch [pound]200-[pound]300 (lot 166).

Once you have tired of the salerooms, visit the fairs. …

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