Look up antiques in any yellow pages and you will see multiple listings. The question that begs answering is, what is an antique? If you watch some of the television shows that have evolved around the antique craze, the things most often discussed are collectibles. It could be cartoon cels or the original Barbie Doll. Indeed, antiques which are by definition over one hundred years old are seldom mentioned.

I am not one to determine what is or is not an antique unless we are talking about English furniture. It is clear to me, however, that most people do not know what constitutes an antique and that people are easily convinced to buy things that are worthless. I think back to the pet rock craze and that person, the creator of the concept, is looked upon as a marketing genius. Are antqiue dealers selling pet rocks? Maybe there should be a new category in the yellow pages? Perhaps, “Antiques, Seriously?”

It is too nice a day here to pay attention to interior related things. I regret that, of course. Summer is a great time to buy antiques. Dealers tend to be eager to do deals, but when aren’t they? It is also a great time to get rid of the second rate. You won’t miss that set of dining chairs that are always breaking or that 19th century gilded mirror if you just stick them in your car and hand them over to the local dealer or auctioneer. You will be on the patio, in the pool or someplace exotic and those things will be a distant memory by the time you return. Of course, when you free up space you are making opportunities to buy something better.

Never let a beautiful day get you down. There is plenty out there to smile about.

“English furniture is so rich and it only gets better with age.” These are the words of a restorer friend who has been in the business since 1966. He continued to say, “I don’t understand how a wealthy person could not at least give English furniture a look when deciding on a style of decoration.”

Naturally, I concurred with his statements. But it takes time to understand this stuff. It takes a desire to understand it as well. I have spent over thirty years learning about it and I still feel there is more to know. Of course, living with antiques is different than dealing in antiques…, somewhat. To be a dealer you have to want to see your inventory every day. Owning great furniture requires that you look at it. It doesn’t allow you not to. If you can’t live with that, you shouldn’t buy English furniture. The stuff may not be art, but it has presence.

Don’t take my word for it, however. Try it yourself.

Wardrobes, like Davenport desks and polescreens, are impossible to sell. Every dealer regrets that impulse that causes them to buy one. And yet some dealers thrive on them. The point is that this business is intensely personal and very private. Dealers don’t want you to know anything about their inventory other than it is for sale. For a time in the 1980’s, dealers could be seen bidding at auction, but no more. Nobody wants their purchases scrutinized.

Partridge Fine Arts has reduced the value of their inventory by ten million pounds, down from twenty-eight to eighteen million. Perhaps the greatest dealers in the 20th century, the firm used to be prominent in the sale rooms, sitting right up front buying the best things that they could. John Partridge says that the value of his inventory has diminished. I don’t think so. I think that they haven’t changed with the times.

A crisis of small proportions, but if the “G” in my title is capitalized, shouldn’t the “t” also be capitalized? I look for guidance.

Not Rio, exactly, but Palm Beach. I try to remember Rio and I do, in a way. Rio was a room that fit my bed and that was it. The beaches were endless and packed with people. It was July and mid-winter weather was eighty degrees. The water was cool but very refreshing and like all the other beachs I visited on that trip in Tahiti, Green Island, Bali and Sri Lanka, someone needed rescuing. The botanical garden was like a stage set with royal palms parading the entrance. A beautiful city that somehow felt like it was set apart.

But Palm Beach is special, too. Insouciance, perhaps, or just a lazy feel. It is a place of languor and wealth and where there is wealth, there is English furniture. I shall return.

My niece Cecil, the last of six nieces who range in age from 36 to 22, is graduating from college this weekend (well done Cecil!). My daughter is going to be a junior at the University of Wisconsin next year. When I started in this business, late Regency furniture was not even a century and a half old. Time passes on and it requires an open attitude to a number of things such as design but also value. What things cost is an inevitable spiral upwards unless you buy the mediocre. Keeping an open mind is the important thing, however, no matter what else changes.

The English furniture business is poised for its annual bash in June. There is the Olympia Fair and there is Grosvenor House. Olympia opens on June 9, I believe and Grosvenor House the next week on the 15th. A good time will be had by all, I hope.

The English furniture market in London has been desultory for the last three to four years. There are numerous alleged causes for this from the strength of the British currency, the lack of traveling by potential buyers, a stylistic shift away from 18th and early 19th century English furniture, the auction house dominance of the retail trade, the role of the Internet which has diminished the incentive to actually visit shops and the very high prices that good English furniture costs these days. All of these reasons may play a role and yet the two fairs are almost always hugely successful. That is because furniture, of all the decorative arts, needs to be seen by the buyer. These two fairs attract most of the buyers in the field and there is ample choice. Seeing English furniture is believing English furniture.

There are times when the world seems completely insane. War and politics are two obvious culprits and so are country house sales. I am alluding to the sale at Easton Neston, of course, Sotheby’s extravaganza in Northamptonshire. The prices there will be blindingly high and for no (apparent) aesthetic reason. Sotheby’s, and Christie’s for that matter, are old hands at getting the media out in force to see a little of England’s gilded splendor. I went to view the sale on media day and the Sotheby’s PR crew were doing a bang up job for the people wielding cameras and video equipment. It was less a circus and more a controlled happening.

The house is beautiful with a ridiculously long staircase that requires a Sherpa for the trek, a good plasterwork dining room and sensational grounds. The furniture is not much to speak about but what is there will probably sell very well. I was extremely pleased to see the house as it sits beautifully and is quite small by country house standards. I am sorry that the National Trust or the nation or some preservation organization did not go after it, but they probably have their hands full already. Alas, another one bites the dust.

Not having written anything for awhile, I find that I am shy to open up on any topic, let alone antiques. (I do admire the hype for Easton Neston, however, which I visited last week.) There is most definitely a rhythm to this tune and I don’t have it. I will try again tomorrow.

Easton Neston

One of the great pleasures of being in the antiques business is going to country house sales. Easton Neston, a house designed by Hawksmoor in Northamtonshire is having some of its contents sold by Sotheby’s on the 17th through the 19th of May. It is a beautiful house that I have long wanted to see and I will be able to wander around it turning furniture upside down, a pleasant activity at any time. See you there!