Brown Furniture Sales

31 May 2011

By Jacob Khokhlov, 62days expert

My short ‘Estate and Inheritance Sales’ article that I published in March this year in the news section proved to be very popular. I have decided to continue the topic and explore this subject in more detail by addressing the rather difficult section of valuing and selling brown furniture.

Many old households and estates that come up for sale and liquidation contain a large selection of antique or vintage furniture. The range of furnishings in such “collections” may vary from the earliest possible Mediaeval examples all the way to the, now retro, 1970’s modern settings.

However, the absolute majority of such households have a peculiar mix of Victorian, Edwardian and up to late Deco furnishings, roughly spanning 1850’s to 1950’s. Most of these items are good specimens of solid wood, well built, exceptionally functional and aesthetically sound so called brown furniture – usually made of a solid oak, mahogany or walnut; items such as tables, chairs, chests of drawers, chests on chests, wardrobes and cupboards, display cabinets etc. The term refers in the trade exactly to this family of furniture and nowadays it is usually broadly labelled as dull, generic, old fashioned and grandmothers furnishings.

This negative yet unjustified approach is also reflected in the very low prices brown furniture fetches at auctions. The prices are often much lower than those charged by a High Street shops for completely modern and tasteless furniture.

A few pieces of advice if you have antique brown furniture on your hands and are looking to sell antiques of this type:

1. If you are not pressed to sell the furniture you may just use it. It will keep its fair value and hopefully, when the market recovers, the tide will change and the prices will rise again.

2. If you need to sell – do not go to an auction. Your local auctioneer will most likely put a generic minimal value on each piece of furniture. Dealers buy at the small local auctions (large auctions will not accept these consignments due to their limited value) and therefore the value you will realise will be even lower.

3. Then what can you do? eBay might be a good idea, but you must have a lot of time on your hands. The online auction is inundated with good brown furniture and the competition is harsh. You either have to stick to you high prices for a long time (often weeks and months on end) until you find the right buyers, or you just let it go cheaply. Take into account that buyers there will expect you to deliver the furniture to them.

4. Do check the value of your furnishings on first – it will give you a very good idea of what you have and you may even decide just to sell it right away without any further hassle.

Happy selling!