Move over Ikea – antique brown furniture is back

A weekend sale at Adam’s seems to suggest that brown is back in town

Louis XVI-style writing desk  made €13,000 – way above estimate

Louis XVI-style writing desk made €13,000 – way above estimate


The market for antique furniture has been in the doldrums for the past few years. Dealers and auctioneers – here and overseas – have reported a decline in demand for so-called “brown furniture”, which has gone out of fashion and is often purportedly sold for prices described as “cheaper than Ikea”. Changing fashions in interiors, smaller houses, apartment living and a decline in formal dining have all contributed to an inevitable decline in demand for furniture – and especially larger items – from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras.

But fashions change, and rarity and quality will always be in demand. And, while one swallow does not a summer make, Adam’s auctioneers, on Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green, said it achieved strong prices “with furniture continuing to recover well” in last weekend’s ‘At Home’ auction.

Overall the sale realised €350,000 with a sold rate of 72 per cent – not bad for a Sunday morning auction in November. Among larger pieces of furniture, the top three prices were: lot 102, a 19th-century Louis XVI-style walnut and ormolu-mounted writing desk or bureau plat made €13,000 – way above estimate (€3,000-€5,000); lot 61, a 19th-century Irish Killarney-ware folding-top card table, with marquetry inlaid depiction of Muckross Abbey, opening to reveal backgammon and chess board €6,600 (€4,000-€6,000); and lot 133, a pair of Georgian rosewood, drop-leaf sofa tables €5,200 (€2,500-€3,500).

Auctioneer James O’Halloran said there had been also been good demand for smaller pieces, especially “lovely Georgian mahogany boxes, cutlery trays, cheese trolley and decanter boxes”.

Among examples, lot 6, an Irish Georgian log bucket, with brass banding and swing handle, made €1,500 (€1,000-€1,500); and lot 22, a Georgian mahogany tea caddy made €320 (€300-€400).

Furniture aside, the top price in the sale was achieved – yet again – for Chinese porcelain. Lot 88, two Chinese vases described as “Celadon Glazed Hu-Form Vases, Guangxu (1875-1908), of flattened pear shape” made €21,000 – over five times the top estimate (€3,000-€4,000).

Among the artworks, lot 232, a late-19th-century French “animalier” bronze – about 2ft 6in high – of a “Fawn, standing on a rocky base”, by the sculptor Arthur Jacques Le Duc (1848-1918), and cast at the foundry of Thiébaut Frères Fondeurs, Paris, made €5,200 (€3,000-€5,000).