Antiques can make a practical investment

Antiques can make a practical investment

You’ve likely seen those home design shows on television where people find great old architectural features like columns, windows or antique furniture to spruce up their homes. But how practical is incorporating the past into our 21st-century lifestyles?

James Curran of James Curran Antiques in Lambertville, N.J., says antique furniture can be a very practical purchase.

Curran, who deals primarily in imported British antiques from the 15th century to the early 20th century, said buyers can’t beat the quality of construction and materials of antiques, which often cost only a little more than reproductions available at high-end national retailers. In spite of their age, he added, antiques made of solid materials often are more durable and practical than modern knockoffs.

“A lot of things have an antique look today but no bones behind it,” Curran says. “If an antique gets scratched or a ring mark, it can be corrected.” For instance, a scratch on an antique can be sanded away, but the combination of extremely thin veneers and lacquer coatings on most contemporary furniture makes it difficult to repair.

For those who are concerned with being eco-friendly, antiques are a great way to go green. In addition to the recycling of existing furniture, buying antiques helps reduce the demand for timber that depletes many forests. For people with chemical sensitivities, older furniture has already released the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that may be found in recently produced furniture.

“Comparatively, buying a brand-new piece of furniture has 17 times more impact on the environment,” Curran says.

Christopher Nowak, owner of Vintage Views in Hoboken, N.J., said the adage “Buyer beware” always applies to antiques, especially when buying online where it may be more challenging to determine the quality or even existence of the product.

“I often complete preliminary research online so I can tell whether they negotiate in good faith,” he says. Research via the Internet is a great tool to learn about antiques and their value, Nowak adds. “It’s fairly easy and quick to pull up comparable items to compare prices,” he says.

When buying antiques and salvage to remodel and furnish your home, also keep in mind the following:

•    Know your property: Is your property Edwardian or Art Deco? Understand the period in which it was built if you want to do a sensitive remodel.
•    Measure, measure, measure: That old window or door may feel right for your home, but it may not fit right. Some — but not all — openings and items can be adjusted.
•    Follow your local code: That old-fashioned toilet may look right at home in your renovated bathroom, but it more than likely does not meet current water-flow requirements.
•    Put safety first: The Consumer Product Safety Commission, for instance, recently banned the sale of drop-side cribs because of the danger they pose to babies. Also, if there are children in the house, beware of the lead-based paint hazard of furniture painted prior to 1978.
•    Know the source: There’s a booming market in architectural salvage and a limited supply, leading some less than ethical dealers to procure and sell stolen goods. If possible, have the dealer show provenance or chain of ownership.
•    Protect your investment: Check your homeowner’s policy, and if necessary, buy additional coverage for individual items. Keep receipts and photos of expensive items in a safe deposit box. 

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