Archive for March, 2009

Antique Cabinets Checklist

Posted in Antiques, Tracking the Marvelous with tags , , , , , , , on March 16, 2009 by dutchnduchess

  FrenchCabinet     Dutch_Cabinet

I live in an expat community and it  can get very emotional to see devoted collectors come and go.  Their circumstances don’t always allow adequate  notice between moves to  find their most coveted pieces of antiques and fit  the  once-in-a-lifetime travels into the time slot they have.  (Sometimes one has a minor lapse in judgement and prioritize the travels, but I forgive them :>).  When ‘moving mode’  goes into full throttle and is definitely going to happen, collectors pose two  basic questions:   (1) Is there room in the container/budget for getting (some of/more of/all the art/antiques we want–(after ‘the travels’) ? and   (2) Will they fit in the next house? We’re talking ceiling heights, wall space, windows that need to be just  one inch further over,  (that’s ‘a smiggen’ if you’re from the South) etc.?  When the ‘next’  house specs are not available yet,  a little information can go a long way. If you find yourself in moving mode and still desire the perfect European antique cabinet you might find this link  helpful. 

The comparison sheet does not have tips for spotting the genuine.  Jumping on the bus to PARIS with the antiques course where I explain how to  ‘ Track the Marvelous’ is a much more fun and informative atmosphere to learn how to know if a piece is genuine and use the right jargon with good (or scrupulous) vendors when making your deal.  If you  have a day and 135 Euros to spare, check out the full itinerary and registration details here . What you learn this day will boost purchasing confidence and save you from making costly mistakes that can be easily avoided.  If you can’t join me, try to use correct terminolgy for furniture parts and look  thoroughly for damages BEFORE buying. Definitely get things in your  home in time for a last inspection before movers come. Knowledge is definitely power when buy antiques. You don’t want to end up  with surprises or hassles once the container  hits homebound port miles or even months away from the purchase spot. 

First of all, you’re doing the right thing–to get it while the getting is good.  After comparing the prices of your dream cabinet on both sides of the pond, you’ll find the one in Europe to be starkly to your advantage. If  you buy in a Belgium and head for a US destination then it’s definitely a no brainer. Retail mark up in ‘normal’ furniture is 400% and it’s value definitely does not appreciate while antiques are consistently proven to be better investments than stocks, even in a correcting market. When we can’t buy a house, we tend to fix up the one we have!  Even if you get back with a cabinet too high for your ceiling, any local dealer will be glad to relieve you of it for a pretty penny and content not to wait for it to be shipped.  Besides the first rule —Buy something that you like, I offer one more word of advice–Quality. Buy the hghest quality you can afford at the time you make your purchase.

If beauty is measured by the beholder. The beholder should have the following on  his/her checklist:  the style, wood/wood veneer, functioning parts, maybe ‘secrets’ , number of compartments and type of storage.  If you want to have hang space for clothing, it’s possible in both of the cabinets shown, but one has a longer vertical drop space. One always has  five drawers inside as well as chest of drawers for compartmentalized storage. Intended usage and room placement is up to the purchaser of course  and the possibilities are numerous.  This makes it a veratile investment as well as a practical additon to your collection.

The French style cabinet is lovely and often has wonderful regional character from the area of France in which it was designed and constructed, hence their style name.  They are usually one huge gorgeous hunk of oak and you can hide a multitude of clutter, pack in the largest lcd tv and all entertainment accoutrements one would want.  Every time you open the full length door, ‘the full multitude’ is exposed. So you might opt to display the beautiful quilt collection or all your Gien or other ceramic, china or earthenware collection. When you move this type of cabinet, you need strong muscles, more than one person/mover  and some furniture maker’s expertise about European construction,  the right tools, and spacious architecture for dismantling and re-assembly.  

The Dutch Cabinet is generally not named after regions of Holland. It’s style is tied to who was in reign and what was they liked, which always set a trend.   Geographicallysmall,  Holland realized her need to connect with outside resources for commercia survival. The shipping industry influenced many of its trade products and cultural contributions and made it the center of The Golden Age. Cabinets became the formal  showpieces in homes of the richest landowners and merchants and this richness is still characteristic.

The Drentse cabinet (okay, it is named after its region, you got me), has three small graduated circular carvings flanking the lower fluted colums on its facade, above tapered legs.  To the modern eye these appeare as mere decoration, but they actually symbolize coins, yes money of the time, ‘florins’.  If you’re a banker does that mean you should have an affinity to this design? No of course not, but one does find the artisan woodwork and design elements to have logical and unique  historical attachment. The same design has an arched top and sometimes the front of the arch has a sort of sunburst design , other times more floral carvings with a central urn. Which one do you think is assoicated with the Sun King? Depending on the nuances, one can tell the age of the furniture besides obvious patina or signs of wear.

More important than style especially to an expat purchaser, is the construction.  Because the architecture of The Netherlands can be on the small side — we move things through windows all the time if they don’t fit stairwells or other narrow places. The Dutch cabinet comes apart to daccommodate limitations–and no-nails, no-hammers de- or reconstruction! It’s pegged, so you want to be sure  you have a ziplock to pop those in and be stored logically for the destination assembly. There’s a diagram on the comparison sheet showing the basic parts (3), but not the five drawers on the inside. Go here to see the insides of the two cabinets. Well, I could ‘wax on’ more, but I hope you find this a helpful. Good Luck!