By Christopher Middleton
"We are hoping to furnish a town house. While there are great bargains to be had at markets around the country, for the cream of the crop you can’t beat the big city. Judith has brought us to the bustling antiques colony on Church Street, just north of the Marylebone Road, in North London. Its capital is Alfie’s Antiques Market, which sits behind an Egyptian-themed façade, and has a warren-like interior that is altogether more Marrakesh than Marylebone...Painful though it may be to those who grew up in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, that era is now considered not just antique territory, but also very desirable. This is why, a few minutes later, we find ourselves standing in front of four stylish Italian dining chairs, on Bruna Naufal’s stall.
“They have a good shape. They’re made of lovely wood, they’re fashionable, date from the Fifties and will appreciate in value,” says Judith approvingly. “The asking price is £900, but we’ll try for £700 and get them for £800.”
To the antique-buying novice, of course, spending £200 on a kitchen chair could take you well out of your comfort zone. But again Judith returns to her point about it being an investment, rather than money down the drain. And she’s not finished yet.
Having solved the problem of what to sit on around the dining table, she now sets about finding something to sit on in the living room. “And don’t think it has to be a sofa,” she says. “Two upholstered chairs can work just as well.”
In the event, though, we decide against the luxuriously appointed Thirties Gio Ponti armchairs on Francesca Martire’s stall (£7,000 apiece, with sofa an extra £7,500) and go for the altogether wackier row of wooden French cinema seats being sold by Stephen Hall (£495).
“They’re fun, have character, and are in line with the recession zeitgeist. This revolves around the idea that the outside world is horrible and ghastly, so we’re going to create our own world and 'cocoon’ at home,” explains Judith. “That said, you might need some cushions.”
Of course, no home is complete without a dining table, and she suggests that we fill that gap not with a conventionally shaped rectangular piece, but with a glamorously circular rosewood creation, with a built-in rotating lazy Susan at its centre.
Designed in the Seventies by Richard Young for a firm called Merrow Associates, it comes with a glowing recommendation from Judith. “It’s beautifully made, practical and, being circular, it’s more sociable than any other shape,” she says.
At £2,800 it is also quite expensive, so for now we tell the dealer, Charles Rooney, we’ll think about it and focus instead on crockery. Judith suggests we look for items that aren’t matching, but from the same “family”.
To which end, she suggests buying a series of “trios” (that’s cup, plate and saucer), all made in the Twenties. All are made by the same design firm (Shelley), but all have subtly different patterns. Each trio costs between £65-£170 at Beth Adams’s stall, just by the front door.
Or we can go for matching pieces, such as the Red Domino range, made by Midwinter in the Fifties (white with red and white rims). The plates cost £15-£25 each, and tureens go for £65 (on the Robinson Antiques stall). They are all on Judith’s mid-20th-century modern shopping list..."
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