Atlanta antiques dealer carves out market for Georgian style furniture

Antique furniture comes in many styles and everyone is different when it comes to decorating their homes. Some may like Mid-century Modern or Victorian styles; while others may enjoy Duncan Phyfe or Georgian furniture. Georgian is a period of design in English furniture from 1714 through the early 1800s. It is also a period rich in the terms of new styles and the craftsmen who invented and brought this era of furniture into every household around the world. The Georgian period is broken down into three stages: early Georgian (1714 to 1740); mid Georgian (1760 to 1790); and late Georgian (1790 to early 1800s).

This period was often referred to as the “Golden Age” of English cabinetmakers and showcased some of the best known craftsmen of late Georgian furniture in the world. During this time, wealthy and educated aristocrats decorated their homes with only the finest of elegant furniture. For a person of wealth, this was a means of exhibiting good taste, and many felt the Georgian period furniture fell into that category. This prompted many architects to seriously devote themselves to design furniture only of the best-quality and magnificent styles. Furniture designers such as George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton, Thomas Chippendale and the Adams Brothers (John, Robert, James and William) are names still connected to furniture being sold today.

The furniture style was named after the first four King George of England, and is distinguished by a modest sophistication that was different from the more elaborate designs of Empire furniture and the styles of the Jacobean and Queen Anne periods. Georgian furniture was more conservative and often reflected the return to neoclassical art and design. According to records, early Georgian furniture is the most notable for antique value. The reason being that after 1803 the machine age took over and construction deteriorated with the use of screws, poor glues and bad designs.

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Often furniture craftsmen used oak, walnut and mahogany in the production of Georgian period furniture. The use of mahogany came into play near the end of the period and was a favorite of many furniture craftsmen. Mahogany gained popularity because it is very strong and long-lasting. The wood was less prone to infestation, didn’t scratch, crack or warp, didn’t need varnishing and the deep red color was well suited for the Georgian period furniture styles.

However, solid mahogany was soon replaced with other woods. During the time craftsmen were employing the use of mahogany in the production of Georgian furniture, they often resorted to using solid oak instead with a thick mahogany or walnut veneer. The use of veneer was common practice until the 20th century when mass-production furniture manufacturers started using thinner veneers and wood substitutes. Actually, before the 20th century, the use of veneer was considered to be elegant.

Commonly known furniture designs of the Georgian period included the classic two-over-three drawer dresser, satinwood and yew wood cross banding, shaped bracket feet, leather paneling with gold tooling, solid brass hardware, oval and swan-neck style pulls and astragal glass molding. Many of these designs were carried over into the Victorian and Edwardian periods and continue to be used by contemporary reproduction craftsmen today.

One popular design during the mid 1740s was the breakfront library bookcase. Before this period, bookcases were rare and not popular but as people began buying more books, the need for bookcases in households throughout the world became prevalent. Not all were used as bookcases; some were used for china and often for both. Breakfront bookcases are large with a central section protruding forward beyond the two sides. Often the top portion of the breakfront bookcase set on top of a deeper and shorter lower section that had small cupboard spaces for storage of maps, papers, and so on. Occasionally there also would be a secretary drawer to hold pens and pencils. Chippendale crafted many of these bookcases during the mid to late Georgian period.

Peter DiSalvo of English Classics in Atlanta, Ga., has been dealing in Georgian as well as other antique furniture for 12 years. All of the furniture sold by DiSalvo is imported from England and guaranteed to be of the highest quality. One of the most asked questions by clients of English Classics is whether the furniture is veneered or solid? DiSalvo said that although most is veneered, the veneer enhances the beauty and makes the furniture more stable.

When distinguishing a reproduction from an authentic piece, DiSalvo said you need to look at the piece and have an eye for details. One of the things to look for in Georgian furniture is if the piece has hand-cut dove tails versus machine-cut dove tails. “Sometimes it’s very difficult to tell. Also as the piece ages the patina develops on the surface of the piece and that’s another way to tell,” DiSalvo said. It’s not always the age of the piece that gives it its value, but also the design, construction and carving.

DiSalvo has been a devoted vendor at Scott Antique Markets in Atlanta for approximately 12 years and has a display of at least 100 pieces of antique furniture at the market each month. “Scott Antique Markets draw a huge crowd of antique enthusiasts and designers,” he said. “Most designers come in looking for investment-quality pieces or something to fit their clients’ needs and space.”

The most expensive piece of Georgian furniture DiSalvo sold at the market was a secretary’s bookcase for $6,000. Prices for Georgian furniture can range from $2,000 to $4,000 depending on the piece and condition, according to DiSalvo. “Secretaries usually range from $6,000 to $8,000,” he stated.

Scott Antique Markets host the world’s largest indoor antique market in Atlanta and the largest indoor antique market in the Midwest in Columbus, Ohio. The final Columbus Scott Antique Market until the next season opener in November will be held at the Ohio Expo Center (Bricker bldg.) March 26-27.

For more information on Scott Antique Markets call 740-569-4912.

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