Quality Furniture Represents Tradition

An antique table like this Victorian supper table is a treasure that can be enjoyed in any home where workmanship is appreciated.

Did you read the headline that ran just below this column last week stating: “Victorian Furniture No Longer in Style, Hard to Sell?” The Kovels’ antiques column, which reports on recent auctions, was reporting on the lack of buyers for a top-quality 1870-era cabinet.

The Kovels’ column went on to state that modern tastes have changed and Victorian furniture doesn’t fit into today’s homes and decorating themes so well. If you’re like me, this comment made you sad.

I know that change is the nature of the world and that includes the world of antiques and collectibles, but I also remember when I was young and took on the duty of dusting.

I loved to polish the antique furniture in my family home. The furniture was well-made and a source of pride. It represented tradition since my mother always made sure to tell me the story that went along with each piece.

These are strong reasons for sticking with antiques even now as the market wavers. So if you have fine examples of antique furniture, don’t worry — continue to enjoy them! In the Victorian age, etiquette ruled and formalities such as teatime meant that furniture and surroundings were designed with decorum in mind. Naturally, the desire for formal dining, even at home, means there are many versions of tea, breakfast and supper tables, some quite ornate and highly carved, that date to the mid- to late 1800s.

The one in my column was my mother’s and is still treasured today in my sister’s home. An attractive antique table like this offers a classic statement of style even in contemporary homes and with the price drop, it’s a perfect time to consider one.

The mid-1800s also was the era of the American industrial revolution. Skilled furniture craftsmen from Europe were part of the waves of immigration that contributed to our factory talent. Because it also was the era when the middle class was expanding and furnishing homes for their families, fine furniture was in great demand.

The table shown is a beautiful mahogany breakfast or supper table measuring 38 inches across. The tabletop is edged by a carved rope design and provides an elegant surface for sipping tea or enjoying a meal.

The original finish now glows with a rich dark patina and it includes a highly carved main column or pedestal with four decorative legs ending in perfect claw feet and wooden casters. The table has no maker’s mark but dates to the mid-1800s. Similar tables are sometimes found with leaves for extension, but this one has a solid wooden top, indicating no leaves were in the original design.

Furniture makers such as Belter, Meeks, Horner, Brooks, Herter Brothers, Roux, Pabst and Henkels became successful during this era and are names of note in American furniture.

The rococo style in decorative arts grew in popularity at this time and is evident by the elaborate fancy carving with classic Italian Renaissance characteristics, like curves, flowers, lions and flowing details. This table has lion’s feet and floral carvings.

Tea tables became very elaborate as the popularity of drinking tea as a social event grew. Some early tea tables featured rotating tops, so that the hostess could pour and serve, turn the table then pour some more. The tops of many of these early models also tilted upright after tea to allow the table to be conveniently conveniently until the next teatime.

Like all antique furniture, the original finish is important to the value of an antique table along with the general condition, so take care of your antiques and don’t be tempted to refinish.

If you run into a problem with a heat or water ring, try the mayonnaise and baking soda remedy. Simply mix a little of both and rub into the wood and it should remove the stain, or leave mayonnaise on the ring overnight and buff.If antique furniture is cared for properly, you will have a treasure worth passing down like this fine table.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at: zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.


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