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Antique wardrobes: A guide to buying and selling bedroom furniture

Antique chest of drawers


The flat-pack generation has played a huge role in the fall of antique sales. Cheap and cheerful designs, along with changing tastes and a recession, has hit the market hard.

But there are indications of an up-turn, according to BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Judith Miller. “Antiques are cheaper than the alternative and no one is going to convince me that MDF will prove to be a worthwhile investment”, author of the 2018-2019 version of Miller’s Antiques Handbook and Price Guide. She adds, “solid antique pine wardrobes will still be a practical storage piece in another few centuries”.

Intrigued? Here’s why there’s a growing demand for antique wardrobes - and exactly what to look out for when you’re buying them.

Benefits of antique wardrobes

A modern predilection for fully-fitted bedrooms has meant that much bedroom furniture, especially antique wardrobes, is seriously undervalued. But there are many reasons to invest in these solid functional pieces:

  • Crafting finesse and usability. Antique wardrobes for sale at any good dealers will be well made - and made by hand. Naturally, centuries-old antiques can break, but generally they will withstand the practical uses they were originally designed for.
  • Ethically sound. Buying antique wardrobes is the ultimate in green shopping: recycling and reusing pre-loved pieces that already have impressive lifespans is as eco-friendly as it gets.
  • Profits are always rising. Anyone who has browsed a selection of antique wardrobes for sale will notice that price-points are often low and yet the values are rising. A solid 19th-century Biedermeier wardrobe can value between £2,000 and £3,000 whereas a modern copy will go for a maximum of £600.
  • Antique wardrobes are timeless. Trends come and go but antiques retain lasting charm and stories. With a surge in period dramas, dark wood furniture (looking at you, 19th-century antique walnut wardrobes) is making a comeback.

What to look out for in antique wardrobes for sale

There are a number of things to consider when buying antique wardrobes. Practical necessities, such as whether it provides a storage solution fit for today, or whether it will actually be short enough not to skim today’s ceilings, are obviously important to look at first. But if you’re a dealer or collector pushing antique wardrobes for sale, you need to delve deeper.

1. Manufacturing methods

When it comes to dating the wardrobe, look at the joinery first. Is the wood cut by a machine? If so it was made after 1860. Antique wardrobes for sale dating before that time would have been handmade - this is often noticeable by the uniqueness and lack of symmetry in the wardrobe. Land upon a pre-1860’s piece that wasn’t mass-produced and you’re onto a hefty profit - Chippendale antique mahogany wardrobes from 1760 can reach tens of thousands.

2. Examining designs

Late Victorian pieces are highly ornate, almost over-decorated with arabesque marquetry and Adam Revival motifs. During the 19th-century, floral marquetry was applied to the antique wardrobes we see today. These fetch the most impressive prices at auction - often between £6,000 to £9,000 - while their original, plain counterparts go for between £3,000 and £5,000.

3. Type of wood used

The wood used in antique wardrobes can determine dates and values. Antique walnut wardrobes for sale from the Victorian era can be picked up at around £500. If you’re looking at antique pine wardrobes, these can be bought for around £100-£200, while wickerwork and bamboo pieces go for £300 maximum. Generally, antique mahogany wardrobes or those made of chestnut are more valuable. Late 18th-C antique French wardrobes for sale in mahogany or chestnut value at around £2,000 to £3,000, whereas a poorer oak example goes for between £800 to £1,200.

Where to find antique wardrobes for sale

There are plenty of places around the UK to spark interior imagination, ignite foraging instincts and spot a sleeper. If you’re looking for antique wardrobes, you can get a lot of furniture for your money at auctions, antique shops and dealer centres. Hemswell Antiques Centres offer the widest selection of antiques in Europe, so whether you’re hunting down antique triple wardrobes or a solid mahogany armoire, your best chances of finding a bargain are with our dealers. Browse our selection of antique wardrobes for sale or visit us in person to view the superb craftsmanship for yourself.

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