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Antiques in Singapore: The truth behind buying this style of furniture

We asked some resident antique retailers in Singapore to dispel some of the most common preconceptions surrounding antiques for your home.


Preconception: Chinese furniture is all about dark rosewood or lacquer, and is too ornate and heavy for most homes.
“Yes, rosewood furniture is part of Chinese furniture, but it’s so much more than that – so much more varied,” says Just Anthony director Danielle Lee. “Some pieces are ornate and heavy, but many others have a simple or rustic look that can easily fit with modern décor. Very good examples are Ming-style pieces: their simple lines and elegant design make them timeless, which is why they continue to be reproduced today.”

Chris Ang, general manager at Woody Antique House, agrees. “An authentic piece of furniture does not need to be very ornately carved or painted. There are simple pieces, like the Chinese wedding cabinet or the sideboard, which have less carving and yet are able to bring a certain antique style to your home décor.”
See our suggested antique buys in the gallery above

Preconception: Chinese furniture has to fit with traditional furniture.
“No, it doesn’t,” says Anne Lockett from China Collection. “It often has strong, clean lines that go with modern and contemporary interiors, and you can put one strong piece of Chinese furniture in with a lovely modern piece.

“Often, people have this idea when they arrive in Singapore that they have to get their home set up fast. It takes strength to pull yourself back and question why you want to buy certain pieces, but this is important. You need to buy key pieces that you really want and that you really enjoy. If you’re going to buy a big piece you should make sure you know exactly where you will eventually place it. Be aware of why you’re collecting furniture; buy slow and buy well. A lovely cabinet works well on its own, but you can also decorate around it, and a simple altar table, for example, could go with almost anything.”

“If you have a very modern home, just one piece can become a statement piece,” continues Anne’s son, Doug Lockett. “Some people think that Chinese furniture is very traditional, but increasingly we are finding that the younger generation of customers favour the ‘shabby raw’ look. This is a trade-off between function and form: leaving a piece in its original state means it’s susceptible; but it has a certain look that they like. When it comes to ‘younger’ pieces, we are willing to modify them. For example, there’s a large green bookshelf in our showroom, which is not particularly old – around 100 to 150 years: we retained its original frame, added slats to the back and changed the colour. But we’d never change the colour of a piece that has more history.

Woody Antique House’s Chris explains his view. “The fusion approach to home decoration, a mix of Eastern and Western furniture styles, has been around for some time, and having a piece of antique furniture can further enhance that. If selected appropriately, a cabinet or sideboard can double as a piece of art on top of its original functionality for storage. It can be the centrepiece in the main hall of a home and, very often, a great topic of conversation with your guests because there is a story behind each authentic piece of furniture.”
See our suggested antique buys in the gallery above

Preconception: Antiques are fragile and will fall apart.
“Actually, antique furniture is generally very well constructed, and made by hand,” says Marie Hélène Van Houten from The Past Perfect Collection. “If it has lasted this long it will likely withstand your daily routine. For the most part, even the most expensive new items will come up short in comparison with the craftsmanship and quality of materials found in antique furniture. Of course, there are plenty of delicate antiques that are not suitable for regular use, but there are many that can grace your home and still be useful.”
See our suggested antique buys in the gallery above
Preconception: Authentic pieces are costly to buy and to maintain.
“There are many authentic pieces of furniture on the market that will not burn a hole in your pocket,” says Chris Ang. “For maintenance, there is not much you need to do, since most pieces will already have been given a new coat of lacquer to protect them. To clean them, you can just dust them or wipe them down with a slightly damp cloth. In dry conditions, furniture wax can be useful; but don’t use it too frequently, and be careful not to expose your antiques to too much sunlight or air-conditioning.”
See our suggested antique buys in the gallery above

Antique-buying advice
• Try to find out more about the history of the piece you’re considering buying, including its age, its original use and where it was made.
• Always think about how the furniture might be placed in your current home or a home you might be going back to. Ask yourself whether or not it will fit in with your home décor.
• Ask about any restoration or damage to the item.
• Always ask to handle the piece, then have a look at it from odd angles to really get a feel for it.
Recommended Reading
Just Anthony’s Danielle gives us her list of useful books for when you’re looking for ideas on how to mix and match Chinese furniture and accessories. “These are inspirational interior design books that have helped increase the popularity of Chinese furniture.”

• China Style by Sharon Leece, published by Periplus
• Chinese Style, the Art of Living, by Bradley Quinn, published by Conran Octopus
• China Modern by Sharon Leece, published by Periplus
• China Living by Sharon Leece, published by Periplus
Want more home inspiration? See our home decor section!