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Going, Going, Gone

Head to an auction for a bargain piece of furniture

Buying furniture at auction can be a great way to find a unique or classic piece at a decent price. Modern furniture sold at auction houses comes from a variety of places: liquidators, house clearances or companies offloading old stock. Antiques or much sought after pieces from the mid-20th century will cost more but may still be cheaper than buying from dealers. However, if you’ve never been to an auction before the fear of the unknown can make it a daunting prospect. Here are are a few tips to get you on your way:


  1. Once you have decided on an auction to go to (a Google search should come up with those local to you) get in contact with the organisers and request a catalogue. Spend time browsing through it and select what you want, and make a decision about how much you want to spend on it so you don’t get swept up in the atmosphere on the day and spend more than you can afford.
  2. Once you get to the auction, spend time looking at the lots you are going to bid on to check the quality of the item. Will the dimensions of it fit in your home? Is it in good repair? You don’t want to negate any savings you may have made buying at auction with costly renovation work.
  3. If you are after originals or antiques from a certain period watch out for phrases like ‘in the style of’ or ‘in the school of’ in the items description. It will be an approximation of what you actually want.
  4. Likewise if an item has been restored, unless you know what you are looking at, it may be best to steer clear. An unsympathetic restoration can diminish an item’s value. However, don’t discount something that may be a bit tatty. Old sofas for example, were usually made from hardwood unlike cheaper modern day equivalents whose frames are made from MDF. Look beyond tatty covers because they can always be replaced, if the frame is sound you will end up with a sturdier piece of furniture. Calculate any costs beforehand though to make sure you can afford the reupholstering before you buy.
  5. Familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations of the particular auction you are at before you start bidding, such as buyers terms of payment. If you are in any doubt, don’t be afraid to ask some advice from the auctioneer. There’s no shame in being a novice!