Marc Weaver shares his expertise on how to select antiques for your home and tells us about Guinevere’s new photography exhibition.
Q1 Guinevere is one of the most celebrated antiques shops in London; can you tell us about how the business started out?
Guinevere was started in 1963 by my mother. She was a hat designer living in Portobello Road and made the swap to antiques in her early thirties. Her name was Genevieve (hence the similar name Guinevere) and she discovered almost by accident the business opportunity in antiques. She turned her designer’s eye in that direction, and she is very much credited with starting the trend in decorative antiques (valuing pieces on how beautiful they are as opposed to just their historical importance). The window displays were always of paramount importance, and she had a client list of the rich and famous and dealers from around the globe. We have been continuing pretty much in the same vein ever since.
Q2 Does Guinevere specialise in a particular genre of antiques?
Yes and no. We are a taste-led business, and although our tastes change, our desire to find stylish pieces never changes. My mother once said, if a piece was ugly one hundred years ago it is still ugly now. Trends come and go, and we move sometimes with and sometimes against, but we always buy pieces we like. Our ethos is that what we buy for the shop should be items that we could have at home, as they may end up there! That is not to say we don’t care about age, quality and provenance. Nothing gets us as excited as a really good piece, but if it’s ugly it’s not coming our way.
Q3 How do you know whether the antiques you buy have investment potential?
If you are buying what is popular, then your investment potential is obviously reduced. 20th century is what a lot of people want right now. We started buying a lot of mid-century in 2000, but as this became more and more popular, its attraction waned for us. We moved to a more balanced mix, incorporating classic pieces that our clients want to use as focal points: really beautiful and sometimes quite ornate show-stopping pieces that stand out as opposed to being part of a themed look.
I don’t advocate antiques as an investment necessarily; they are like stocks and shares and values go up as well as down depending on trends. But if I had a large warehouse and spare funds, I would be filling it with top quality English brown furniture.
Q4 Are there any trends you are noticing in what your clients are buying?
There has been a move for some while now towards individuality and colour. Many interiors started to look a bit similar and monotone. I have had a few clients recently coming in and saying they don’t want their homes to look like everyone else’s or indeed appear formulaic. Antiques have always been a great solution to this, as they aren’t ‘off the peg’. Mixing pieces and having a more eclectic look seems to be a style that is gaining momentum, achieving a more complicated and layered result. It is a better reflection of the client’s identity, as they are pieces personally selected and liked, and clients can add to their collection as they find more treasures.
Q5 What should a novice invest in for the future that will retain its value?
Buy what you like first and foremost. You are going to live with it and look at it every day. After that it’s a question of judgement and the source. Personally, I never buy from auctions, but from dealers who have knowledge. Find one you like and build up a relationship and this will help develop your taste and knowledge and then it becomes a journey.
Q6 Many people are now shopping online; do you have any advice on what to look out for when buying antiques remotely?
I think that again you should try and build a relationship with a dealer, but in any case, don’t be shy about asking questions. Ask about condition, damage or repairs. All of these should be reflected in the price. Ask for extra photos and take into account shipping. Sometimes a photo showing scale is useful. Don’t be afraid to ask their advice. Most dealers will steer you in the right direction given half the chance. As a business we know that when we sell online there is nothing worse than the recipient not getting exactly what was expected. Dealers are more than happy to share the delights of their latest discoveries.
Q7 Tell us about your new exhibition, ‘Africa Wins Again’.
This is the second exhibition we have had with Mirella Ricciardi, who is actually one of our neighbours and has been for many years. The first was in 2018 when we happened upon her beautiful works and became very excited. Her photography portrays a time gone by, a moment captured, be it the beginning of a dance, a ritual, or simply a girl looking in a mirror. The first exhibition was exclusively black and white photography, this time it is all in colour. With a collection of colour photographs of the Djenne taken in the 80s, as well as reimagined one offs of some of Mirella’s most beautiful photographs hand-coloured by the artist herself. Just like some of the furniture we stock, these are truly one of a kind pieces! We would in ordinary times throw a big party and fling open our doors to show everyone. World health has not been on our side, so we have put up a virtual exhibition on the website for those unable to travel to see the works. They are really beautiful in the flesh, something a standard stock image sometimes doesn’t convey. But the old adage, the show must go on has never seemed more appropriate!
Visit Guinevere at 574-580 King’s Rd, London SW6 2DY.
See the website for showroom opening times: www.guinevere.co.uk
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org ; 020 7736 2917.
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