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Antiques Considered - November 4, 2009

Many years ago a lady in Kilmarnock befriended an elderly antique dealer from New York. Once when taking her for a ride, they stopped at an antique shop and the passenger insisted on buying this antique Victorian sofa for her friend. The latter has kept it in storage, waiting to see what to do with it. The donor died about 10 years ago, and the owner is trying to decide what now to do with the piece.

This sofa is from the high point of the Victorian period, dating from the 1850s. From the photographs, the wood appears to be walnut or mahogany. The carving on the crests and apron is good, but not exceptional. The great value of the sofa is in the flamboyant spread of the back, in effect making a gentleman’s and a lady’s chair out of one piece of furniture.
A second good point lies in the last upholsterer having maintained the original pattern of tufting, which would facilitate a present-day upholsterer having an excellent form to follow in re-covering it. I doubt that such an undertaking could be accomplished for less that $1,000, depending on what fabric is selected. The cost would come from the labor, rather than the material. I further suggest looking under the feet to see if indeed the piece did not have brass casters. If it did, they should be replaced.

The negative side comes when one realizes that this type of Victorian furniture is difficult to sell on the contemporary market. Few people have parlors used exclusively for Sunday afternoon visits, and the sofa, once restored, would not be comfortable for prolonged sitting. Consequently, the investment might not be able to afford much promise of a future return.

As is, the sofa is worth $200. Fortunately, the wood frame seems to be in good condition, with the original finish, thus the restoration would center on the upholstery. It could make a magnificent statement in anyone’s home, but probably not one that readily could be converted to cash.

Happy Antiquing...

Lisa and Henry Lane Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. (P. O. 35) Wicomico Church, Virginia 22570. Write to him there, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with pictures and descriptions of items you wish to have him treat in “Antiques Considered.” Please include a stamped, addressed envelope if you wish a personal acknowledgement.

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