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Brown Is The New Green!

3rd May 2022

Stephen Farthing of H&H Auction Rooms on Saving the Planet and Money by buying Second Hand Furniture


With climate change such a pressing issue, it is sometimes easy to be overwhelmed and think that the problem is just too big to be solved.  Whilst it is certainly true that there is much to be done by governments across the world, it is also important to think about how each and every one of us can make our own contribution to the green agenda.  As an auctioneer I have a great suggestion that not only saves the planet, but saves you money – buy second hand furniture. 

When I first started out in the business many years ago, antique furniture was only for those with deep pockets, but over time the appreciation of craftsmanship and quality was overtaken by the cheapness and ease of flatpack contemporary furniture.  Whilst this is understandable in some ways, as each generation makes its own design mark, it was also sad, as pieces that would have been highly sought after sold for next to nothing.  Wonderfully made mahogany Georgian chests of drawers that had previously sold for hundreds of pounds, dropped so much in value they could be picked up for as little as £40.  What had been termed antique was given the derisory name “brown furniture” and it seemed that nobody wanted to buy it. 

Fortunately the tide is beginning to turn.  Not only are the next generation beginning to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of many antique pieces, they are also realising they are extremely “green”.  A recent study commissioned by the Antiques Trade Gazette looked at pieces of furniture sold on their auction platforms and estimated the carbon emissions saved, compared with purchasing similar items new.  Unlike some second hand items such as cars, furniture has no “in use” emissions and all of the carbon released from its original manufacture can be assumed to have already been written off.

They calculated that buying a second hand sofa or an Edwardian walnut wardrobe could save nearly half a tonne of C02.  The same would be true of a dining table and even a chest of drawers would save 0.322 tonnes.   Even individually these are pretty significant amounts, so imagine how many emissions could be saved if more people bought their furniture second hand.

It is also an extremely cost effective way to furnish your house.  The Edwardian wardrobe in the study only sold for £30, far cheaper than a flatpack equivalent, much more attractive and certainly built to last – it has already survived for over a hundred years and could easily still be in use in another hundred. The quality of the workmanship of these older pieces is so good that they can and do survive for centuries.

It is now just as easy to buy antique furniture from an auction as it is in a shop or online.  You can both view and bid on line, although particularly for your first experience I would suggest coming in person if at all possible.  There is nothing to beat the adrenaline rush of bidding live for something and the satisfaction of securing your desired object is hard to beat.

We hold regular sales of antiques and home furnishings and so if you are near Carlisle, why not make a trip and see what bargains you can discover?  Our next furniture sale will be on the 10th May and there will be plenty of pieces for every taste. 

If you would like any advice on buying or selling you can reach me on 01228 406320 or by email at [email protected]