22 Jan 2019

Demystifying The Auction Process…With Cheffins Auction House, Cambridge!

Despite having worked in the fashion industry for over twenty years, I have never been one to follow trends.  Trends can be beautiful?…Undoubtedly!  Stylish? – Certainly!  Perfectly matched to ones own design philosophies? – Of course… but then – there’s the thing.  If something is perfectly in tune with ones own aesthetic, then surely it stops being a trend – and simply becomes something that we like, that happens to popular with a lot of other people at that precise moment in time…

Me surrounded by my quirky mix of new, vintage and antique

Surely it’s better to surround ourselves with things that we have discovered ourselves and genuinely love, and then watch happily as they enter in and out of popularity with the ebb and flow of fashion, knowing that for as many times as we are behind with a trend – we are certain to also be propelled unwittingly into the forefront again at some point?

Take the furniture and artwork that we use to fill our houses for instance.  Is it really practical to keep replacing major items on an annual basis, simply because a particular period of history is currently ‘on trend’?

I personally believe that a mix of modern and new, vintage and antique is the perfect mix for me and my lifestyle at Hill House.  I like to be surrounded by things that have a story or a heritage behind them and I particularly like to be surrounded by things that are built or made to last.  This can of course to relate to new things just as well as old.  There are many wonderful sofa and furniture companies who take pride in their workmanship and have no desire to give you reason to repeat buy within a matter of a few years. Their intention is to create the heirlooms and antiques of tomorrow, and their skill and care is reflected in the final product – and often, regrettably, the price.

So, if one is looking for solid, well made, beautiful pieces of interest for the home, without necessarily wishing to spend an absolute mint – where can we go to get the same feel, without remortgaging our houses as a result?

Why auction houses of course!

Now, mainly in part due to the stereotypical image of the blustering comedian accidentally bidding on a several million pound Van Gogh by yawning at the wrong moment during bidding time, auctions have suffered from a nerve inducing reputation for some people.

Nobody wants to find themselves in an awkward situation, and combined with the mystery that surrounds how, when, and where to bid, many feel that perhaps buying at an auction isn’t for them…

Well, let me tell you – most people are therefore missing out on an absolute treat as well as the regular opportunity to bring home a bargain.  Whether it be fine art, object d’art, good solid furniture, vintage mirrors or a perfectly aged antique rug that you’re looking for, auctions offer the ability to find something of such incredible quality and often, history,  that it really is doing ourselves a disservice to strike them off our interior hunting grounds.

Now, interior designers have know this for years.  It’s a well kept secret within design circles that a sure fire way to achieve an expensive looking, heritage look is to purchase at auction rather than visit a luxury antique shop (after all, auctions are the first stop for every luxury antique shop owner – so imagine the amount of middle men your favoured antique shop item has passed through!)

The first time I set eyes on ‘Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin’ by The Hon. Marion Saumarez

This is why, when Cheffins Auction House in Cambridge approached me to discuss the idea of helping to demystify the whole auction process, it was an appealing challenge that I felt was a valuable ‘public information service’ if not an actual duty to my interior lifestyle loving readers who may not be familiar with them.

The Cheffins Warehouse – Pre Auction Day.

Now, as a lover of vintage furniture, which I often paint and sell, I am no stranger to auction houses and auction sites.

However, Cheffins is a step away from the average vintage emporium.  At their auction room it is very possible to spend several thousand pounds if one wishes,  but it is equally possible to part with a fraction of that as well…

Cataloguing Lots for Auction Day.

Sophie, the lovely head of PR at Cheffins, initially invited me along to the showrooms to take a look at the items that were on offer, and that would be appearing in the upcoming December auction.

Some extremely handsome and distinguished gentlemen heading off to Auction!

We decided that it would be a fun exercise to choose a few of the potential Auction Lots and bring them home to Hill House to see how they would look.

Auction warehouses can sometimes be rather overwhelming with the amount of pieces intended for auction day, so it was a wonderful excuse to get a feel for some lovely pieces of art and furniture against the backdrop of a real family home.

Seeing How ‘Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin’ would look in a normal home’

I am a massive fan of oversized pieces and romantic looking art, and so this painting entitles ‘Self Portrait Of Artists A Her Violin’ by the Hon. Marion Saumarez caught my eye immediately.  We are so used to seeing large posters and prints in houses, that it’s easy to forget, that original pieces of art were actually intended to achieve the same dramatic result in real homes rather than sit art galleries.

‘Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin’ looking perfectly at home standing atop my dining room sideboard!
‘Dog on Tiger Rug’ by artists Lionel Edwards

Another pieces that caught my eye was the of a ‘Dog on Tiger Rug’ by Lionel Edwards.  A fun piece and certainly a good choice for the many dog lovers among us.

You can just see the inlaid table fitting in nicely to the right of the sideboard.

Finally came the inlaid wine table, which despite its ornate depiction of peacocks and feathers was an easy piece to place that could fit into any room and provide much beauty and interest on top of it’s intended functional use.

When I first saw the inlaid wine table at Cheffins warehouse – the retail is remarkable.

Sadly for me, all of these pieces were destined to return in time for auction day, and so having fallen in love with the ‘Self Portrait Of Artist With A Violin” in particular, it was time to see how she would fare in the actual auction…

Auction day at Cheffins HQ in Cambridge.

Auction days are always a hive of activity at any Auction house.  The public are invited to come on viewing days prior to the auction and are welcome to leave advance bids on items of interest if they are unable to attend the auction in person.  One thing that Cheffinsare keen to promote is that there are numerous ways of placing a bid to suit everyones comfort zone – AND time zone! When convenient,  I personally find it exciting to place my bid on the day and watch the auction unfolding in person.  I like to enjoy the moment, and the excitement that one feels when securing the winning bid is like no other.  It’s also extremely interesting to watch the bidding process and see which items prove popular, and which ones end up going for a song.  Often the result isn’t always as expected…

The Bidding has begun!

However, we all live busy lives and for those in a different location or countries, it is encouraged to phone through a bid, place an advance bid or place a bid online.  For the nervous among us, these are also all ways in which one can control, set and stick to a spending limit, since you are able to set your top price level, walk away and wait to see what happens….

Another beauty that caught my eye on auction day!

It’s important to note that even if you win the bid and end up with your chosen piece, you will not necessarily have spent up to your top price level.  If nobody has bid against you, OR competing bids dropped out early, then the end price that you pay will be set at the start price or where the bidding stopped.

The original Cheffins sign.

I didn’t end up getting my ‘Self Portrait Of Artist With A Violin’.  She proved to be a most popular piece and I imagine has ended up in a suitably loving home.  I’m happy with that result – watching the bidding was immensely exciting and a thrill to watch, and it’s quite satisfying to see a piece you love being loved and coveted by others – even when it doesn’t end up coming home with you!

It’s true to say that the entire process is quite fascinating and addictive in the most positive and enjoyable sense, and I would highly recommend attending an auction to all of the vintage, antique, art and furniture lovers out there – even if the first few times you attend are purely to test the waters and get a feel for what it all entails.  Always feel free to ask the auction house staff to clarify anything for you – they are more than willing to help, and will even help you place a bid if you require.  They are also a fountain of knowledge and can talk you through any piece that catches your eye.  For the time strapped among us, you can also request an auction catalogue in advance and/or view it online which will give you the basic information of starting bids, the predicted range of bidding and some history on the item.

Also, do look on the Auction House websites (you can find Cheffins Here).  There are usually set dates for various types of sales and you will be able to plan your visit based on the auction calendar.  It’s not all about old furniture either.  If your interests lie in a more modern vibe, then there will definitely be something for you.  I’ve seen beautiful Mid Century Modern pieces sat happily next to Arts & Crafts as well as Edwardian and Georgian pieces at various auctions.

The fact is that Cheffins in particular, hold auctions covering everything from fine art and furniture, to old books, and even houses and cars.  They even hold farm equipment sales if that’s your thing.  Personally, I like to dip my toe into a bit of everything – just to see what’s what.  One never knows when you may find yourself to be the only bidder on your dream item – although perhaps it won’t turn out to be an undiscovered Van Gogh…although who knows – a lady can dream after all!

Until Next Time,

This post was sponsored by Cheffins Auction House.  With special thanks to Sophie Richardson.

For details of the Auctions throughout the year, please visit www.cheffins.co.uk

The Next Interiors Sale at Cheffins Auction will take place on Thursday 24th January 2019.

The Next Fine Art Sale at Cheffins Auction House will take place on 6th7th March 2019.

Find Cheffins on instagram Here.

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