Husband and wife antique dealers Kieran and Amanda Mathewson trade under the name River & Jones, selling out of their home in rural England. The pair seeks out decorative antiques with a particular focus on unusual, conversation pieces – think taxidermy giraffes and Triumph Tiger Cub motorcycles. We caught up with the pair to get their thoughts on the trade on everything from foxed mirrors to Ed Sheeran’s guitar
Why should people be interested in antiques?
We live in a world where everything is mass-produced, often using cheap materials. Nothing, or very little is made to last. Whether it is a new sofa, a wardrobe, or even small decorative items to stick on a shelf, buying new is just a waste of money!
You can find some really interesting antique pieces, if you just take the time to look around a bit.
Antique furniture is still around because of the craftsmanship and quality materials, it also gives you the opportunity to be different and decorate your home to your taste and personality, rather than a ‘one look fits all’ that you get on the high street. Buying antique furniture is also often cheaper, depending on what you’re looking for.
With antiques, you simply get more for your money and the chances are you’ll make money if you sell down the line.
What areas/items are currently selling well?
The antique business is really interesting at the moment, it has completely changed in recent years. A few years ago, you could easily predict what would sell straight away, everyone wanted a leather club chair or a scrub top farmhouse table.
These days however, it really feels like people are starting to develop their own unique style and looking for things a little bit different.
Having said that, pieces that have always, and in my opinion will always sell well, are pieces that are completely original and untouched. Furniture with old original worn paint and large naturally foxed and distressed mirrors for example.
A safe purchase, will always be drawers, from a big banks of drawers to small collectors drawers, drawers always sell quickly!
What do you think are the current ‘good investment’ items?
Not only do classic cars and motorcycles look absolutely beautiful, but they’ll never go out of fashion, there will never be a time, at any point in the future, where driving a classic car won’t be ‘cool’. They’ll only get older, rarer and therefore more desirable as time goes on!
Also music will always be an important part of people lives. With Ed Sheeran making his mark on the world, I’d buy a few of Martin and Co’s Ed Sheeran Signature Edition guitars and put them in the loft! You won’t go far wrong.
What antiques do you have at home/collect and why?
Our home is really a ‘show house’ where everything is for sale. It’s constantly changing as pieces sell and new things come in. We only buy what we like, and usually have a spot in the house in mind for things we buy.
I wouldn’t say we ‘collect’ anything in particular, nothing hangs around long enough, everything has a price!
What do you think will be the antiques of the future?
IKEA furniture? A good DFS sofa? Maybe not!
I think artwork will always be popular, but the subject matter is important. Something that captures a moment in time, or expresses someones political views perhaps. You don’t have to pay Banksy prices to appreciate street art-inspired work.
How is the industry changing and what will it look like in the future?
The industry has changed dramatically, most dealers seem to work from home selling on the internet, it has really opened up the market and connected dealers with clients they perhaps wouldn’t have sold to otherwise.
Instagram has been a huge success with antique dealers in recent years, with literally a few clicks you can fire off pictures of new stock to your followers, its also a fantastic way to build a client base.
You still can’t beat the feeling of rummaging around in an old antique shop or break of dawn hunting at a fair with a torch in your hand, its not the same as buying online, where there’s no buzz. I hope we don’t lose that!
Tell us some trade secrets – what questions should buyers be asking?
Have you poured yogurt on that? 😉
I don’t have any trade secrets, 12 years in I’m still learning.
However, I recently asked a friend and fellow dealer, who I have a lot of respect for, what his trade secrets were, and he simply said, “Get on the road, and lot’s of early mornings buying in the dark!” It’s as simple as that… get out there and make it happen. That’s advice in terms of dealing, however for a general buyer who isn’t in the trade, my advice would be, go to fairs and never pay the asking price, don’t be afraid to haggle!
What antiques/artworks would you buy if money were no object?
If money were no object I’d by classic cars and motorcycles! Lots of them!
You’re down to your last 50 quid – what antiques/art would you buy?
If I were down to my last £50, I’d spend £15 – £20 on a bottle of Chateauneuf De Pape and enjoy it! It’s always best to make the most of a bad situation, and somehow you’ll feel as if you’re making the most of what you have!
The rest I’d take to a carboot and rummage through boxes. You never know what you’ll find!
Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations and why?
I love Italy! The food, wine, people are second to none! But the antiques are pricey and often there isn’t any meat left on the bone. We’ve had some really good finds in Spain, but the logistics of getting stuff back isn’t as easy as France for example.
You can’t beat an antique fair, regardless of where it is.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that buyers make?
Thinking that ‘antique’ means valuable and ‘vintage’ means old.
Are antiques attracting younger buyers and, if not, how can the industry reach out to them?
There are so many young dealers now who bring a fresh perspective on the trade – it definitely attracts younger buyers.
There’s something ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ about antiques now, with vintage fashion, and old school barber shops making a come back, I’d say younger buyers are more open to buying antiques… you also don’t need an alan key to build your chest of drawers!