Antiques Trade Talks – Holly Johnson Antiques

Holly Johnson Antiques is opening a large showroom in the centre of historic town – Knutsford, Cheshire. This follows 28 years in business, and showing exhibition quality antiques at the major international Art and Antiques Fairs, and meeting the needs of their worldwide client base. Holly trained at Christies, went onto develop her career at Bonhams (then Phillips) and following this worked with David Dickinson showing 19thcentury Exhibition Furniture at the major London Fairs. The business has supplied all the leading international interior designers over the years, with a particular following in America. 

Holly Johnson and her husband, Ben
Holly and Ben Johnson

What is the unique appeal of antiques? 

They are environmentally friendly. They are so well made they can be used every day as the odd knock and scuff all adds to the patination. They create a stylish, classical look in every room.

What areas/items are currently selling well?

We are especially concentrating on Arts and Crafts singularly made pieces of furniture from the early 20th century. We are particularly specialising on pieces made by Sidney and Edward Barnsley, Ernest Gimson, Gordon Russell and Peter Waals.

Which are the ones to watch/future sellers?

See above. We love this area because the items are just so well made and the timbers used are exceptional. It really doesn’t get better. Also, the designs are quite simple and unfussy

What antiques do you have at home/collect and why?

Arts and Crafts, as we have three kids at home and this period takes a great deal of hard wear!

What do you think will be the antiques of the future? 

Items by the amazing designer and furniture maker John Makepeace.

How is the industry changing and are you optimistic for its future?

Obviously, the internet has been the leader over the last 10 years but we now feel strongly that having a shop is the way forward. It is great to have the one-to-one interaction. We can share our knowledge with the clients- introduce them to different styles and craftsmen and artists.

Is new technology good for the trade and buyers/collectors? 

Yes – we can send images of our stock to someone as far as New Zealand.

Tell us some trade secrets – what key questions should buyers ask?

Holly Johnson Antiques at the Open Art Fair
Holly Johnson Antiques at the Open Art Fair

They should really build up a good relationship with local dealers. 30 years of knowledge is invaluable. Dealers can assist in attributing, dating, digging out provenance, etc.

What antiques/artworks would you buy if money were no object?

Very early Fornasetti from the 1950s. Any piece by the wonderful John Makepeace. The Lowry which is shown in the Liverpool Tate. Any painting by John Singer Sargent. Oh, a Munnings!

You’re down to your last 50 quid – what antiques/art would you buy? 

I would visit my local second hand shop and search for 1950s studio glass items.

Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations and why?

There are some great antique dealers with shops in North Wales – Colwyn Bay and Beaumaris on Anglesey.

What are some of the biggest mistakes that buyers make?

They don’t develop good relationships with their local antique dealers or dealers really knowledgeable in a particular area. Dealers believe in their stock enough to invest their own hard-earned money as opposed to auction houses. They research their items of stock thoroughly. It is through antique dealers that some of the greatest collections throughout time have been built up and finally make their way to major museums.

What do you consider the high point of your career in antiques? 

You are only as good as your last deal.

Are antiques attracting younger buyers and, if not, how can the industry reach out to them?

Yes – I think the younger generations are actually bored of white, soulless minimum interiors! Colour is back!

What advice would you give to people new to antiques who want to learn more? 

Speak to your local antique dealers. The associations LAPADA and BADA can put you in contact with specific dealers.

Holly Jonhson Antiques at the LAPADA Fair
Holly Johnson Antiques at the LAPADA Fair

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