Antiques Trade Talks – David Harvey

Based in the Cotswolds town of Witney, Oxfordshire, WR Harvey & Co. (Antiques) Ltd are specialists in fine quality English antique furniture from the period 1680-1830. The company was created in 1951 in Chalk Farm, Fine English antiques dealer David HarveyLondon, by Walter Harvey, who was later joined by his son, David. Starting with a shop and a warehouse which housed their conservation department, the business grew over the next four decades to fill 14 showrooms at the one address. In the 1980s the company gained a new Mayfair premises in Old Bond Street, London.

Walter and David found their passion for English antique furniture dating from the reigns of Charles II through to George IV and provided an unparalleled service to both a domestic and international clientele which continues to this day. The showrooms are now based in the Cotswolds town of Witney, Oxfordshire where David continues to adhere to principles of quality and integrity when presenting fresh pieces of fine English antique furniture.
David will be exhibiting at the Classic Antiques Fair at Birmingham NEC from July 12-14.

What is the unique appeal of antiques?
Longevity, many of the pieces we deal in are 300 years old and hopefully will be around for the next 300 years.

An antique William and Mary Walnut Escritoire
William and Mary Walnut Escritoire

What areas/items are currently selling well?
The emphasis is most definitely on quality, research, and provenance.

Which are the ones to watch/future sellers?
Those pieces that reflect changing tastes and demographics.

What antiques do you have at home/collect and why?
As I live above the shop, my home is furnished with wonderful examples, many of which are used on a daily basis.

A pair of antique Gillows library armchairs
A pair of Gillows library armchairs

What do you think will be the antiques of the future?
Pieces made from sustainable forestry, rather than plasticised medium-density fibreboard.

How is the industry changing and are you optimistic for its future?
I am a born optimist and rush to go to work each day. The change in buying patterns caused by international circumstances has forced the antiques trade to change, and some would say reduction in numbers of dealers has been to the benefit of clients who have become increasingly discerning.

Is new technology good for the trade and buyers/collectors?
I have always been happy to share my knowledge and insights with others, be they collectors, designers, curators, researchers, or writers. I do this through a number of different media, including videos, newsletters and social media. I believe this will help to bring dealers and collectors closer together.

An antique Regency rosewood and gilt console table
A Regency rosewood and gilt console table

Tell us some trade secrets?
Don’t become an antique dealer if you’re not passionate about your subject and you’re not prepared to work hard and listen to others. Learn to view pieces in an analytical way

What antiques/artworks would you buy if money were no object?
When I find the piece, I will know. I will probably feel very emotional when I see it and I will have a burning desire to own it and live with it.

You’re down to your last 50 quid – what antiques/art would you buy?
A wooden box that had been neglected and which I could rejuvenate with elbow grease and wax to sell for £100, which I would then reinvest

Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations and why?
When families who acquired pieces from my father 70 years ago call me to see whether I might be interested in repurchasing a piece they have inherited. Seeing a piece all these decades later is just like meeting an old friend after many years’ absence.

What are some of the biggest mistakes that buyers make – what questions should they ask?
In this day and age, when so much business is done on the internet, it is important to establish that the dealer you are about to buy from has a premises and is likely to still be in business when you want to sell what you have just bought.

An antique Regency mahogany duet music stand
An antique Regency mahogany duet music stand

Any styling advice for using antiques in the home?
If a piece makes you smile when you first see it, then it may well charm you for many years to come. Antique furniture was made to be used, and it should continue to be.

What do you consider the high point of your career in antiques?
I haven’t got there yet.

Are antiques attracting younger buyers and, if not, how can the industry reach out to them?
When standing at an antiques fair, despite years of being told that younger people are not interested in antiques, I’m amazed at the numbers paying to attend a fair that they’re not supposed to be interested in! Often, they have very young children with them and are actively educating them in the art of collecting.

What advice would you give to people new to antiques who want to learn more?
Get to know your local dealer. Talk, and listen. I am lucky in that I have a substantial reference library of books collected over many years on the subject. I would recommend reading and looking at the illustrations and captions to gain a working knowledge.