For Richard Williams, founding partner of design agency Williams Murray Hamm, his most treasured items have always been his chairs. He says: “Over the years, I’ve bought all sorts of chairs, from an early Conran wicker chair and concrete garden chairs – oddly they are remarkably comfortable – to a pair of Ron Arad plastic garden rocking chairs and a wonderful Arne Jacobsen 1970s Egg Chair that I refuse to reupholster even though it’s falling apart.”
But the one chair he says he simply wouldn’t be without is a Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio (similar to that pictured above), which he bought a couple of years ago in the Sunbury Antiques Market in Kempton Park, a market popular with furniture dealers. “I was looking for a Czech clock, but ended up buying a chair,” says Williams. “It’s huge and white, with orange upholstery. Of course it’s a copy and I should really hate it, but it’s just the most wonderful thing.” He estimates its value at about £400 on a good day, but says an original would cost about £7,000
new and about £5,500 second hand. “My grandkids love it because it swivels, so it becomes whatever they want it to be,” he says. “And, as someone who suffers from insomnia, I only have to sit in it and I’m fast asleep. It’s a cocoon from all the rubbish that churns around in my head. I try to use it as a place to cut off from all the hubbub that modern life throws at me, but I still fall asleep almost immediately.” Like any treasured possession, furniture needs careful maintenance to keep it looking its best. With antique pieces in particular this can be quite difficult, as the finish can affect its overall value. Any antique will require special care and there are specific rules around cleaning.
Eva Leone, head of studio and projects director at interior designers Lawson Robb, says: “The number one rule when cleaning antique furniture is to never use spray furniture-cleaning products. They not only leave an oily residue, but often contain silicones that soak into the grain of the wood and can permanently damage your antique.” When people are advised like this not to use general household cleaning products on their antique furniture, they often revert to using soap and water. But this can also be harmful, as over time it will probably stain the wood and can also dry it out completely. “Instead of soap and water, use a more natural product you’ll find in the house, such as olive oil. This will leave a bright polish on your furniture, or use linseed oil, which will get rid of any dirt and grime,” says Leone.
“Be gentle in order to maintain your furniture’s good condition, and this will be reflected in its value.” “Treasured possessions can hold their value in sentimentality or monetary investment, so it is important to choose an insurer that can offer you comprehensive cover and a bespoke claims service,” said Kayle Sercombe, home insurance underwriter, Hiscox UK.