I had a former colleague whose partner was an antique dealer. As he caught a double-decker bus into work, my colleague used to take great interest looking into the first-floor windows of Stockbridge and the West End. He was intrigued to see what juicy antiques lay inside. Over the years, his interest diminished as one by one, the mahogany dining tables and impressive sideboards were replaced by flimsy items of ‘flat-pack’ beech furniture from Ikea, set in cream coloured rooms with bowls of birch twigs, candles and lilies.
Antiques’ values are now a pale reflection of what they were thirty years ago. Even the best items sell for a fraction of what they would have achieved then. Many Georgian flats and houses in Edinburgh are successfully furnished in a completely contemporary style – in stark contrast to what they once were.
Ikea furniture has done wonders for the general housing stock. It is clean, light and well designed and it is affordable. A student flat or even a property intended for the professional letting market can be completely furnished in a weekend, by a discerning owner with the use of a white van.
I do believe though that taste is cyclical and that antiques will be more valued again than they are now. There will not be space for old furniture of poor quality. In the best properties, classic antiques will mix with contemporary items to enhance the look and character of a flat, making it attractive to purchasers and ultimately more valuable.