If you've ever seen the Academy Award-winning blockbuster, Titanic, then you've gotten a taste of Edwardian furniture in its natural habitat. Elegant and understated, antique Edwardian furniture is a massively underrated historic style that's beginning to see a comeback not only with collectors, but with average buyers too.
Edwardian Furniture Characteristics That Define the Iconic Style
Edwardian furniture was a predominately English design style that directly followed the legendary Victorian period. Lasting for only about two decades, surviving furniture is often misattributed as late-Victorian by amateur historians and antique sleuths. However, these more refined and demure pieces of furniture can easily add an old-world elegance to your favorite spaces in your home.
When confronted with a piece of Edwardian furniture, check for a few specific telltale characteristics.
Light Color Palette
In response to the darker furniture of the Victorian period, Edwardian craftsman created pieces using lighter-colored materials, leading to a brighter, airier effect. Pastels and light colored woods made a comeback during this period.
Use of Mahogany
During this period, mahogany really started to dominate, and tons of Edwardian furniture pieces were made out of the now-valuable wood.
Presence of Inlays
For a brief period, inlays weren't used that often in furniture making, but the Edwardian period saw a return of this decorative addition in all different kinds of furniture. Practically, this effect led to an understated design element, with different colored wood accents creating a pleasant visual dissonance.
Use of Exotic Woods Like Bamboo
The quintessential island getaway aesthetic, resort style furniture that you find during this period was made using new materials and techniques, such as bamboo and rattan, to create cane and wicker products.
Edwardian Furniture Value
Altogether, antique furniture has a higher base value than smaller antiques because of the nature of historic craftsmanship and the cost of the materials used to make it. Modern furniture itself is an expensive good, and that expense can be doubled and tripled in some cases for pieces from 100+ years ago. Given Edwardian furniture's delicate and refined craftsmanship at the turn of the 20th century, pieces can sell for as little as $100-$300 in a lesser condition and then thousands of dollars in finer conditions.
As a rule of thumb, smaller items such as nightstands, chests, and shelves will sell for smaller amounts than the larger pieces will (such as drawers, desks, tables, and chairs). With mahogany being a major material of the period (and with its increased value over time), many of these items are valuable not only for their age but for their raw natural resources as well.
Additionally, anything made by a reputable designer, such as the legendary Louis Comfort Tiffany, will sell at the top of the scale and usually is put to sale by well-known auction houses and private collectors.
Thankfully, as far as antique furniture goes, Edwardian furniture isn't insanely popular, at least not in the way that its predecessor (Victorian furniture) is. For about $500-$3,000, you can pick up a lovely preserved piece from the early 20th century. In fact, here are a few pieces that've recently come to auction to give you an idea of what the market currently looks like:
- Mahogany game table, circa 1900 - Listed for $977.46
- Edwardian inlaid kneehole writing desk - Listed for $1,072
- Edwardian mahogany bookcase - Listed for $1,830.18
- Pair of mahogany Howard & Sons footstools circa 1910 - Sold for $2,313.93
Where to Buy or Sell Edwardian Furniture
Antique furniture is a thriving in-person and online collectors' market with a limitless number of places to buy or sell. With old furniture, it's always a great idea to reach out to any local businesses that sell salvage or antiques and see what they currently have in stock or if they purchase or sell Edwardian furniture on consignment. If you're buying, the nature of the business means that giving the owners a heads up of what you're looking for can put you on the short-list for calling dibs on any new inventory that comes in. You can try antique stores, salvage shops, consignment stores, and estate sales to source your Edwardian furniture while skipping expensive shipping costs.
However, shopping in-person puts you at the mercy of people's ever-changing inventory, meaning that for most people, online shopping is the way to go. If you're shopping for Edwardian furniture - and antique furniture, in general - you should always make sure that you've carefully read the listings and look for dates (even approximate dates) to ensure that you're definitely buying an antique and not a reproduction. Listings with phrases like "Edwardian style side table" or "Victorian style chair" are red flags for reproductions, and you should ask for more concrete information with any sellers before you purchase these items.
If you're interested in buying a few pieces of antique Edwardian furniture and you don't live in the United Kingdom, then here are a few places to start:
- 1st Dibs - 1st Dibs is a very popular online auction retailer that is best known for its semi-luxury antique and vintage furniture. However, they're not limited to just furniture and you can find all sorts of Edwardian antiques for sale there.
- Hemswell Antique Centres - A UK-based antiques shop, Hemswell Antique Centres also has a robust online catalog where you can purchase some of their wares. Given their location, they have access to a ton of great Edwardian pieces which you can browse through.
- Antiques World - A 30-year old retailer owned by a large antiques company that specializes in antique English furniture, Antiques World has a huge catalog of Edwardian pieces to look through.
- Love Antiques - Love Antiques is an online antiques retailer that hosts all kinds of antiques, with Edwardian furniture being just one of them. On each of the listings, you can find a wealth of information, including its measurements, the seller's selling history, and more.
- Antiques Atlas - Similar to Love Antiques, Antiques Atlas is a digital retailer that's been around since just before Y2K. Yet, the operation is still going strong and selling antique goods to buyers like you.
- eBay - If you're looking to snag a good deal or make a quick sale, eBay can be a great place to go. The independent sellers aren't typically experts and can sell items for substantially lower costs than their actual value.
- Etsy - Similar to eBay, Etsy gives you the opportunity to support small business and find unusual items from independent sellers that might otherwise not have listed their items online. Yet. there's no verification necessary to sell anything, so you should double check with each seller to make sure each piece you purchase is actually an antique.
- Facebook Marketplace - If you live somewhere in the United Kingdom, you've got a great chance of sourcing some well-kept Edwardian furniture for cheap on Facebook Marketplace since it sources listings from nearby sellers.
Identification and Price Guides for More Information
You can never know too much about what you're collecting or selling, and with antique furniture, there's a wealth of knowledge available. These are a few books pertaining to Edwardian furniture identification and value that can be helpful for collectors and history buffs alike:
- Victorian and Edwardian Furniture: Price Guide and Reasons for Values by John Andrews
- Victorian & Edwardian Furniture & Interiors by Jeremy Cooper
- Miller's Buyer's Guide: Late Georgian to Edwardian Furniture by Jonty Hearnden
A Short-Lived Period With a Long-Lived Legacy
If you're just as obsessed with the finely crafted door that Rose and Jack clung onto at the end 1997's biggest hit as you are with the "why Jack could have fit" debate, then you're overdue for adding a piece of Edwardian furniture to your favorite room.