Personal Effects, Feb. 4

Published 8:50 am Saturday, February 4, 2017

Question: Jerry, This inlaid cherry table is one of a pair my parents had made in Lexington in 1950. The two small tables are 28 inches high. All of the inlay is intact. Unfortunately, I do not know who the cabinet maker was. Do you have any idea who was making tables like this in Lexington in 1950? What makes something an antique and not just an old piece of furniture? Can a handmade reproduction be a real antique and if so, how old does it have to be? I am learning so much by reading your columns. Thank you for the education!

Mother-s table 1

Answer: Gads, I love your tables. They are reproductions in the famous Hepplewhite style. Hepplewhite is named after the well known English designer of the early 19th Century.

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One day, we’ll discuss him more. He favored the elegant tapered leg, string, bell flower inlay and mahogany wood.  There is a reason that it has been reproduced for generations, it’s elegant and classy.

As far as who made it? Sadly, I have no idea. At one time every small town and large city had one or dozens of local cabinet makers. Some were proper businesses, some were in basements or garages. Quality ranged from sublime to horrible.

You’ll have to explore Lexington archives to really discover who made them. You may never know.

However, I’d wager that with the beautiful inlay, high quality and classic appeal, even in a world where traditional furniture is a hard sell, each of these tables would sport a price tag of about $350.

Ahhh, the word antique conjures many ideas in one’s mind. Thoughts of baronial estates or early New England homes, damask silk and gleaming silver come to the minds of many. But, here is what the “common” definition of the word antique is. One definition, according to Merriam-Webster is “A work of art, piece of furniture or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws must be at least 100 years old…”

So, that term means that something that was made in 1917 is an antique today.

Now, some scholars feel that the term “antique” is best applied to items that were made before the Industrial Revolution. In America, that’s about 1790, give or take a few years and your location. That’s a little bit more tight, isn’t it?

For the sake of sanity, let’s stick to the first mentioned definition. Yes, in a nutshell, a reproduction Chippendale style sideboard made in the year 1900 is an antique by some definitions.

Hope that answers your question, it was a great one! Enjoy your tables. Thanks for sharing them with us.