Shabby Chic Giving new life to Victorian era antique Chairs

We have literally one hundred or so sets of Victorian Balloon Back Chairs we would like to sell. They have been out of fashion in the traditional sense for some time, here's a few quirky examples we have found on Pinterest, where people have used bright modern fabrics and paint to create something unique for their home. We have sets of four, six, eight, ten and more in all sorts of wonderful shapes from as little as $95 per chair, we also have a stack of grandfather chairs and chaise lounges that would be a terrific shabby chic project.



We have been able to drastically reduce our prices by moving to a warehouse instead of keeping a retail shop

We have recently moved to our new warehouse at 800 Parramatta Rd, Lewisham, Sydney. We are located above Beaumont Tiles and you can park all day, we are open weekends and by appointment. Re-locating meant that we could drastically reduce our overheads and pass the benefit on to you the customer by reducing our prices across the board. Have a look through the website to see the type and quality of what we do at Classic Antiques Sydney, the website represents only a fraction of our huge inventory. Specialising in supplying the interior decorating trade for many decades, we have literally thousands of items to choose from.

Antique English Furniture from the early 19th c

My foremost interest as an antique dealer has always been in English furniture of the early 19th c. There has always been a demand for this style of antique furniture in Sydney as we have the kind of architecture to suit.

Indeed this was the first furniture to be sold on through auction in Sydney after the economic crash in 1842, you could say the beginnings of the antique trade here in Australia. Reading Scott Carlin's guide to Elizabeth Bay House and noting some of the beautiful furniture of the period that the Macleay family had ordered from England to furnish the house, the Macleays sold their drawing room furniture out of necessity to the newly completed Government House.

I have magnificent examples of furniture from this period that I have been collecting for decades, I am absolutely sure some of it must have come from these early to mid 19th c Sydney Houses in and around present day Darlinghurst, as I am the only major dealer in Australia who has never bought in England and shipped by container. All of my stock has been collected over the years in Sydney.

Buying a historic house in Sydney ?

Over the past year eleven buildings have been put on the market by the NSW Government in Millers Point, The Rocks, Sydney, among them is this gem. It is still possible to buy a Colonial Regency building in NSW, often you find them in a dilapidated condition in what were the early pastoral areas of NSW such as Goulburn and Camden, however they are far more prevalent in Tasmania which according to Professor Robert Morris-Nunn, "has half the heritage buildings in Australia"

60 Argyle Place Sydney, is situated on a magnificent leafy London styled square at the top of The Rocks adjacent to Observatory Hill, The properties here have been held by the Government for many years and served as housing commission, they are now being sold with strict heritage guidelines. With the level of pollution and noise dropping this area is set to become the most elegant part of Sydney (I'd love to have an antique shop here)

Built in 1845 for whaling captain George Grimes, this 6.5 metre wide house has survived without being drastically altered. Used as a boarding house for over a century, all the kitchenettes and partitions have been removed and what remains is an original Colonial Regency house. The beauty of this area is that it was held by the Government for so long in suspended animation, the buildings are basically untouched Georgian architecture in all it's beautifully proportioned elegance. If any buildings in Sydney deserve to be furnished with the best antiques, they are here. I have specialised in the furniture of this period (1780-1850) for decades now and have the most extensive collection of late Georgian and early Victorian antique furniture in Australia.  making-the-best-of-heritage-real-estate

A French settlement in Sydney

In the 1840's Hunters Hill was an isolated part of Sydney, located upon a high ridge looking out over the water. There was abundant sandstone available for quarrying to build houses

The creation of the suburb was influenced by a number of wealthy colonists from mainland Europe, the most prolific being the Joubert brothers from Bordeaux, France. Didier Joubert and his brother Jules along with the Comte Gabriel de Milhau and their families settled in Hunters Hill during the 1830's and built Villas with a distinctly French feel about them. 

Most famous of all the French houses in Hunters Hill is Passy, named after a district of Paris and completed in 1856 as the residence of the French consulate, it became a symbol of the French settlement of Hunters Hill. Today it is lovely to stroll around Hunters Hill under the Jacaranda trees and look at all the sandstone buildings. The indigenous name given by the areas original inhabitants is 'Mookaboola' which translates as the meeting of waters.

A pair of Louis XV style Fauteuils in the manner of Nicolas-Quinibert Foliot

We don't really deal in a lot of French furniture at Classic Antiques Sydney, however sometimes I just can't resist a chance at something good! it's the antique dealer within me, besides the fact I love French furniture & the best English furniture shows a distinct French influence in taste. These chairs came my way via an old client who was downsizing and I had to pay through the nose for them, they are French, c 1870 or as you would commonly read on trade tickets "Third Republic" that being the reign of Napoleon III c1870, he was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I.

I went to the Versailles exhibition in Canberra last weekend to see the beautiful Fauteuil shown here with the blue and gold silk damask upholstery and remembered I had this pair, made in the 1870's when opulence was back in fashion and the Guillotine was back in storage, they are superb. What appeals to me about these is that the tools, glue, material and technique employed by the chaisier in 1870 were identical to that used in the 18th century, and that is why they are interesting.

John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler in London who was known as the "Prince of Decorators" and developed what we now know as the English country house style after world war two always used a pair of good French fauteuils as his discord or punctuation mark within an otherwise very English look. giltwood-fauteuils-in-the-louis-xv-taste



Versailles: Treasures from the Palace, at the National Gallery of Australia

Take the opportunity to get to Canberra and see this amazing exhibition. The Château de Versailles and National Gallery of Australia have collaborated to bring the magnificence of the Ancien Régime to Australia.

A selection of pieces from the Château by curator Béatrix Saule exquisitely installed by the team at the NGA will transport you back to France during the 17th and 18th centuries. Furniture by the likes of Bernard van Risenburgh II and Martin Carlin, magnificent Gobelins tapestries, Sèvres porcelain and theatrical props from Marie Antoinette's private theatre. There are menu's and engravings, even some sections of oak parquetry flooring.

If you love antiques and art you cannot miss this exhibition. For me the highlight was to sit in front of the sculpture "Latona and her children" 1668-70. Installed in a dark room with a back projection and soundtrack of running water it is possible to imagine you are there experiencing the fountain in the gardens of the Château itself. There are also on display examples of brass nozzles and keys for the fountains. The Cafe are doing a nice Lamb Navarin and glass of Côte du Rhône, it's a thoroughly civilised French day out.

Islay House, Woodend, Victoria

Beautiful Islay House in the Victorian town of Woodend is under threat. Islay was at the centre of a legal stoush for some time and finally sold in 2012 only to have a developer put in a D.A to build 14 two story units on the property next door that will be two metres higher than Islay as well as impacting upon the beautiful established trees.

Built in 1860 and trading as an Inn, Islay was a stop on the way to the goldfields and therefore has a hugely interesting history. Being typically Georgian in style, the six Ionic columns lending an air of distinction to a rather rustic colonial building. Though a Victorian era building, the pitch of the roof, glazing bars, faux portico and the use of the Greek order to the front remind one of buildings of the 1830's in Sydney by Architects John Verge and John Bibb. Islay House is currently undergoing a sympathetic restoration and is in good hands.

A group called Save Woodends Historic Streetscape organised by Todd Langtry started an appeal on Go GetFunding to fight the developer, but sadly their campaign seems to have expired and fallen short. I include a link here and I am going to contact them to see what happened. It is so sad that our historic buildings seem to have to fight this constant battle against self interested developers and superstar real estate agents. In Europe and in Great Britain historic buildings are valued as priceless way beyond their market value and are preserved for cultural enjoyment. I think it is important to read what they have to say as this is a town planning issue that affects treasured buildings all over Australia.


Dalwood House, Branxton NSW

One of my favourite buildings in NSW, Dalwood House, a Greek revival villa built in 1830 by George and Margaret Wyndham on their estate at Branxton in the Hunter Valley. The Dalwood vineyard which is part of The Wyndham Estate is said to be the oldest continually running vineyard in Australia.

Being an unfinished building, there is no known architect. It is said that George Wyndham himself probably designed the building as he would have observed the construction of Phillips House, his family's Greek revival mansion built in 1816 at Dinton in Wiltshire to the designs of the great English architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville. Dalwood is an expansive single-storey villa built in the Greek Revival style, reminiscent of Phillips House at Dinton. Consisting of a long central block facing south with a wing each end and two rear wings projecting northwards to form a courtyard. The central pavilion, facing the river, opens through a symmetrically positioned pair of French doors onto a beautiful diamond pattern flagstone verandah with a shingle roof supported by fine timber columns. A pair of Doric stone columns dominate the recessed porch of the eastern wing. The external walls feature dressed coursed stone. Finely detailed gable pediments and corbelled parapets conceal an early attempt at flat roof construction. The roofs were formed by a 15 centimetre layer of earth on timber slabs and water-proofed with a 3 to 5 cm topping mixture of lime, oxblood and tar. After failing, a shingle covered pitched roof was built, being replaced later with corrugated iron.

Local stone was used for the construction of the exterior walls, internal mantlepieces and the Doric columns of the porch. The stone is a very fine grained sandstone or mudstone, quarried at nearby Black Creek over which a bridge was specially constructed enabling the stone to be brought to Dalwood. The bricks for the internal walls of the house, farm buildings and lining the wells were fired on site. The red cedar used for the fine joinery was cut from trees on Mr. Edward Cory's "Gostwyck" on the nearby Paterson River and brought by dray to Dalwood in 1830. Red cedar was also used to make the wine casks at Dalwood. This house is right up there with the best, it fell into disrepair and recently has been undergoing a careful conservation / restoration.

Early Victorian Moulded Stoneware & Salt-Glazed Jug

A lovely antique Minton relief moulded Bacchanalian Parian Ware Jug, which dates from 1843, I find this Victorian salt glazed pottery interesting as it is just the kind of ware that would have found it's way into some of the houses we have been looking at.

Like silver and pewter, Minton has it's own fascinating system of hallmarks, this makes it fascinating to the collector as you can tell who made it and from what period.

I have been dealing in this type of Victorian pottery for many years, often whilst watching Antiques Roadshow I will see an example that I have here in the shop. Like pewter, collecting early Victorian pottery is a relatively inexpensive way into collecting real antiques.


A Georgian Barn in Goulburn

Australian colonial architectural historian Rachel Roxburgh described this combined barn and stables at Norwood in Goulburn as the finest she had ever seen. Built in the 1830's, Norwood is one of Goulburn's earliest properties, having been an original 1836 land grant to William Lithgow, the colonial auditor-general, before being taken over by Francis Macarthur, a nephew of John Macarthur of Camden Park.

It astounds me how many beautiful late Georgian / Regency buildings we have here in NSW. Goulburn has quite a few, Norwood also has a beautiful house upon it. I can't as yet find who the architect was and the building is more like a large Georgian farmhouse than a chic residence such as Camden House or Aberglasslyn up in the Hunter. All of this building going on in the 1830's was astounding when you think about, they were re-creating the English countryside of John Constable in the bush and it was happening in NSW and down in Tasmania as Victoria didn't really get going until later when the goldfields started up. We are so lucky to have these buildings, especially when you think about the one's that were thoughtlessly demolished such as Subiaco in Rydalmere, that's another whole story.

George III Library Table

A lovely library table I have in the shop at the moment. It's rather like a large desk but set higher, this is so you could stand about and look at plans and maps etcetera spread out upon it. This example is English and in the style of Heppelwhite and is in original condition, dating from the late 18th century. The whole with it's original leather writing surface, two large drawers to the front with faux drawers to the sides and the back standing upon tapered legs ending in brass castors.

This type of table is very much a product of the industrial revolution, one can just imagine a small group of people standing around it examining the plans to a steam engine or something of that nature. I can imagine this going into a small gallery as it is great for spreading out folio's of artwork upon, or if you just had the luxury of your own library.

The Greek Revival House

The Greek Revival style was the last incarnation of the Neo-Classical style in architecture. Coming about in the late 18th c as the ruins of Greece and Rome were being explored by gentlemen on the grand tour, it was a reaction against the florid excess of the Rococo.

Camden house by John Verge was completed in 1835 and based upon the Palladian principle of a central two storied block flanked by two symmetrical pavilions. Built of stuccoed sandstock brick upon sandstone foundations. Columns and other architectural features were cut from local Hawkesbury sandstone with all the joinery in Australian Cedar.

Built for the wool industry pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur. Camden Park along with Elizabeth Bay House also by Verge is one of Australia's most important late Georgian - Greek Revival houses. One of the most endearing things about the house is that it is still lived in by the Macarthur family. There is one open weekend a year where you can go and take a look, here is a link.


John Verge, The Treaty House, Waitangi, New Zealand

Probably one of my favourite buildings by John Verge in the Greek Revival style, the weatherboard Treaty House at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. The house was designed by Verge and pre-fabricated in Sydney from Australian hardwood. Commissioned in 1833 for James Busby, British resident in New Zealand. The New South Wales governor thought Verge's original plan too extravagant and had the design reduced by colonial architect Ambrose Hallen. 

The original design had a verandah returning around the sides & covered walkway to the kitchen and stores at the back, similar to Tempe House. One can only speculate that Verge's own house at Lyndhurst Vale near Dungog NSW was of a similar design and construction, the property still exists but alas only a modern brick home on it, that is another research I am looking forward to.

I have included a picture of Tempe House, the only other single story building by Verge known to exist. (though of brick and stone construction), in order to gain a sense of what might have been. Treaty House is however a wonderful and unusual building and having been restored beautifully is well worth a visit.


George III Heppelwhite Secretaire Chest

George Hepplewhite 1727 – 1786 was a cabinetmaker He is regarded as having been one of the big three English cabinetmakers of the 18th century, along with Sheraton and Chippendale. There are no pieces of furniture made by Hepplewhite known to exist, though he gave his name to a distinctive style of light and elegant furniture that was fashionable between about 1775 and 1800.  One characteristic that is seen in many of his designs is a shield-shaped chair back, where an expansive shield appeared in place of a narrower splat design.  It is known that he based himself in St Giles, London where he opened a shop with his wife Alice.  In 1788 after his death she published a book containing 300 of his designs, The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide with two further editions published in 1789 and 1790.

I purchased this superb Heppelwhite secretaire chest of drawers some years ago in Sydney, It has never been touched, that is to say it has it's original late 18th c finish. It has a few dings, but given to James our conservator will come up beautifully whilst retaining it's original finish.

The first thing the conservator will do is to clean it with a special solution of reviver, then any loose joins will be re-glued with traditional pearl glue. After this any missing pieces will be carefully matched and replaced from our extensive supply of old timber, collected over many years. At this stage any repairs to the drawer runners & slides will be carried out by adding on a sliver of English oak to the bottom of the drawer runners and or turning over the slides. After blending any repairs as to be invisible the piece will then be waxed several times until the right glow is achieved. At no point do we ever strip or sand anything, I always say you can immediately tell if a conservator is any good by the lack of sandpaper in the workshop. This is the thin line between restoration & conservation. Antique furniture is always more desirable and beautiful with it's original patina intact.



Callington Mill, Oatlands, Tasmania

Callington Mill is a working Lincolnshire tower mill built in 1837 in Oatlands, Tasmania by John Vincent. It is in full working order and since restoration in 2010 produces freshly milled Flour, Bran, Buckwheat and Oats available for purchase. One of many amazing Georgian buildings you can visit and explore in Tasmania, it is the third oldest windmill in Australia.

"The Callington Mill, in the township of Oatlands, considered one of the first rate windmills in the country, and surpassed by none in its situation for business. Fitted up with two pair of good stones, (French burrs,) dressing and smut machines ; together with a very respectable dwelling house, attached to which is a counting house and small store, washhouse and servants' bedroom. On the premises is a good granary, stable, chaise and cart houses, with piggeries and fowl house, and about two acres of garden ground in cultivation"



The Ross Bridge, Tasmania

Ross Bridge is a Georgian sandstone arch bridge in the town of Ross in central Tasmania,  completed in July 1836. Crossing the Macquarie River and constructed using convict labor, it is the third oldest bridge in use in Australia. Commissioned by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, the bridge was designed by architect John Lee Archer. Convict stonemason Daniel Herbert who had been transported for highway robbery has been credited with the beautiful carvings along both sides of the bridge. Receiving his pardon, Herbert married and is buried in the cemetery at Ross.

The town of Ross has a very English feeling, with its sandstone architecture you could be forgiven for thinking that you are in the Cotswalds. Established as a garrison in 1821, it was not proclaimed as a town until 1847. Today Ross is regarded as being the finest intact 19th c village in Australia.

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19th c English Dining Chairs

I have an enormous selection of high quality 19th c English dining chairs, having been collecting long sets of chairs since the 1960's. I also have a fabulous collection of extension tables which we will be photographing and uploading to the website soon. When looking at dining chairs from this era (1815 - 1870) you are seeing a range of quality, from cheaper mass produced chairs to fine examples produced by such illustrious makers as Gillows of Lancaster. We price accordingly, so a set of 10 nice, though mass produced chairs will be considerably cheaper than a set of 10 by a famous maker, however to an untrained eye the difference in quality will sometimes not be detectable. The main factor in quality apart from the joinery, crispness of the carving and the proportions, is the density of the timber used. Pick up a chair if it is really heavy this is a great indication of good quality.

English chairs of this period were frequently made from exotic timber's such as Mahogany and Rosewood, such timbers were auctioned when they landed in England and the better makers of course paid a higher price for higher quality material, hence producing a better chair. This source of timber from Cuba and The Honduras etc was finite, so furniture of this quality will never be made again.

Every chair we sell is checked over by a professional restorer prior to despatch to a client. Any loose joins are re-glued using traditional pearl glue and any missing blocks etc are replaced. We only wax finish so as to preserve the patina and the chairs integrity as a piece of fine antique furniture. These are investment quality antiques.

Dr Mitchell's residence, Cumberland Place, The Rocks, Sydney, 1842

Designed by Francis Greenway for Robert Campbell snr (1769-1846). Greenway described the house as a "cottage ornee"  Cumberland Place was neither small, either by colonial or present-day standards, rustic, nor picturesquely irregular, the usual criteria for a cottage ornee.  It was essentially a large bungalow... bisected by an imposing pilastered and pedimented two-storeyed pavilion. This central pavilion was ideally suited to the superior status of the house and to its siting... with views across the quay, the town, the Government Domain.  Mrs Augusta Maria Scott (1775-1840) purchased the house from Campbell in 1832. When her daughter, also Augusta Maria, married Dr James Mitchell in 1833 the newlyweds lived at Cumberland Place and it was in this house that the renowned bibliophile David Scott Mitchell was born in 1836. The house was demolished around 1912. Painted in 1842 by Conrad Martens, renowned landscape painter in Australia who arrived in the colony aboard HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin as ships draughtsman.


The abduction of a Sabine Woman

The abduction of a Sabine Woman is one of the most recognized works of sixteenth-century Italian art by one of the least well-known artists of the period. Giambologna's influence on late sixteenth- and early seventeenth- century European art was extensive and long lasting. The Abduction of a Sabine Woman is located in a spot few tourists miss—the Loggia dei Lanzi, just outside of the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence.

This is an antique Italian alabaster model after the original that I have in the shop and a photograph of the original in Florence, Italy. A rare 19th century piece, these models of statues by the likes of Michelangelo and Giambologna were brought home as souvenirs of the grand tour. Such pieces were seen as essential to any gentleman's private collection.


H: 98cm W: 25cm D: 25cm