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    Auction Finds

    Tossing that old dining room set

    A friend of mine keeps threatening to get rid of her old dining room furniture. It’s one of those dark heavy antique sets with the leafed table that stretches to the size of a Cadillac, a buffet and a china cabinet.

    It nearly smothers her small dining room space. It’s the type that I sometimes see discarded at auctions, pushed back against a wall, an anachronism.  A relative dies and no one wants the thing anymore. So an auction-goer – a brave soul – gets the entire set for 50 bucks.

    I got new dining room furniture some years ago. My old set had a wicker back and padded faux leather seats, and I wanted something a little classier. So, after a family reunion in Myrtle Beach, SC, I drove up to the “Furniture Capital of the World” – High Point, NC. I was sure I’d find what I wanted there because there were plenty of stores where I could wander through and just browse.

    And I did find it: a nice Pennsylvania cherry set (at least that’s what they were calling it – and I love the richness of cherry), traditional in its styling, but with very simple features. I added a buffet that, too, was plainly elegant.

    There was a time when homeowners spent a lot of time and money fixing up their dining rooms because that’s where the big family meals were held. My sister still has the large table and china cabinet, but doesn’t often hold big dinners there (that’s what Mom’s house is for). Her glass cabinet is a stuffed display case and the buffet is junked with things she’ll never use again. A new book called “Right-Sizing Your Home” talks about ways to re-use furniture that no longer serve their original purpose. The writer, home consultant Gale Steves, said in an interview that she stores papers in her mother’s china cabinet.

    Homes are getting smaller, more people are moving into condos, and fewer McMansions are being built. People are looking to simplify. But most important, who needs a big house anymore? I have a huge armoire – it weighs a ton – that I bought during my High Point visit and I’m still wondering why I bought it.

    As a staffer at one auction house mentioned to me, nobody wants that big furniture any more. It’s hard to sell, he noted, motioning to two oversized sets of bedroom furniture in the auction house. I did come across a cute little yellow dining room table and chairs a month or so ago at this same auction house. It ended up in a bidding war.

    My dining room purchase should last me for a long time, but if I were in the market I would’ve had a lot to choose from at a recent auction. There were a total of 14 sets of dining room furniture in the back room of the auction house – from retro to traditional to contemporary. Wood and metal and wicker and plastic.

    The most interesting was a red retro 1950s set that would have made a perfect centerpiece, offset by a mix of other different pieces and accessories. Second of interest was a bamboo set in which the chairs were pushed under the table like puzzle pieces. And a modern black metal set that would’ve looked great in a small apartment.

    You won’t believe the prices they were sold for. I guess you only need a dining room set when you need it, and it’s not one of those things you can hold on to until then.

    Here’s a sampling:

    Bamboo set, 2 chairs. $80.

    Contemporary black set, 4 chairs with white-fabric seats. $20.

    1950s-style set, pecan wood, 6 chairs with needlepoint-cushioned seats, buffet and china cabinet.  No sale.

    Redwood table with 4 chairs, buffet, china cabinet. $70.

    Traditional mahogany set, 6 chairs with beige cushioned seats. $50.

    1950s retro red and white chrome set, 4 chairs. $130.

    Here are photos of some of the other sets. To get the best view, click on individual photos rather than viewing them through PicLens.

    Do you have an auction or flea market find that you’re especially proud of? Tell us about it.

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