A beginner’s guide to buying art and antiques at auction

How many times have you walked into a friend’s home, or even a hotel or restaurant, and clocked at least three furniture items you already own? The world is getting increasingly smaller, which means that trends solidify and suddenly every shop window is selling variations of the same thing.

But what if that’s just not what you want? Maybe you’re looking for a particular style mirror, or a chunky wooden sideboard, or you want to own a piece of real design history, not an imitation knock-off. It seems as though it’s getting easier to know what you want, just the where to find it isn't always easy.

Buying vintage and antiques is a great way to find one-off pieces. But if the thoughts of intimate antique shops and noisy auction rooms has you in a cold sweat, you are not alone. It can be an intimidating area, but there is plenty of great deals to be had out there. We caught up with Rory Guthrie from DeVeres ahead of their upcoming Townhouse Auction on February 10 to get some advice on dipping your toes into auction buying.

Pair of rosewood rectangular occasional tables, 1970s, estimate: €100 - €200

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What kind of people shop at auctions?

It's not the loud, scary place you might imagine. We get people from all walks of life, collectors and interior designers, architects and someone just hunting for that one piece for their home. A piece at auction is only worth what the highest bidder is willing to pay for it so the auction room is actually a very democratic space.

What should a newbie’s first step be?

Check out auction house catalogues online and see if anything takes your fancy. If you need more information or photographs, the auctioneer will always be happy to supply and ask them as many questions as you feel you need to. The more you know the more confidence you will have in the process.

Patrick Redmond, Contemporary, MARLBORO, oil on canvas, estimate: €100-€200

What are the benefits of buying at auction?

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An auction is a great halfway between secondhand shops and antique dealers. They can guarantee the quality in a way that second hand shops can't, while they're generally cheaper than antique shops where they also have retail rents and extra overheads that drive up the prices.

How might someone get involved in an auction for the first time?

Honestly, just turn up! There really is nothing more to it really. Viewing is free and there is no obligation to buy anything. We’re always eager to encourage younger bidders into the auction room, so we try to run a few auctions that cater to them. Our February 10 Townhouse Auction is one of them, where estimates and reserves are greatly reduced. You can come in, wander around the selection of design furniture, contemporary art, lighting, mirrors, and prints, all of which we’ve selected with a new homeowner in mind, and either lodge an internet bid or come in on the day.

I’d advise coming to the auction, it’s always a bit of fun, you’ll get some insight into what’s popular, and it definitely beats spending the afternoon assembling flat-pack furniture.

Okay, I’m sold. What are the practical bits I need to know ahead of February 10?

If you’re attending, you’ll need to register and get a paddle for bidding. You don’t need to pay immediately after the auction, payments can be settled in the days following. If the thought of being in the room is too much to bear for your first one– or you’re worried you’ll be a little too paddle-happy – tell us the maximum you’d like to pay and we’ll bid for you, or you can bid live, either on the phone for on the website.

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DeVeres Townhouse Auction will take place on February 10 at The Conrad Hotel. Viewing will be open at 65 Fitzwilliam Square from Wednesday, February 6 to Saturday, February 9 from 10 to 5pm and the until 1pm the morning of the sale.

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