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Antique Allure

Ready for a redesign? For a look that never goes out of style, consider the eclectic flair of antique office furniture.

Although bona fide antiques date back 100 years, today the term loosely refers to furniture made before the 1960s. And while finding the right piece takes a real commitment, experts say the benefits are well worth the effort: Most older manufacturers had higher quality standards, and antique pieces are usually more valuable, a definite plus should you ever decide to part with them.

"There's a nostalgia with antiques, and that gives you a feeling of prominence," says Terry Kovel, a leading expert who's outfitted her home office with antiques.

A real dilemma in choosing antiques is that they're often not ergonomic. "Desks are a problem," says Kovel, who launched Cleveland-based Antiques Inc. with her husband, Ralph, in 1967. Many require adaptations to become functional (and you can forget about fitting your computer inside a rolltop desk). Kovel herself has taken out the middle drawer of an old school desk and replaced it with a keyboard tray. She's also sawed three inches off the legs of a desk to make it the right height for typing. Unfortunately, antiques lose their value after such "improvements," so don't expect to get much if you decide to sell.

So what older furniture works best? Well, chairs can pose problems--and not just ergonomically. If they need to be reupholstered, expect to pay a lot. Antique lamps, however, provide good light and often work well--just rewire them before use. Older bookcases and filing cabinets can also easily fit in as functional office décor.

But you must be able to accept that an antique, though beautiful, is inherently imperfect. "You have to realize that it's used furniture," Kovel says. "You can't go berserk if the top's got a scar on it." If you can't bear such quirks, try new reproductions of the old styles. They're expensive and aren't real antiques, but they're in perfect condition and have the same look. You can even find new rolltop desks fit for a computer.

Since good antique furniture is hard to find, expect to hit antique shows, shops and malls. Talk to the dealers--you're more likely to find what you're looking for if you get the word out. And to ensure you don't get ripped off, check the cost in Kovel's Antiques and Collectibles Price List (Crown), available at most bookstores.

Contact Sources

Antiques Inc., P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122

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