Friday, October 1, 2010

Organization and record keeping of your antique collection

We all know if you live in an old house you also have a fondness for "Old Things". For some it's simply 'clutter' for others it may become a collection. At some point you will find yourself needing to "manage' all that stuff.
Right now I am in the process of "decluttering' our Indy House, "The Willows", built in 1895 as a shingled style late Victorian cottage, the house has a major remodel in 1915 to the craftsman style. When we bought this particular home, it had "no style', in fact every piece of woodwork was gone, doorways between rooms a had been closed up and the house suffered the indignity of the room between the kitchen and formal dining being opened up and a "breakfast bar" installed.

Our "high style'  will not translate to the typical buyer so we have to take things "down several notches" to furniture the typical buyer will have.

We elected to take the house back to its 1915 roots. With the brick porch and other changes made during the 1915 remodel it made the most sense to restore to this period as everyone except maybe the most clever of Victorian architectural buffs would recognize it as a shingle style bungalow and this house as well as the other homes on the block all the other houses around it underwent the same high style "Craftsman makeover". We actually never intended to live in this house but rather bought it to 'rescue' it from the clutches of a slumlord who was looking at it to turn into an illegal duplex.. We actually lived in a large Victorian home around the corner which we put on the market during the "real estate heydays' and watched in amazement as it sold in a few days for far more than ( in my opinion) it was worth and we found our self shoehorning 3000 square feet of "stuff' into a 2200 square foot house. Thankfully we had just built a new  oversize carriage house with an office above that was perfect to store the overflow......besides who needs to actually keep a car in a garage anyway? Apparently the house wasn't too bad as it was on HGTV as an inspiration house on the series "Rate my space" and has been the subject of a couple of feature articles. Pictures of the House are here: and certainly if you know anyone moving to Indy, send them our way!

We have had the house on the market for while and I finally decided the "restage era' has come so the high style Victorian/craftsman furnishings must go to be replaced with "Ikea Crap" so it will appeal to the 'typical buyer of a 225K house.

So I am going through the packing stage, which is a good thing as it means our final transition to Cincinnati is not that far away. I am sure the City of Cincinnati "spies/employees" who read this blog are probably refilling their Valium prescription's about now with the thought of having to deal with me ON AN EVERYDAY BASIS!

I am not going to talk allot about packing antiques there are plenty of articles out there about that. But rather how you keep things organized. Everything, and I mean everything is listed on an access database I put together. You could just as easily do the same thing in excel spreadsheets and there are even some household inventory control programs out there that you can use too. I use the same program as I use for my antique business but in a different database. Since I keep the 'best stuff' for me I can shift between the two. I keep a copy for my insurance agent so he can update my coverage. I have riders for the antiques and one for the art. It is also a good idea to keep backups and I keep a copy ona secures server off site as well.

So what do I keep track of? Well for example take this wall sconce: I know from my inventory report the following. I bought this in 2001 from an auction house, I know exactly what a paid (surprisingly wasn't much) and I know this piece came from the estate sale of an old building  that was once a small hotel on US40. I've also done some research on just who made it and I acquired a matching one in 2006 (slightly different globe). In addition to  the photo on my database I scanned the original receipt. If you have an inherited piece it is critical to document that, which family member gave it to you , and if  there is a specific family history etc. While it doesn't seem important now, your great, great grandchildren will appreciate it more if they know the story.

Rare pieces, like this open back Rennaisance Revival barrel chair, should always have an independent appraisal done

Why go to all this trouble? Well look around you, how many things are in your room right now? If lightening struck your house, how would you know what you had. Documentation is critical. Also I am already planning where everything in this house will go in our house down there, I know what pieces will go into our warehouse storage and I can figure what pieces will come out of our warehouse and go into our house  down there as well.. Serious collecting is about more than just owning a  lot of stuff, it is about management and knowing what you have , where its at. In my case it is not only antiques I am concerned about but an art and rare book collection as well.

Soooo......someday if the Knox Hill Cottage is landmarked, it can easily become  the Nagele-Merz House Museum  of decorative Victorian design.

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