An example of the completed restoration and upholstery work undertaken by RD Robins at Broadlands, Hampshire.

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1) Overall look

Stand back and look at the overall design. Is it balanced and do all the elements fit seamlessly together? In the 18th century, designers and makers had an extraordinary sense of design and rarely got it wrong. If the piece is a copy or has been altered, it will inevitably look somewhat awkward and not have the effortless flow of an original.

2) Patina

Furniture that has lived for centuries should have acquired a complex patina and this is crucial when buying antiques. A piece that has been cleaned and re-polished will lose much of its appeal and therefore value.

3) Look underneath

The underneath of a piece of 18th century furniture can vary hugely according to where it has lived. Some pieces can look remarkably fresh if they have lived in a clean environment. Others, having been in a room with a smoky fire can look quite dark, however, all the under surfaces and backs should look dry and untouched.

4) Handles

Check if the handles are original or have been replaced. The reverse side of the drawer fronts will often show signs of holes where former handles have been fitted. Where the handle rests on the timber of the drawer front, it will often leave a mark from years of use. A mark in the wrong place can suggest an alteration.

5) Study carvings

Has the piece been later carved or embellished? Original carving on legs generally stand proud of the overall form. If carved into it, this could indicate it was done at a later time.

6) Check the feet

Feet are sometimes changed. Is the style of the foot correct for the age of the piece? If an early chest originally had turned feet, there might be fixing holes visible inside the carcass when the bottom drawer is removed. Check for shadows where earlier feet might have been glued.