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Why Granny’s Old Chair Could Fetch A Fortune In China

Sitting pretty: Susan Sun on a reproduction Chesterfield armchair she is selling for £10,000

They are the sort of old-fashioned bookcases, sideboards and settees once common in many homes.

But antique furniture that would fetch a few hundred pounds in British auction rooms is suddenly being sold for thousands in Beijing – thanks to soaring demand among China’s new executive class.

The nation’s nouveau riche are increasingly keen to buy into a heritage that has slipped out of fashion in Britain – believing the elegant items will increase their social standing.

Susan Sun, a former London banker who now runs an upmarket interiors company in China, confirmed there is a ‘very big’ mark-up on British imports. Her elegant showroom in Beijing has a distinctive English country house feel, with items selling for up to £30,000.

She said: ‘The market is so narrow and there are no reference points, so it is hard to say what is a reasonable price. It all depends on the buyer. Many people in China have gone from being poor to rich in the space of two to three years, but good taste isn’t acquired in one day.’

She is convinced that demand will escalate in the next decade, saying that the educated Chinese like British antique furniture ‘because of its exotic and elegant style as well as the craftsmanship – and it’s not over-the-top, like some Italian or French furniture’.

Mark Dodgson of the British Antique Dealers’ Association said the traditional finish of British furniture, which allows the grain to show through, is also a factor. ‘Chinese furniture is also based on the beauty of the wood and its grain, so there’s a resonance,’ he said.