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Home Front: Local auction houses may contain treasures

Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, December 31, 2009; 11:00 AM

Every week, Washington Post Home Section writers Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, Dec. 31, at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions and suggestions.

Today: Local auction houses are good places to sell a large variety of residential furnishings, household items or vintage collectibles. They are also great sources of information about what you own. Stephanie Kenyon, president of Sloans and Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers in Chevy Chase, joins Jura and Terri to answer questions about treasures you may have bought or inherited.

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Jura Koncius: Good morning! And welcome to our last chat of 2010. We've covered a lot of topics this year and we have a good one for this last discussion - selling your stuff. Terri and I are thrilled to have as our guest today Stephanie Kenyon, president of Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers in Chevy Chase. She can answer any questions you have about selling your possessions, how the auction process works and what kinds of things are hot right now. Check out the story Terri and I wrote today in Local Living about selling things you might not want anymore to reclaim valuable storage space in your home. We include records, books, sports trading cards, furniture, wedding dresses and stamps. So let's get going!

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Fayetteville, PA: We are building a house and I have a question concerning the matching of bathroom door knobs with the sink/tub fixtures. Our door knobs throughout the house are going to be antique brass, and the fixtures in the bathrooms shiny chrome. Would it look okay to mix the two finishes in the bathrooms or would it look better to also have the door knobs facing inside the bathrooms shiny chrome?

Jura Koncius: If you go by the rules, it would be better to match the doorknobs on the inside of the door to the chrome in the bathroom. But you could also introduce other elements of antique brass in the bathroom and do a multi-metal effect so you could use both finishes.

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Washington, DC: I received a lovely Dash and Albert runner as a Christmas gift. I really want to use it in our super narrow front hallway but it's too wide...do you think a carpet store would be able to cut off an inch or so on each side and re-bind it? Any place you would trust to do this? Thank you so much...love the chats!

Terri Sapienza: I think any carpet place should be able to do this for you, though you may have to have the entire runner bound b/c aren't the sides of D&A rugs NOT bound? Doesn't matter either way b/c I think this is an easy problem to fix.

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Washington, DC: Sorry this is not a question about antiques, but I have a paint query...

There is a particular paint color that you recommend again and again, and it's on the tip of my tongue but I can't think of it. Something with an S, maybe Silver something by Benjamin Moore? Does that ring a bell?

I'm starting from square one on paint in a new house and I wanted to check that one out because you seem to like it so much.

Thanks and happy new year!

Terri Sapienza: Lots of people really like Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage (a gray-green), but I don't remember recommending it much recently. Could that be it? Do you remember what color family it belonged to? That might help us remember the name.

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St Paul, Minn.: We are looking for a living and dining room paint color for our 1923 bungalow. The spaces are open to one another, separated by built in cabinets and lots of woodwork. Our living room rug is primarily a rust red/orange color with hints of golds, olives and blues. What Benjamin Moore paints would you recommend?

Jura Koncius: Bungalows and craftsman style houses look great in rich, dark color paints. I might suggest for the living room a color like Chestertown Buff or Marblehead Gold by Benjamin Moore. For the dining room, perhaps Clearspring Green or Prescott Green.

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Maryland: Someone told me that this is a great time to buy reproduction brown 20th century traditional furniture at auction. Is this true? What should I expect to pay for a nice mahogany dining table and eight chairs?

Stephanie Kenyon: Absolutely! There have been great bargains to be had...there is a trend today towards retro/modern, streamlined 1960s furniture for very young collectors in their 20s. It is indeed a buyer's market for traditional furniture due to the increased desire for retro/modern furniture.

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MoCo Maryland: I enjoyed your article today on selling or consigning unused items. Funny you should mention builder's grade "brass" chandeliers ... I've got quite the collection of "brass" doorknobs, cabinet pulls and the like from items we have replaced. I can't bring myself to clutter a landfill with them -- is there somewhere that will take and use donations -- like a Habitat for Humanity or something with a similar mission? There's certainly use left in them.

washingtonpost.com: Cleaning out clutter: Get rid of furniture, books and other things you don't use

Stephanie Kenyon: You can try The Brass Knob Architectural Antiques, Inc. at 2311 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan or in Baltimore, try Housewerks, an architectural salvage company. Their website is: http://www.housewerksalvage.com/

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Richmond: What's the market these days for mid century modern?

Stephanie Kenyon: The market is huge! It is a very hot, current trend. The new retail furniture stores are all showing retro knockoffs and there is quite a premium on the real McCoy from the 1960s.

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Chair rails: I am curious about your comments re: chair rails in today's paper. You stated they have no purpose if there is no wainscoting below them - this makes no sense to me. The primary purpose of chair rails is to protect walls from damage - this was true when it was protecting plaster and still true when protecting dry wall. The same is true of picture rails - less common today but still practical. It is fine not to care for the aesthetics of these moldings, but you should at least up front about their use and intent.

Terri Sapienza: Originally, chair rails were installed to protect the walls from the backs of chairs. Today, it's used mostly as a decorative and architectural element. If you have chairs that abut the walls, then, by all means, keep your rails for protection. Otherwise, I don't think they are necessary. They can add lots of interest to a room, especially if there is wainscoting below it, but otherwise it's usually not necessary.

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Runner Binding: If the rug is tufted, knotted, or hooked, have it hand-bound, not machine-bound. This will prevent unraveling. An Oriental carpet shop can do this.

Terri Sapienza: thanks for the tip.

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Chevy Chase: Have any of your tried to sell your vinyl records? What did you get for them?

Jura Koncius: I once took a crate of my 1970s and 1980s records to used record store. They flipped through and told me they were not interested in ANY of my treasures, neither the James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Rolling Stones, Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears - I could go on and on. I was so mad, I just went into the street and found the nearest trash can and dumped them into it!! Do I regret it? No, because my husband had many of the same records so now my son has a good supply of old stuff and he actually does own a turntable.

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DC: Stephanie: What is the best way to sell old Limoges china?

Stephanie Kenyon: There is an abundance of Limoges china on the market. Much of it can be acquired at a very modest price. Exceptions would be patterns that would appeal to today's sensibilities. Much of it would not as it is too delicate for today's look. Sets with numerous or unusual serving pieces - tureens, fish platters, etc. - are more desirable. Limoges china can be sold at auction, in consignment shops, or even on craigslist.

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NW: Terri - do you ever sell stuff on Craigslist? What works best?

Terri Sapienza: I've sold lots on Craigslist, but I don't understand your question. What do you mean by "what works best?"

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the middle of nowhere Virginia: We purchased an old house (1927) over the summer and have discovered the awesome windows that are all over the house are much draftier than anticipated. Short of replacing them, any suggestions on making them a bit more energy efficient? We have our temperature set low (62), homemade draft blockers on about half the windows and 3 of them "sealed" with a plastic kit from Lowe's. The plastic looks awful, inside and out, but the electric bill (rec'd yesterday) doubling from Nov to Dec looked worse!

Jura Koncius: I know what you mean. Our house is a 1937 colonial and has the original windows. During windy drafty days, it sure is cold in some of the rooms. Last year, we had a handyman come and caulk the window frames above and below and you know this has really helped. I hear that plastic stuff does keep the drafts out and draft dodgers are good too. I think you are doing all the right things... and remember, spring is on the way in just over two months!

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Huntingtown, Md.: Hi- I need guidance on how to proceed with the following issue: I have inherited from my parents approx 10 pieces of framed art (mostly oils) - most of which are in their original frames. I also have some porcelain, crystal and 2 antique tables. I have been told that all of them are antiques - most having been given, purchased or inherited from my late mother's parents who lived in working class Roxbury from the late 1800s to the mid 1950s.

I would like to have them evaluated for two reasons - information (so my daughter can have more than the minuscule bit of info that I have about these items) and for insurance purposes. How best shall I proceed and what would be the logistics involved and the ballpark costs of getting these items evaluated and appraised. I am clueless but certainly teachable! Thanks so much.

Stephanie Kenyon: Auction houses - including Sloans & Kenyon and Weschler's - can provide preliminary estimates at no cost, based on photographs (either emailed or hard copy). For items of particular value, you may wish to obtain a formal, written appraisal. You can consult the American Society of Appraisers' website (http://www.appraisers.org/ASAHome.aspx) for a list of appraisers in your area. Auction houses also have appraisers on their staff to provide any kind of written appraisal necessary.

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Arlington, Va.: Excited to be decorating a nursery for our upcoming arrival. My question for you ladies (and the group) is about incorporating more neutral and traditional items to balance out the whimsical "kid stuff." I know it's not my room, but nursery-oriented themes and colors are not to my taste. Specifically, I'm considering tan walls, burgundy curtains, and a traditional rug that pick up some colors from the baby-oriented bedding and non-permanent decorations we bought. Are these items too ... harsh for a nursery?

Terri Sapienza: Congrats on your upcoming arrival! Do you know the gender yet?

In terms of decorating the room, I think leaning toward a neutral backdrop (walls, floor, windows)and accessorizing with child-themed items and colors is just fine. Plus, doing so will make it easier and less expensive for you to change things around and update the space as your child (and his or her interests) changes and grows. That said, I think the burgundy curtains sound too dark to me. I would go with curtains that are lighter in color.

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Yes! Thank you!: Yes! Silver sage! That's exactly it ... I don't know what was making me think BM, but Silver Sage is definitely what I was remembering. I like the greens and the greys, which is why it sounded like a good idea for me.

I am going to go look at it this weekend. Thanks ladies!

Terri Sapienza: Oh, good. Glad that was the right color. It is a great shade, but if you use it in a room that doesn't get lots of natural light, it will look a lot more gray than green, so be careful. Don't forget to test the color before you totally commit!

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Consignment: I'm slowly and carefully furnishing my home and have an interest in haunting consignment shops for furniture/housewares. I have had some luck at Gallery St. Elmo (Bethesda) but would like to know of other shops that feature furnishings of some quality. Suggestions?

Stephanie Kenyon: Capital Consignment in Bethesda, Upscale Resale in Falls Church, or S&K Consignment Boutique in Chevy Chase are a few to try.

Do consider auctions at Sloans&Kenyon & Kenyon, Quinn's in Virginia, Wechsler's as tremendous source of previously-owned furniture at attractive prices.

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Washington, DC: Hi - I have an antique ladderback chair with a broken support rail, and I was wondering if you could recommend a carpenter out there who might be able to reproduce the broken piece (about 12" long) and match the finish. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Yes. American Hardwoods, 9160 Brookville Rd., Silver Spring, Md. 301 588-0363. Another one that has been suggested to us: New England Antique Furniture Repair, 1118 N. Jackson St., Arlington, Va. 703 328-1800

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caulking, draft dodgers, plastic: Plus heavy drapes

Jura Koncius: Very true. Also insulated shades.

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whimsical baby theme too too much: I've always thought nature themes were a good alternative to kiddie themed nurseries: adults and kids alike can like it, and it grows into the baby's childhood longer before it's too immature

Terri Sapienza: True, but some people would rather have zero themes in a baby's room and treat it as they would any other room in the house.

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paint recommendation: Is it Palladien Blue :)

Terri Sapienza: Good guess because that color does come up often on our chats, but the color was Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage.

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Springfield, Va.: Question for Ms. Kenyon: I've done a lot of buying at Quinn's Auction Galleries in Falls Church, & Weschler's as well as the many country auctions in the Mid Atlantic because I'm always looking for low- to mid-range estate type furniture and art. Is this the type of thing you handle at Sloan's & Kenyon? Thanks.

Stephanie Kenyon: Yes, we do. Our three-day estate catalogue auctions include some items under $500 and many items under $1,000. The Attic auctions on occasional Thursdays include "bargain" furniture, art, and decorative objects; the next Attic auction is Thursday, January 7 at 1 pm.

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For Stephanie Kenyon: My parents collected silver. I live a simpler life, and other than flatware have no use for silver pitchers, platters and bowls.

Some of the pieces are old, and are solid silver (not plate). A lot is European. It's not necessarily a coherent collection...just pieces my parents liked and bought when they lived abroad. But it's got to be worth something.

I'd like to sell this, and welcome advise on how to approach auction houses and other venues. I'm in Boston.

Also, thanks to Teri and Jura for having a chat during the holiday week!

Stephanie Kenyon: You can email photographs to auction houses. An initial conversation with an auction house specialist will provide much preliminary information. I'd be delighted to help you and would welcome a call from you to discuss your needs. Please feel free to call me at 301-634-2330

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Georgetown: What things are better to sell at consignment stores vs. sell at auction or at a yard sale?

Jura Koncius: Consignment stores are good for decorative accessories, lamps, china, silver and small rugs. They allow for customers to inspect them and look them over. It's a bit cumbersome to move furniture in and out of consignment stores which tend not to be huge spaces, but furniture is certainly saleable and often in need. You can sell anything you want at a yard sale for whatever price you want so it's a great way to get rid of stuff. Some families have one every year with a group in their neighborhood. Auction items tend to have more value and often auction houses have a minimum value they will accept. Maybe Stephanie can weigh in on this.

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Germantown, Md.: Help! We have a large L-shaped finished basement that is currently so cluttered with toys and boxes of out-of-season items that no one wants to go down there so it's a huge wasted space. What kind of expert can help me structure and organize the space better? I think some space will need to be partitioned off as a separate storage room -- we have none in the basement. Then I'd like to tackle how to divide the space into play space, office space, exercise, etc. With this expert what is the initial meeting like and would I be contracting for design plans or execution of the plans? Is the fee typically hourly or based on the project?

Terri Sapienza: Sounds like you could use the help of a professional organizer to get your project going.

Every business is different, so you'll have to call around to several organizers and ask questions about initial consults and fees. It's a good idea to get several estimates for any home project anyway, so this is a good thing.

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Alexandria, Va.: The person from MoCo who is looking to donate builder's grade brass knobs and pulls may also wish to consider Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, which sells donated items and uses the proceeds to fund the construction of homes in the area.

Terri Sapienza: Yep, great idea. thanks. I would call to make sure they do, in fact, accept them before making the trip though.

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Clifton, Va : Old houses and old windows have huge pockets for the counter weights that are used to open and close the windows. The pockets are not insulated and neither is the house. Marvin makes replacement windows not window units for these type windows. If you choose to replace go with low E Argon filled windows. You then fill the pockets with spray in minimal expanding foam. Not a DIY job. Caulking or plastic isn't going to help much.

Obama's caulk and window tax savings may make it worthwhile.

Jura Koncius: Thanks Clifton. Very useful info.

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Old Albums: Michael's and AC Moore sell album frames in black and silver. You can dress up a bare wall to show your taste in music.

Jura Koncius: Terrific!

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DC: I've never actually been to an auction. Could I go to one and just watch? Do I have to sign up in advance? Do I have to stay for the whole auction? Seems like fun but not sure for me. And I apologize for what must be some pretty basic questions.

Stephanie Kenyon: Auctions are open to the public; in the Washington-Baltimore area, I am not aware of any auction houses that charge an admission fee. You can attend the pre-auction exhibition before the auction. I suggest you observe an auction before actively bidding. You do have to register in order to obtain a bidding number. You can walk in and out freely. Auction house staff can help answer your specific questions. Auctions ARE great fun and entertaining. Look at http://auctionzip.com for auction listings.

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Fredericksburg, Va: As part of a DIY job, I would like install marble tiles on my bathroom walls, but am unsure about what to do with the floor. Marble is too slippery. What would you recommend to match the marble tiled walls?

Jura Koncius: Marble is elegant but you are right, it can be very slippery. You might consider a different texture of tile - limestone or ceramic. If you do smaller tile, the grout makes it less slippery. Stay away from light colored grout if you can because it is harder to keep clean.

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Washington DC: I have a large library of mostly antique books and also some maps. Is there a place in the area where I can sell these at auction? I just can't see myself at my age taking these things up to a book auction house in NY or Philadelphia.

Stephanie Kenyon: Sloans&Kenyon & Kenyon has a specialty department for antique books, maps and manuscripts. Please feel free to call me directly at 301-634-2330 and I'd be delighted to help you directly.

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Washington, DC: I am planning to put up an Arts and Crafts style wallpaper in my powder room. I have two styles - one stripped and one a rose pattern. When I put up the paper in a previous powder room, I did one wall in the stripped paper and the others in the rose paper. This time, I am thinking of doing the bottom half in the stripped paper and the top half in the rose paper. Do you think a thin chair rail painted in a pale sage would work to cover the seam between the two patterns?

Terri Sapienza: To be perfectly honest, I would only use one wallpaper for the entire room. Unless your powder room is huge, two different styles of wallpaper, plus chair rail, is a lot to have going on. Plus, in a small space, the chair rail will cut the room, visually, in half and make it feel even smaller.

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Anonymous: Has anyone out there had luck selling vintage clothing at consignment?

Jura Koncius: Try Annie Creamcheese www.anniecreamcheese.com in Georgetown.

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Alexandria, VA: We're looking for a vintage 1930s-1960s armchair that has a cool retro look, but we're on a strict budget. We really don't want spend more than $300 but we want a piece of really great, eclectic furniture, that is sturdy and doesn't scream Ikea. If we found THE piece we would be willing to spend $400, but we keep seeing recreations that are $800+. Looking for actual vintage pieces is difficult considering we only have one car. Are there any places online I could look and send e-mail or phone call inquiries?

Stephanie Kenyon: Because Sloans&Kenyon & Kenyon handles an abundance of estates, vintage upholstered furniture with exactly that look and price range is consigned to our auctions. You might want to re-upholster your find, but I'm sure you would only a fraction of what you might pay at retail.

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Bethesda, Md.: I have a question about House Calls. Do the homeowners generally suggest a budget? I'm curious because today's House Calls seemed like it would be really expensive to execute - particularly re-facing the fireplace and installing new lighting. If the homeowner is looking for a facelift rather than a complete re-do, I'd think the decorator missed the mark big time today.

Jura Koncius: We try and include a variety of suggestions always keeping finances in mind.

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Arlington Nursery Again: Thank you for taking my question and for the other poster's comment. To answer your question, it's a girl. Love the nature idea!

Terri Sapienza: Happy to help. And congrats on your baby girl.

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DC: Are silver-plated serving pieces worth anything?

Jura Koncius: I think it's best to use these yourself or give them to anyone in the family who is willing to keep them polished! They aren't really worth much on the open market these days - very few people entertain that way.

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Clearing after bereavement: So far, no one has touched on this problem, which I have in spades. We have had 4 significant deaths this decade and the stuff that has to be looked over is overwhelming. When we put a lot into storage, we culled the trash. What is in storage has monetary value but also emotional content. How do I clear? How do I decide what to keep? I come from a family of pack rats.

Stephanie Kenyon: This is just our specialty; we handle situations similar to yours literally every day. Our staff specialists are both knowledgeable and empathetic. We can help you identify the valuable items and make suggestions for disposal of items of nominal value. Please feel free to call Sloans&Kenyon & Kenyon at 301-634-2330 to discuss your needs.

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Vintage Clothing: Try Mustard Seed in Bethesda. The only take items in extremely good condition, though, just to warn you. I think that is the case with most boutique vintage places.

Jura Koncius: Yes. You are right. Thanks.

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Consignment clothing: Especially when seeking designer/high-end clothes at consignment stores, DO try on. Many items, though showing a particular size, have been tailored/altered to fit original owner. And looking at clothes a size up from your own can give you enough material to do same. Just saying.

Terri Sapienza: That's a GREAT tip. Thanks for sharing.

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Arlington: How do you see the antiques market in 2010? What will be the hot categories?

Stephanie Kenyon: 2010 will be a continuation of what's popular now - the 60s retro/modern look - and a continuation of the antiques equivalent of comfort food - objects that lend security, a sense of permanence, that people desire since last year's economic upheaval. The trend of cocooning - making one's personal space as warm and comfy as possible - continues to be popular. People will continue to be cost-conscious and do incremental re-decoration rather than housewife makeovers.

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Frederick : I have several Hummel figures that were given to us by my husband's late grandparents. We just don't put that kind of stuff out and he wants to sell them. Were is the best place to sell figurines?

Terri Sapienza: I'm thinking eBay might be your best bet (and the items are small enough to not make shipping a hassle). I would go on the site, do some searching and see what Hummel figures currently sell for.

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Anonymous: What do you think will happen to the price of gold? Should I sell my unwanted gold jewelry now?

Stephanie Kenyon: You'll get a good price now. Gold is at a peak price, an attractive price. It is hard to predict if it will increase further. If you have gold jewelry with exceptional workmanship, do not sell that for scrap. You can bring pieces with quality workmanship to auction houses such as Sloans&Kenyon & Kenyon for a complimentary analysis of their artistic merit.

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Washington, DC: We have a long, narrow master bedroom that has only one very small closet. We would like to add closets on the end opposite the bed. All the other doors in our house are original (1937) and stained. Would you recommend trying to match doors and trim to the original stuff or can we head in a different direction? If so do you have any suggestions?

Jura Koncius: You could probably find similar doors to what you have at an architectural salvage shop such as Brass Knob Back Doors Warehouse www.thebrassknob.com or one of the Habitat stores.

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Vienna, VA: There's a really nice new consignment shop on Church St. in Vienna called REfind that has mostly home items.

Jura Koncius: Great tip. Thanks.

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Alexandria, VA: Thanks for the answers and advice! A follow up: I found a Kroehler KOOL armchair and ottoman set that dates to the 1950s. It looks to be in good condition, and it has the original company label. How much should I expect to pay for this? The seller is asking $395, and I'm just not sure if this is a good price.

Stephanie Kenyon: It is difficult to answer that question without seeing an image of the chair - could you send an image to info@sloansandkenyon.com and I'll let you know.

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Just wanted to say: THANKS for doing the chat on New Year's Eve! I love you guys, this chat is the best. You always have great guests and informed chatters, and I learn a little something new every Thursday.

Jura Koncius: Wow. What a nice message to end with. Thanks so much!!

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Haviland China: Hi - I was given a gorgeous set of Haviland china that is well over 100 years old. It belonged to my grandfather's grandmother. I pored over pattern books and can't identify it and would love to get more information. Do you have any recommendations? It's service for 16 with platters and serving bowls and soup bowls, teacups, saucers, dinner plates and bread plates, etc. It's in beautiful condition and I adore it.

Stephanie Kenyon: That is a nice size. Its salability will depend upon the pattern and the condition. The more the pattern would appeal to today's sensibilities, the more it will bring in today's market. Some patterns are too delicate for today's sensibilities. If you send an image - both back and front - to info@sloansandkenyon.com, I'd be pleased to try to help you.

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Jura Koncius: Well, our time's up. Thanks to Stephanie Kenyon for joining us and giving us so many great tips about our stuff. Terri and I wish everyone a great new year's and we look forward to chatting with you again next week and every Thursday in 2010.

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You may also browse an archive of previous Home Front discussions.

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