Jenny Needham talks to a young antiques dealer who is bringing a fresh approach to an age-old business

Home is where the heart is. It’s also where antiques expert Amanda Allinson houses the many lovely and unusual objects she picks up to sell on to her loyal customers. Some, though, find a permanent place there when Amanda finds she can’t bear to sell them on.

“It’s sometimes difficult to let pieces go,” she says. “I only ever buy what I would want for myself so some things are hard to part with, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to pay the gas bill.” Recent favourite finds include a 19th Century Victorian mahogany, half-tester bed frame, in need of some restoration, an oversized 19th Century ottoman covered in original fabric and tassels, an antique taxidermy black swan, and a selection of 18th Century black lacquered chairs. “They are so beautiful,” says Amanda.

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Amanda recently moved to a lovely Georgian period property on the outskirts of Darlington. She had been looking for something larger to house her daughter – seven-year-old Lola – and her online antiques business. “I needed space to hoard all my collection too, of course,” she laughs.

Allinson Duke – “Duke was my beloved first pet” – was founded five years ago, the culmination of Amanda’s lifetime love of antiques and unique pieces. As a child, growing up in Barnard Castle, she was intrigued by anything old and unusual. “Some of my earliest memories as a little girl are of sitting in Addisons auction rooms with my nana,” she says. “I can still remember the excitement I felt at being allowed to place a bid on a toy or a little curiosity that had captured my imagination.”

So began an obsession with collecting antiques. “I am fascinated by the history of each piece, the romance,” says Amanda, “imagining who owned it, what life it has had and the love and care that went into making it. That passion for antiques is the driving force behind Allinson Duke.”

The business specialises in sourcing and selling original, rare and unusual antique furniture and interiors pieces. An expert restorer lovingly returns each item to its former glory, while staying true to its heritage and character. Amanda has built up a network of discerning contacts across the country who are always on the lookout for unusual items they know her clients will love. “I have a handful of regular clients who have been with me from the very beginning and new clients are coming in all the time,” she says. “I also work with a couple of interior designers sourcing the items they want to complete their schemes.”

New stock comes in all the time and goes straight onto the website, unless there is a client on the waiting list for a specific item, and the team travel the length and breadth of the country for house calls and auctions, and even overseas, time permitting. Amanda is proud of the fact it’s a family business – her stepfather does some of the deliveries and restoration; her mother, a talented seamstress, has just introduced a range of hand-made cushions and throws into the mix. “The cushions are made out of vintage furs, materials, tweeds and tapestries that all beautifully complement every piece of furniture we sell,” says Amanda.

Prior to launching Allinson Duke, Amanda worked with horses, but found the job too restrictive after Lola was born. “I had always been a collector of antiques, curios and vintage and decided to turn my hobby in to a business,” she says. “I had no idea where to start, but saw an advert by a local auction house advertising for help with their general and antique sales. I got the job and worked there for two years, picking up lots of knowledge along the way.” Outside work, she also started buying more at auctions and car boot sales and selling online via eBay, researching the history of the pieces as she went.

Amanda prides herself on the eclectic nature of the offering at Allinson Duke. “The fact that we don’t limit ourselves to a specific style or period means that we have got something for everyone,” she says. As long as it’s old and beautiful, she will bring it home. Modern furniture just doesn’t cut it. “I moved out of the family home when I was 18 and every item I have ever possessed has been an antique or at the very least vintage. I can honestly say I never buy off the high street.”

Buying old, there’s always the element of surprise, too. “A couple of years ago I did a house call and spotted a small 19th Century Victorian taxidermy pug dog,” says Amanda. “I asked the lady if it would be something she would consider selling and she practically paid me to take it away as she hated it so much. I loved it and thought I’d keep it, but then did a little research and it turned out to be fairly valuable. I sent it to a specialist sale in London.”

There are a couple of items she would currently love to furnish her own home with. “I’m looking for a couple of 6ft-plus antique mirror plates with heavy distressing,” she says. “I’d also like to expand my art collection. I love oil paintings from all eras and absolutely adore Chloe Holt’s work. I would love to own a piece of her work – Selene or Giardini I and Giardini II. I am rather obsessed with chairs, too, preferably armchairs from the 18th and 19th Centuries, and beautiful, hand-knotted Persian rugs that show slight wear.”



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