The Past Perfect Collection prides itself on bringing its customers the very best quality antiques from the colonial era in India. We sat down with the owner Pieter van Houten and asked him to share some of his expertise on antiques and finding that perfect piece.
You clearly have a love for antique colonial furniture and a great eye for finding special pieces. Where does this passion for antiques stem from?
I reckon I was born to be an antique dealer. I was always attracted to the flea markets when I grew up in The Netherlands. I loved the atmosphere, all the stuff piled high and then finding that one special piece. Many years later, after my career in law and based in India, I ‘discovered’ colonial furniture. It was the history that interested me. Indian colonial furniture is relatively unknown in the antique market. It is perhaps only in the last decade that it has become popular although the level of interest and demand is increasing. Born from the meeting of two cultures, these so-called Indo-European furniture pieces are elegantly sumptuous; their surfaces are often elaborately decorated with both Western and Indian ornamentation. The quality of the materials used and the craftsmanship is just outstanding!
Pieter van Houten - The Past Perfect Collection
Walk into The Past Perfect Collections spacious showroom in Singapore and the quality of the antique furniture is striking. How do you maintain that level of high quality?
At Past Perfect quality comes first and we personally select our antiques with great care. It is through trial and error over almost 20 years that I’ve learned the topics to focus on and I keep doing so every time when I select new pieces for our collection. Quality, while difficult to define, is an extremely important element in the value of antique furniture. It may be seen as a level of excellence. Excellence in the concept, design and execution of the piece, A well-built cabinet, for example, will advertise its quality by its stability and function. The doors will open easily and the drawers will operate smoothly. The finish is clean, the color is good, the joinery is well done, the choice of materials is sound and the scale is correct. Quality implies attention to detail in the production of the item, it implies a caring on the part of the maker and carries a pride that shows in the finished product. And no matter the final definition, most of us know quality when we see it!
The restoration process is obviously an important part of the process of bringing these high-quality antiques to Singapore. Can you tell us more about how this is done?
We work in close cooperation with professional and experienced suppliers across India and pay special attention to the condition, rarity and origin of each piece. Some may need some restoration, which is expertly done in India by a team of dedicated craftsmen.
Once selected, an antique from our collection typically undergoes a restoration process of stripping, repairing and sanding before the highly skilled French polishing technique is applied. The piece is finished off with a protective layer of beeswax. The result is a gleaming treasure with a refined matt finish that enhances and preserves the beautiful wood grain, smooth to the touch and with a beautiful appearance that only a 100-year-old piece of wood can achieve. We keep pictures of what the piece looked like before restoration to show our customers and the transformation is always amazing!
Sourcing genuine quality pieces
Your journey into antiques began almost 20 years ago. Do you still feel excited by the hunt for great antiques?
Yes! I never tire of the excitement of discovering a special piece. Sometimes what appears to be a dusty piece of furniture will reveal itself to be the most striking piece with intricate detailing, a wonderful wood grain or in the case of camphor or satinwood a unique smell. It is not an easy task to find quality antiques, especially those with a maker’s mark or campaign furniture, but I enjoy going the extra mile to find that perfect piece for our customers.* In fact, the most rewarding part of all is being able to share our passion with our customers and see antiques appreciated again for generations to come.
*The Past Perfect Collection offers a bespoke sourcing service – enquire for details.