Timed to coincide with the opening of Chelsea Flower Show (19-23 May), Christie’s is holding its first ‘House & Garden’ themed sale.
The Old Brompton Road venue will be teeming with floral fabrics, botanical engravings, plant-patterned china, vintage garden furniture and paintings of historic horticulture.
The bi-monthly CSK Interiors sales feature a seductive blend of the affordable (estimates from about £200), the functional (desks, chests, china) and the eccentric (carpet bowls, a Meissen nodding scholar, cat portraits).
Lots on offer rarely come from a venerable collection, or have a noteworthy provenance, but they are almost all what dealers would call decorators’ pieces – good-looking kit, bursting with character.
You can see all the Interiors catalogues online (www.christies.com) about three weeks before the sale date, and leave a bid via the internet, or even use the rather nerve-wracking Christie’s Live service, which allows you to watch the auction as it unfolds and bid from your computer.
However, by far the best way to browse is to attend a view. The saleroom is open Saturday and Sunday (10am-4pm), and the lively views draw in the weekend SW7 passeggiata of collectors, couples and young families.
Highlights of the sale on 19 May are among the vividly coloured china. The 19th century Minton ‘trompe l’oeil’ dish (lot 7, est. £1,200-£1,800) is the last word in frivolous tableware, a white porcelain footed dish, crammed with bright-hued flowers and fruit, and edged in frilly gilt. To anyone who still believes a house is a machine for living, this is a conceptual spanner in the works, since it does nothing useful in the world except raise the spirits.
Other ceramic treasures include several lots of Wedgwood blue-and-white ware, a 19th century Italian Majolica globular vase, in characteristic deep indigo, green and ochre colours (lot 127, est. £400-£600) and a Chelsea botanical plate, painted with a spray of Convolvulus, c1755 (lot 10, est. £1,200-£1,800).
There is a handful of handsome pieces of antique garden furniture. Wrought- and cast-iron chairs, benches and tables are expected to go from £500 to £1,000 for a Victorian cast-iron table (lot 76).
A pair of curved limestone benches with carved decoration is likely to fetch £1,000 to £1,500 (lot 60), while a set of six blue-painted wrought-iron ‘bistro’ chairs is expected to realise £500 to £800 (lot 327).
The selection of indoor furniture is a delightful mix of practical and pretty. A towering 15-drawer pine chest-on-stand is an elegant storage solution (lot 16, est. £1,000-£1,500) and an Edwardian pedestal desk is perfect for working from home (lot 81, est. £600-£800).
There are mirrors and armchairs, occasional tables and consoles, and a glowing 19th century copper bath (lot 96, est. £1,000-£1,500).
A small collection of vintage Louis Vuitton monogrammed suitcases (from £300) includes a spectacular wardrobe trunk, more than a metre high, marked with the initials FZG.
Some of the most memorable pieces in this catalogue are the ones that celebrate the great outdoors, especially evocative since we are evidently poised on the brink of a long, hot summer. With its Cotswold stone urns and Coalbrookdale benches, the inaugural ‘House & Garden’ sale looks set to become a hardy perennial addition to Christie’s schedule.
And, if the forecasters are wrong and, as usual, it rains at Chelsea, this year those keen horticulturalists might be tempted to take refuge indoors, and forsake the sodden flower show to bid on a cherub-studded stone fountain at Christie's instead.
19 May, Christie’s South Kensington Interiors Sale, 85 Old
Brompton Road, SW7 3LD (020 7930 6074; www.christies.com).