For 20 years, brothers Terry and Danny Farrell cruised the countryside of Ireland in search of trea sures for their antique-ex port business. They were looking for pine furniture, which they sold to dealers, many of them from the United States.
In 1990, Terry and his wife, Heather, opened an antique shop in Los Angeles, while Danny continued sleuthing in Ireland. This arrangement eliminates the dealer, so their customers are dealing as directly as possible when buying antiques, which certainly helps keep prices down.
To ensure that a piece is pine, the brothers use the "key test," which means simply scratching the underside to check the wood. After Danny Farrell purchases a piece, it is stripped in Ireland, then shipped to Los Angeles, where it must sit for a couple of months to allow the wood to adjust from the damp climate of Ireland to the dry California air. When the wood dries and any shrinkage has occurred, it is finished and placed in Farrell's Melrose establishment, the Irish Pine Furniture Co.
Of course, every piece has a story, and Terry Farrell is a consummate raconteur. While I was scrutinizing the wood carvings on a huge 11-drawer bookcase, he told me it was made in the mid-1800s and had come from a linen mill that was being torn down in Ballymena, in Northern Ireland. Pieces this dazzling generally are $12,000 to $14,000, but he quoted "$8,000, and that's negotiable."
Another indication of the good prices here is evident in a piece Farrell sold on consignment in a store up the street. Farrell's asking price for the large armoire had been $3,500. The consignment store slapped a $12,000 tag on it--and sold it for $9,000.
Many of the most interesting pieces are impossible to comparison-shop. What was once a grain bin on a farm, and would probably be used as that again, was $775.
It's a little easier to spot a bargain in an interesting cupboard. This one was about 5 1/2 feet tall with chevron-patterned doors of pine inlays, four shelves and two doors, for $1,500.
When a 19th-Century cathedral was being torn down in County Armagh to make way for a pub, Danny Farrell purchased 40 of the original pine pews, which are nine feet long, and some are selling for $725.
This is a pleasant shopping experience for good deals and "good crack"--the Irish way of saying "stimulating conversation."
Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life!
Geri Cook can be heard from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on KIEV 870-AM.
WHERE TO SHOP
What: Irish Pine Furniture Co.
Location: 8010 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
Call: (213) 655-7463.