My best auction buy: Francesca Rowan Plowden

Francesca Rowan Plowden, Interior Designer

Francesca Rowan Plowden

Francesca Rowan Plowden

Francesca Rowan Plowden is the lead interior designer at Rowan Plowden Design. She has been designing interiors for historical stately homes and private residences for over 10 years, with notable projects including Goodnestone Park, Battel Hall at Leeds Castle and Kingshill Farmhouse on the Elmley Nature Reserve. She’s a devotee of sourcing antiques for her clients, but also for her own home on the Sussex coast.

You must be always on the lookout for antiques for your projects. But what about for your own home – have you got a favourite piece from auction?

My favourite auction piece I would say is a marble top sideboard/console table I bought several years ago from a local auction house in Battle, Sussex. Initially I had nowhere to put it and for a long time it was in storage, but I thought one day it might work beautifully in a hallway. When I moved to my last house, I suddenly remembered it, but only had a small hallway which it just squeezed into and before long was covered in hats, scarfs, etc. Then when I moved to my current house it suddenly came into its own!

Marble top console table

The marble top sideboard/console table bought by Francesca Rowan Plowden

Why do you love it so much?

It’s a big chunky antique, which was far bigger than anything else I’d bought before in an auction. I felt quite ‘grown up’ buying it, especially as I had nowhere to put it. But it was the grey marble with the burgundy veins that I loved most about it.

Marble top console table

The marble top table now has pride of place in Francesca’s living room

What was the reason you bought it?

It was I suppose an aspirational buy... hoping one day I’d have the sort of hall that could house it. I loved its elegance and yet sturdiness too! 

Do you have any stories about it before you bought it, or since you've owned it? 

For its first couple of years it was somewhat unappreciated, squeezed in a small space, the bottom shelf rammed with baskets of football boots etc, and it’s actually taken a bit of battering. But I suppose that was its initiation; now it has a place to shine (although a little chipped!).

It now has pride of place in our open plan living room. With my favourite painting above and no football boots on it!

What advice would you give on blending old/antique items into a modern interior?

Be brave! I’m always in favour of an eclectic look! Stick to a palette and somewhat of a ‘story’ when choosing the pieces and they will marry together. 

Any tips for other on choosing and buying choosing items at auction?

Follow your gut instinct. If you have doubt, most likely you might regret it, but if you completely fall for it, buy it! Don’t always expect a bargain, most likely it will be cheaper than retail, but don’t compromise on something just because it’s ‘cheap’! And remember, something is always worth what someone is willing to pay... be brave, follow your heart’s desire. Even if there’s not quite somewhere to put it… you’ll find the perfect spot!

If you’d like to copy the look Francesca has achieved with her marble top side table, browse similar pieces coming up for auction on

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