The rise in popularity of vintage furniture seems inevitable as we spend more time at home thanks to Covid-19 and turn away from fast furniture | Source: Decorilla
One of the greatest perks of modern design— especially vintage mid-century modern design—is that when bought strategically, it holds its value in a tremendous way.
According to London-based furniture stalwart Heal’s, searches for second-hand homewares reached a three year high at the end of 2020, with pieces like the Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner seeing a 204 per cent increase in popularity while the Stool 60 and LC3 Grand Modele Armchair saw a 155 per cent and 100 per cent increase in searches respectively.
According to Knight Frank’s Wealth Report, furniture pieces from the mid-century increased in value by four per cent over a 12-month period in 2022 and 22 per cent over 10 years.
As vintage homewares gain traction with a new generation of admirers, a few key pieces rise to the top of the pile.
Valuable Vintage Furniture
The name Marcel Breuer is synonymous with the timeless style promulgated by owners of Bauhaus furniture, often seen at home in open, minimalist spaces, but are well-suited to most modern interiors.
Bauhaus design is all about pared-back, streamlined forms and is a very influential school of thought, we see elements of Bauhaus design in many modern products such as iPhones and iPads.
The Wassily Chair or Model B3 was designed by Breuer when he was the head of cabinetmaking at the Bauhaus in Dessau, furniture-maker Gavina introduced the modern, black leather strap version of the chair, replacing the material straps used in the original.
A classic, this modernist design is an essential start to any mid-century furniture collection with its innovative combination of steel and leather, an understated piece perfectly suited to an office or foyer.
Designed in 1962 for Furniture makers Flos by brothers Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni, the Arco lamp is a symbol of the swinging 60s.
The brilliant marriage of form and function in this product is what set it apart, the suspended spun aluminium pendant attached to an upright slab of Carrara marble by an arching arm of stainless steel was revolutionary when first made and was very quickly adorning the offices and homes of designer furniture enthusiasts upon its release.
Clever design features heavily in the Arco floor lamp, the hole in the marble base there to insert a broom handle so that two people can carry it and the arm spanning a distance of 8 feet from base to light.
This light was designed to solve the conundrum of wanting a floor lamp but needing an overhead light and it is this innovation that gives the piece its value, so well-designed that it has been in constant production at Flos for the past 60 years.
American industrial designers, Charles Ormond Eames Jr. and Bernice Alexandra “Ray” Kaiser Eames created the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman in 1956 for manufacturers Herman Miller and their European counterpart, Vitra.
The chair is another distinct feature in many mid-century interiors, Eames said he was inspired by a well-worn first baseman’s glove with its sumptuous leather and rosewood materials, the comfort of this chair is legendary.
Being a larger piece of vintage furniture, this item will require a fair amount of space, but is an extremely versatile design, suiting a professional office setting or more casual living room with ease, the combination of soft leather and rosewood backing making it both comfortable and practical.
Vintage Furniture on the Rise
Inspired by the round wooden seats of Ming China, the CH24 or as it is more often called today, the Wishbone Chair was designed in 1949 by Hans Wagner for Carl Hansen & Søn and has been in continuous production for the last 73 years.
The specifications were updated in the mid-1990s to accommodate the taller Americans and Europeans buying the chair, raising the seat by 2cm, but in East Asia, which accounts for a quarter of sales of the Wishbone Chair, the original measurements are still used.
An updated edition of the chair is still produced yearly on Werner’s birthday with recent models including a dark oak wood version, a version with a leather seat and a Navy blue iteration of the famous design.
The LC3 Gran Confort is padded with thick, resilient cushions, invitingly encased in a steel frame and is a famous example of a modernist response to a traditional club chair.
Used by Steve Jobs’s official launch of the Apple iPad in 2010 and featuring in the famous Maxell “blown away” advertisement, where the bulky dimensions of the chair convey the ultimate in bold modern indulgence, the seated subject securely sunk into the voluminous upholstery.
The sculptural Diamond chair is an understated yet outspoken piece, designed by Italian-born American artist, sculptor, and modern furniture designer Harry Bertoia in 1952.
The design is an authentic slice of mid-century vintage chrome work with a very durable adhesive-fused nylon-dipped finish.
“The urge for good design is the same as the urge to go on living,” said Bertoia.
Well maintained chrome furniture of this quality is hard to find vintage examples of and this magnificent piece of contemporary design is very much in vogue at the moment, its price reflective of a waking market for this style of furniture.
This gloriously plump piece of modern vintage furniture experienced a huge rise in popularity in recent years and the current price tag for an original reflects that but a wave of replicas have hit the market and sifting through the examples, there are some that fit the bill in terms of quality and price.
Mario Bellini is something of a design savant, having worked as an Architect, Industrial Designer, Urban Planner and has even as a designer for car manufacturer Renault, he has won the Compasso d’Oro, a prestigious Italian design award eight times and recently worked on Terminal 3 of Rome-Fiumicino International Airport.
Bellini designed the Camaleonda sofa in 1970 for B & B Italia and was an entrant in the 1972 MoMA show “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape.”
He said of the sofa, “Cameleonda is a name I invented by mixing two words: the first is the name of an extraordinary animal, the chameleon (camaleonte in Italian), that can adapt to the environment around it and the word onda, (wave). Both these words describe the shape and function of this sofa.”
Sofas from the original 1972-79 production run have massively increased in value since it was relaunched by B&B Italia on its 50th anniversary in 2020. Well-maintained examples were going for upwards of A$30,000 last year and the most desirable ‘used originals’ are currently selling for as much as A$41,000, but there are smaller examples with the less popular beige upholstery for sale online from A$16,000 to A$20,000 on market e-commerce platforms such as 1st Dibs.
With authentic vintage furniture fetching a good price on today’s market there are many opportunities for online investors to find something that is renowned for its quality and more importantly future appeal.
Statement lighting is coming back in a big way and crystal chandeliers are the original declaration of wealth and class, the best crystal in the world made on the Venetian Island of Murano.
This Italian glass and crystal manufacturing centre have been producing high-quality crystal for hundreds of years and association with its reputation for quality is prized by collectors.
Many crystal chandeliers were manufactured in the 20th century and demand for quality original examples from Murano has the potential to grow in the near future.
With the price for second hand original Murano crystal chandeliers ranging between A$1,900 and A$3,200, there is definitely money to be made for the canny investor.
Danish furniture design has always been some of the best in the world and this side table by furniture manufacturer Woud is no exception, available in oiled oak, white pigmented ash, walnut and black.
The Arc Side Table allows for a dynamic relationship between the furniture and its user, the rounded top turning easily to reveal a covered compartment, innovative use of form from these danish designers, typical of Scandinavian furniture.
Well-made and cutting-edge, this piece of furniture has a long life and its poignant design cues and danish construction means it may become more collectable in the future.
While not yet vintage, the seamless blending of functionality with form is characteristic of modern Danish furniture and the solid construction of this piece, with proper maintenance and care may well mean that it holds its value well.
Due to the difficulty in replicating the quality of Danish furniture, an original model of a dynamic piece like this by a renowned pair of designers is well placed to increase in value.