When it comes to shopping for furniture, many people don’t realize what they can find in the secondary market. From antique to contemporary, there’s often a large variety of styles to choose from. From designer brands to custom-made pieces, it’s possible to find furniture in near-new or good condition. One style that has been in demand for many years is mid-century modern furniture.
Characterized by minimal designs, clean, strong lines, soft curves, geometric patterns, and sleek silhouettes, mid-century modern furniture became popular after World War II, from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. Tables, chairs, desks, credenzas, and other furniture were often made with rich, solid hardwoods, such as walnut, teak and rosewood. Natural materials, such as metal and glass, were often incorporated into designs as were man-made materials, such as Bakelite and fiberglass.
Some say the popular AMC television series “Mad Men” helped fuel the demand for this simple, durable style of furniture. I’m sure having mid-century modern furniture highlighted in pop culture helped, but it also made a comeback in the 1990s when Herman Miller introduced popular designs, such as the Eames lounge chair and ottoman, Noguchi table, and Nelson Bubble Lamp.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when downsizing or liquidating an estate is to assume their vintage mid-century modern pieces have no value. This style of furniture appeals to multiple generations, including millennials who are in their peak home-buying years.
Recently, we sold several mid-century modern pieces that did well at auction. In July, a Faarup Mobelfabrik credenza realized $3,000. That same month, a Sven Ellekaer for Christian Linneberg coffee table sold for $1,000. In May, a Hans Wegner mid-century modern style dining table and chairs realized $2,250.
Whether you are buying or selling, it’s important to do your research. Demand often increases for popular mid-modern designers, such as Charles Eames and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Henry Bertoia, Isamu Noguchi, Edward Wormley, Eileen Gray, Warren Platner, Verner Panton, Florence Knoll, Eero Saarinen, Arne Jacobsen, and Jens Risom.
It’s also a good idea to confirm authenticity. Replicas may look similar, but the quality will be lacking. Check the materials – if the wood is heavy, it’s a good sign it could be an original. Also check for nails, screws, staples and glue, which will be a clear sign of a replica. Look for any type of marking, label or sticker that will validate the manufacturer as well.
Buying furniture is an emotional decision, and many people are drawn to the aesthetics and functionality of mid-century modern furniture. If you’re seeking a special piece, be sure to check the secondary market. If you’re ready to sell a mid-century modern piece and you’re not sure of its value, consider consulting an appraiser or furniture designer.