Gentleman’s Handbook, Vol. 10.1: Investing in Furniture

Mid-century modern is built to last, make you money

By The Editors

How to Buy Furniture and Make a Bunch of Money Doing It
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16 February 2016

This is the Gentleman’s Handbook, a recurring series on all the lemons life will hand you and how to prepare accordingly. This month: being a smarter investor.

Picture Don Draper’s office and what you’re seeing is, in fact, a showcase of mid-century modern furniture, the light, bright, beautifully made and defiantly optimistic design style of the American boom years. The show’s over, but the appreciation for these pieces — Eames lounges, Bertoia chairs, Saarinen tables — continues to grow, both aesthetically and from a nickel-and-dime perspective: an Eames lounge (plus ottoman) purchased in 1956 for $430 can today be bought on 1stdibs for $6,600. It’s not Apple stock but … Apple stock doesn’t look that great in your living room.

Below: tips on starting your collection from a pair of mid-century modern dealers: Amy Marvin from Atlas Midcentury and Yuki French of MidCentury55.

Eames chair from Hive

On the best hunting grounds...

Amy Marvin: “I look at estate sales, thrift stores, Craigslist and Etsy. Estate sales get picked over fast, so it's best to go early Friday and not the end of the weekend, even though the prices may be slashed. If you enjoy treasure hunting at thrift stores or estate sales, I've found that the best places to look are small towns or suburbs where there was a booming middle class during the 1950s or ’60s.”

On potential problems to look for...

AM: “I make sure that pieces are structurally sound. For example, if there's any rubber components, check for dry-rot. Small superficial things, like small scratches or stained fabric, can be refinished or reupholstered, respectively. On the other hand, cracks in fiberglass or wood aren't worth the expense.”

The Barcelona Lounge by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on Hive

On the names to look for...

Yuki French: “Top-tier designers would be Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner, Peter Hvdit, Niels Otto Moller, Arne Hovmand Olsen, Arne Vodder, Arne Jacobsen, Mies van der Rohe, Jens Quistgaard, and so on.”

On one way to save...

AM: “Companies like Lane, Drexel and Heywood Wakefield are known for their craftsmanship, yet they're easy to find and relatively inexpensive. Typically, high-end designers also have designed for affordable companies that mass produced. For example, Eero Saarinen designed for Knoll, and Giò Ponti designed for Laurel Lighting.”

The Poet Sofa by Finn Juhl on One Collection

On the most iconic piece you can buy...

YF: “If I have to choose one, it would be the Poet Sofa by Finn Juhl. But I also love Credenzas by Arne Vodder and the Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen.”

AM: “My essential MCM pieces are credenzas, bar carts, wood armchairs and arc floor lamps.”

Main image from &tradition

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