The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home, and improving it to increase the value of your house can cost a fortune. But the real cash in some homes is tied up in a surprising place: kitchen accessories. "Kitchenalia" is now a booming market for collectors and investors.
"The first thing that sells a house is the kitchen and the bathroom, according to estate agents," says Fiona Baker, the 20th-century decorative art and design specialist at Christie's.
"Fitted kitchens can end up looking just the same as somebody else's, so the way to make it different is to accessorise it - certain items will make it very stylish," says Baker.
She adds: "Victorian and Twenties and Thirties tiles can look very dramatic, and, unlike a picture, they aren't affected by condensation. Adnet chromium-plated fruit juicers and nutcrackers are also very stylish and look different and dramatic in the kitchen.
Adnet bottle holders are always very popular, or perhaps a Thirties Christofle ice bucket. All Art Deco items could make a feature in your kitchen."
A pair of chromium-plated Adnet bottle holders can fetch £1,000 to £1,500 (up from £200 to £300 each a few years ago), while Christofle ice buckets are now going for up to £800.
Art Deco is very popular, but style is dictated by fashion: to spot future trends and buy the best accessories for investment purposes, you need to keep your finger on the fashion pulse.
"People very much follow the style magazines, and, at the moment, it's all rosewood furniture and teak sideboards and whatever fits in with that look," says Phill Brown of design20c.
"Many of the stainless steel designs by Robert Welch are going really well. He designed for various companies, but the main one is Old Hall, which made stainless steel items such as cruet sets, coffee pots and tea pots.
Viners cutlery from the Sixties and Seventies is very popular at the moment, and people can use it, keep the box, and then sell the cutlery on again for more money. Ten years ago, you would have paid a couple of pounds for a set of Viners cutlery, but some of their designs now go for £100 or more. And while some accessories are bought by pure collectors, many more people actually use what they buy.
One area in which the real thing isn't always the most sought after is electrical items. Many of today's toasters and food processors feature retro designs, and these are preferred as functional items with guarantees, rather than the older originals.
Collectors tend to look for specific items, such as pie funnels or the very popular T G Green pots. Some have created tidy nest eggs for themselves. "I can't think of any really weak areas in the kitchen sector that have been as badly affected as other areas of antiques," says Alan Blakeman, who runs BBR Auctions.
"Some of the prices for T G Green are weaker than when they were at their high around five years ago, but, in most categories, fresh-to-market stuff is drying up."
T G Green is bought by those who want the blue-and-white visual addition to their kitchen decoration, but also by many collectors. "One of the really buoyant areas is Irish cream pots, which seem to be on a phenomenal high," says Blakeman. "Pots that, visually, you would only think to be worth £20 to £30, have gone for up to £600."
Blakeman thinks that this market is ripe for investment. "I can't think of any category where a long- term collector has lost out," he says. "Collectables are just a phenomenal investment. I sold an ointment pot for £620 that I paid £9 for 20 years ago. I'm about to sell an enamel sign, which I paid £8 for, that came off my wall, and that will go for several thousand pounds. I think that if you buy shrewdly and selectively and buy the best, the market is strong at the top of every category."
BBR Auctions: 01226 745 156; www.onlinebbr.com (next sale: 11 June)
Christie's: 020-7930 6074; www.christies.com
design20c: 0794 609 2138; www.design20c.co.ukReuse content