Investors snap up Bauhaus collectibles
Contemporary furniture not only looks fantastic but it could be a good investment, says Gwyn Jones
Saturday 03 September 2005
New names are joining better known designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer and Charles Eames, which have sold in top auction houses for the past decade. "The design market was underdeveloped 10 years ago, but there has been a significant increase in interest in this type of furniture, particularly in the past three to four years," says Bonhams' Bruce Addison. "Ply in particular has been selling well - not just Finnish names but British designers, such as Gerald Summers, and Marcel Breuer."
The dealer Michael Marks, of 20th Century Marks, has also seen the market change. "When we started in this business, 20th-century design was on the edge, but now we supply a lot of the antique shops, which used to look on us as lunatics at the time, because their antiques aren't selling as well," he says.
"This sector is now much more mainstream because the furniture suits modern living better. Prices have become more stable as more dealers and auctions have arrived, but they've increased quite considerably on scarce items."
He says, for example, that while an Eames ottoman and chair could have been bought 10 years ago for £800 to £1,200, the average price is now closer to £3,000.
Specialist knowledge is important to avoid expensive mistakes. "There are things that in England were scarce such as the Garden Egg chair, from 1968, which was making £800 to £1,200," Marks says. "These are now £500 to £600 because people have realised there are more pieces around than first thought."
The best investments are the top pieces, but they can be unaffordable. Addison thinks more recent designers are worth a look. "Designers who graduated in the past 10 years or so are being included in our next sale. They include Chris Howker - his production benches are retailing at over £4,000 and we have one of the originals made for his graduation show in 1997.
"This could be a new and exciting area of the market. Furniture is becoming more like the art world in this respect. People who are interested in contemporary art are often interested in these very sculptural pieces of furniture."
Dan Tolson, of Christie's, thinks British designers and manufacturers still have a way to go. "We're finding that mid-century British furniture by designers such as Ernest Race and Robin Day is more affordable than it has been," he says.
"It's an area that reached a peak of popularity a few years ago when there was a show of Robin Day furniture, but that interest has subsided. The market hasn't developed like it has for Scandinavian and Italian."
Robin Day may be better known but people such as Robert Heritage produced good-quality work in rosewood, which was well made and undervalued. For example, a large wall unit in rosewood - which would be impossible to have made today - can be bought for less than £1,000. It should be at least £5,000 because that's what it would cost to make now.
"In the past five years, the more scarce Robin Day pieces - but not the plastic chairs such as the polypropylene chair, which is easily available - have gone up 300 to 400 per cent, and I still think there is more room to rise," says Marks.
"If I had to put money into something purely for investment, I would go for the less well known and probably more interesting British designers. It's easier for you to make a profit on something that has cost you £100 than on something that has cost £1,000."
Jeff Salmon, a dealer at Decoratum, is a big fan of South American furniture. "If you have money in the stock market, pull it out and buy Brazilian furniture from the 1950s and 1960s because it is the hottest thing, especially in America," he says.
"It's funky and, pricewise, it's at the stage that Italian furniture was maybe 10 years ago. The woods are exotic, they're so well made and perhaps the most interesting thing is that in the 1930s to 1950s there was a huge influx of Italians into Brazil and so this has come out in the designs. I'm buying from Brazil and selling back to Brazil, as well as to America. There's very little in this country."
Scottish Power hit with sales ban by regulator
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pension Minister
Midweek Money: The end (of the tax year) is nigh: act now
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 4 African jawbone discovery pushes birth of humanity back by 400,000 years
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
iJobs Money & Business
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...
£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads