Investors snap up Bauhaus collectibles

Contemporary furniture not only looks fantastic but it could be a good investment, says Gwyn Jones

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."

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

    Laura Norton: Project Accountant

    £50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?