The secondhand furniture decor that’s fetching big bucks

By April 20, 2021News

Secondhand furniture shopping is here to stay, but the eras that are on-trend fluctuate.

The price of secondhand furniture is rising on a tide of millennial adoration for clean lines, rounded edges, eco-conscious thrifting, and minimalism with a bit of spice.

Crafters and curators savvy enough to know which eras are trending can surf that wave right out of the 9 to 5 and into the bank.

Because increasingly, 30-somethings are willing to pay the big bucks for interiors.

Head of department at auctioneers Webb’s, Ben Erren, 30, identifies three major trends in decorative arts for 2021.

The first is that people are paying more for their secondhand furniture across the board. A lot more.

Spending has trended upward beyond an auctioneer’s wildest dreams because people still aren’t able to travel overseas, , he says, and have spent a lot of time in their homes over successive lockdowns – more than enough to prompt renovation and redecoration.

“We’ve seen prices for than object that would have gone for $2000-$4000 pre-Covid go in a competitive auction for $9000-$12000. People are really pouring their money into quality design.”

Items considered to be extremely rare in an international market have drawn prices like $60,000 for a bench seat, and $45,000 for a set of chairs: “There is a definite trend of people being less shy with spending big money to get quality pieces, at all levels of the market.”

The category to get the most noticeable boost is NZ designers.

The kind of money people are now willing to spend on vintage Kiwi designs was traditionally reserved for only the most famous Danish and Sacandinavian names. But a Marilyn Sainty cocktail chair, for example, was estimated to be worth $1500-$3000. It recently sold for $5400.

“Her designs are quite iconic, but previously they didn’t demand the prices international names could get” said Erren.

Customers coming to the auction houses are also getting younger, he adds. And if they’re not shopping at the top end of the market, they’re scrounging around opshops and Instagram.

Trade Me’s data comparing average sale prices from 2015 compared to 2020 supports that. The ‘art deco & retro’ category recorded a 7 per cent increase overall, while art deco and retro furniture had a 17 per cent increase.

Furniture and woodenware listed under ‘antiques & collectibles’ increased in price by 7 per cent.

A Marilyn Sainty Cocktail Chair
EST . $1,500 – $3,000
Price Realised $5,405

“A lot of Kiwis look for rare and hard-to-find homeware pieces that they know they won’t be able to find in stores,” said head of marketplace, Ivan Fuyala. “We know mid-century furniture is popular with our members because we’ve seen over 10,000 searches in the past week.”

Mid-century has been bread and butter for the past three to five years in auction houses too, said Erren, and that shows no signs of changing.

“It fits in naturally with any contemporary or character home, and a lot of Kiwi homes were built during that time period. So it’s not going anywhere.”

In terms of the trends we’re likely to see next, say hello to Hollywood Regency and Memphis Design. Those styles were big in Los Angeles a year or two ago, and are starting to head to our shores.

“You can see shops like Mid Century Swag bringing it in. They’ve loaded up on Hollywood Regency and Memphis styles, and it appears to be selling really well,” Erren said.”

Hollywood Regency came out of the golden age of movie-making in the 1930s. Producers and directors wanted to bring extra star power to their films, so they decorated with serious opulence in mind. Think rich textures like velvet and furs, bold colours and patterns, gold finishes, luxe accents like chandeliers, and lacquered everything.

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