Collecting Fine Furniture

In general people have no problem spending money on things others can see - like cars, clothes, houses, hair-do's, gadgets. "Stuff"has become  a symbol for how succesful we are and reflects our well being. Its human nature to want to show others we are doing well.   - as if by natural selection we will be taken down for hitting a bad patch or not being perceived as succesful. 
By contrast when it comes to "stuff" no one sees - like items contained in a home, the thinking seems to be spend less- no one will see it anyway. A big challenge designers and tastemakers face today is getting clients to care about furniture so that their homes reflect their success.  With DIY televsion delivering the equivalent of interior design fast food ,the priority has been to deliver cheap, quick, dramatic while sacrificing quality, craftsmanship, detail. Dont get me wrong, I love design shows and beleive they can provide great insight into major design principles. But the execution, with its emphasis on speed, drama and a glue gun has deadened our visual senses. On TV it photographs well, but do you really want to live there?

So where do we go from here? How can we change the cultural zeitgeist to appreciate the quality cratsmanship, history and materials without being pretensious? As designers and passionate consumers of design we begin by educating our clients and friends. I approach the idea of custom designed furniture and antiques from the standpoint of heirlooms - to be passed on to children, grandchildren infusing family history into a quality object. This reframes the idea of possesions as being more than just throw-aways and into treasures that can span generations. Here's how I approach collecting and acquring with my clients regardless of their budget situation:

  • When begining to collect I always suggest clients do their homework. Research a style or object you love of has some resonance to you and make that your focus. If you focus on a period or a type of object it will help make your collection remain cohesive as you collect over the years. Too broad a focus can be overwhelming for the new collector which will inevitably lead to having your home look like a consigment shop.
  • If your interest is antiques with provenance, look for a reputable dealer  who works with designers to avoid fakes or the infamous chinese reproduction of a european style. If a new reproduction is what you are looking for designer showrooms regularly have sample sales.
  • When working on a budget- conscious interior and the client requests some antiques or custom pieces, I will search auctions where great deals can be found. Also mixing  lesser expensive items, flea market finds looks great with beautiful antiques.   I will often find a great chair at a flea market (or dumpster) and will have it recovered in a great fabric to give a client something unique and tailored to their interior. 
If Mid-Century Modern is more your speed, pieces by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings are ubiquitous with the period that is peppered with mass produced copies.

If Mid-Century Modern is more your speed, pieces by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings are ubiquitous with the period that is peppered with mass produced copies.

Work by the American woodworker/artist George Nakashima fetches high prices in todays market .These one-of-a-kind pieces are more like sculptures that enliven any style of interior.

Work by the American woodworker/artist George Nakashima fetches high prices in todays market .These one-of-a-kind pieces are more like sculptures that enliven any style of interior.

"Starting To Collect Antique Furniture" by John Andrews is a great book for learning about furniture styles and details. 

"Starting To Collect Antique Furniture" by John Andrews is a great book for learning about furniture styles and details. 

Post originally posted on my previous blog page www.yourpersonalspace.net