Is furniture an investment?
Should I view furniture as an investment?
The idea of furniture as heirlooms, being passed on through generations, is satisfying. But collectable items aren’t cheap and can sometimes seem like an unnecessary expense. What should you look for when buying furniture and why?
“Genuine second-hand Eames chairs are almost as expensive as the new ones made in Michigan,” says Andy Jones of Auckland mid-century design store, Karakter, which sells both new and restored furniture.
“They hold their value and get better as time passes. Some, like vintage cars, can be worth more than their new equivalent. But it’s more than the money. Every time you sit in it you know that it’s original. It will be more comfortable, the leather will soften, and the chair will gain a much-desired finish.”
The sentiment is shared by business partner Andrew Lay. “A beautiful, hand-crafted sideboard made in the 1960s by a top manufacturer will now often be found in living as opposed to dining rooms. The modern equivalent would cost at least three times as much and lack the patina that helps make a home unique.” Mid-century furniture doesn’t necessarily increase in value as the years pass – it’s just far less likely to depreciate. But not exclusively. “Many 1960s pieces have seen value increases over the years, and I see no reason why this shouldn’t continue,” says Lay. “It’s simple supply and demand.
“The best investment pieces are those by the high-end designers and manufacturers. The provenance is essential — maker’s marks, originality and quality being all important. Genuine mid-century furniture will be more expensive than the high- street reproductions but significantly cheaper than their new equivalent pieces. And because of their quality of materials and craftsmanship, genuine pieces can be restored to their former glory. Poorly made furniture with cheaper materials tends to wear out quickly if used regularly. The cost of re-upholstering a reproduction Eames lounge chair is often more than the cost of the chair in the first place.”
When it comes to where investment should be made, both men advise spending money on furniture you look at the most. “Compromise on the items that aren’t used on a daily basis, perhaps a rug that sits under a table, and basically just live with less,” says Lay. That’s not to say a mix of high-end and high-street doesn’t work. “It’s your house. Buy what looks nice and is comfortable,” he says. “But original pieces look as the designer intended right down to the last detail, and it’s often the details that make a piece a pleasure to look at. Knowing the furniture will last, will have history, and be able to be passed to the next generation is gratifying.”