Florida - Okay, we're clearly not trying to beat a dead horse here, but one of the things we as writers often notice at the Institute, before anyone else tends to, are the initial stirrings of a slight shift in industry trends amongst many of our younger students and graduate dealers.
As a school, the staff here are constantly in touch with the student base on a variety of topics from styles and interests, to market trends and directions - it's a two way street - we share what we're seeing within the industry, and in turn we get direct and immediate feedback from students working within the industry itself. It's a symbiotic relationship of sorts, and one that tends to provide a pretty decent track record of where nascent changes may be occurring within the decorative arts community. This isn't to say that all subtle shifts are examples of major direction movements yet to come within the antiques and vintage marketplace, but only that in the past, we have often noted these initial stirrings tend to be precursors of a larger industry shift.
Now, if you've been following the school's News Ticker Headline page for any length of time, you'll know that we've tended to drone on a bit about the perceptible change occurring in the popularity of the Mid-Century Modern motif. It's overall sales results (as complied by the school's annual Poll & Survey team each year), have begun to show a marked drop in overall interest and sales growth revenue. Conversely, we've also talked about how the sale of "brown" furniture has been hit hard over the past decade with prices dropping substantially. However, in a recent questionnaire put out to our graduates regarding 1st quarter sales, a surprising trend began to emerge from the responses - the sale of "modified" brown furniture had begun to spike for the first time in years. And, by modified, we don't mean brown furniture that was chalk painted, or distressed to appear a different color, but rather furniture that was actually sold with its original patina, with only a change in fabric coverings or upholstery.
This new blend of brown furniture and funky material coverings was not lost on the school's vintage store owners at Etsy. "We had a French provincial style Victorian sofa that sold out in less than an hour," said Nera Shiff, an Asheford graduate, and active Etsy seller. "Normally we would have painted the piece, but it was so lovely I thought maybe just a clever updated fabric might work." It seems she was right, because within a few weeks, Shiff said she had sold three more pieces, including a Victorian parlor chair with a revamped modern-themed upholstery that went to customers in Scotland. "It's the first time I've really sold anything that was brown, said Shiff, "but it certainly won't be the last."
Other respondents to the questionnaire also noted the uptick in brown furniture sales - especially the heavily carved and dark Victorian pieces. "It's almost an anathema, said Jay Rudberg, another Esty seller, "We took out the chintz, gold-braid banding, and any floral themes, and replaced it with bright fabrics displaying geometric patterns - by the end of the week, our Gothic Revival dinning chairs which had been on the floor for months, were sold."
Other dealers from the questionnaire also echoed the increasing interest in brown furniture - with some of that interest coming from some rather surprising sources - like interior designers, who had inquired about dark Victorian pieces that could be mixed with austere mid-century modern themes. Said Jenny Hague, another Institute graduate and online vintage seller, "It may not be a pattern yet, but I'm definitely getting a lot more inquiries that has the term "Victorian" attached to it..."
While these initial sales bumps may not have the makings of a full fledged trend just yet, they certainly seems to be indicating that a new direction may be emerging for what was once the stalwart of the decorative arts industry. Or, as Cory Hemmings, an antiques and vintage dealer from Brooklyn said, "It's possible that brown may just be the new black this year!"
We certainly hope so...
- A.I.A. Staff Writer's
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