WARM AND FUZZY SETS THE STAGE, BUT MODERN ISN'T DONE QUITE YET
New York - Ushering in the new year for many in the antique and vintage business often brings thoughts of “what’s going to be hot,” and “what’s not,” for the upcoming selling season. Contemplating adding newfound pizzazz to your concern with a host of overflowing boho-themed inventory should probably be tempered before stacking one’s store to the rafters with the latest perceived trends. But how exactly does one draw the line between what’s actually hot, and what’s merely pretending to be? How do dealers and collectors suss out what’s truly in demand, versus what’s simply demanding attention. With these thoughts in mind, school staff and writers went back to some of the designers and industry professionals we spoke to last year to see how their prognostications for future trends held up, and where they think the decorative arts are heading for the rest of 2023.
While we probably shouldn’t over indulge in boho, there’s no question this style has some serious traction, says Tracy Shea, who we spoke to last year about sourcing out what the younger generation wants when it comes to decorating. Shea who operates a number of vintage themed booths along the west coast, and a storefront operation in San Francisco, says that more than ever, young people are making environmentally based decorating decisions, and that it's changing the nature of her business. "It’s not just that they want something sustainable," says Shea, "but also things that have a sense of history and quality to them which are going to last.” Buying up early stock of boho themed items like 1960s and 70s rattan, carved wood dressers, hanging chairs, and upholstered furniture with flowered motifs have all been big sellers she says. “Younger buyers are continuing the re-use and up-cycle trend, so for the time being, I don’t really see any end in sight to warmer tones, natural wood, and a lot of the colorful floral-print type fabrics,” she says.
For international fine arts dealer and interior designer, Tamara Holt, many of her predictions from last year have also borne fruit. Holt, who credits much of her buying success to keeping a careful eye on what the younger generation is purchasing, says that over the last twelve months she’s seen a reinforcement of trend movements from the same group of buyers. "Young people are definitely where it’s at," she noted, "and are continuing to buy heavily influenced Victorian style upholstered chairs and sofas, French country tables, lamps, and even a few ornate pieces." Holt acknowledges that while most of her first-hand experience is based on attending antique and vintage fairs in Europe, where half of her business is conducted, she still feels that it's translatable to east coast trends in the US. Holt says that while the majority of her design clients frequenting her New York studio were requesting the farm-house gray look just a few years ago, that’s changed. “Even the older generation of buyers I’m getting now seem to be returning to more earth friendly tones, and natural woods as a choice for furniture decoration,” she says. ”It may not be a bona-fida trend everywhere just yet, but I think we’ve just about rounded the modernist corner.”
While almost all industry insiders are likely to agree that vintage furniture and going-green will continue to be one of the most popular decorative arts trends for the foreseeable future, it’s not just going to be about full-on boho, or floral-prints and the cluttered style, says Tom Rogers, whose Portland based Scandinavian retro-store lies in stark contrast to those proponing the return to a Neo-Victorian (slash) Boho-Revival look. When contacted last year, Rogers recounted how sales of his Mid-century modern (MCM) inventory had plateaued for the first time in almost twenty years. “It was a bit of an eye-opener,” says Rogers, “but we managed to counter with the other half of our inventory, which was based on simple Scandinavian themed pieces from the seventies and eighties.” Rogers feels that some styles and trends are still geographically based. “Winters in Portland can be a bit drab and gray,” he says, “but much of the Nordic design motif is meant to counteract this with light woods, such as spruce and pine, and splashes of bright color.” When the MCM revival first came along, Rogers says they tipped their inventory in favor of the mid-century trend, but that recently they’ve swung back to what’s always worked in the past. “I think there will always be a modernist design element that remains popular with collectors and buyers,” he claims, “but especially so for clean lines that aren’t necessarily overly futuristic, but that are simple and practical enough to convey a slightly modern message, while still emanating a warm and cozy feel. Rogers says items like slatted pine eighties-style futon sofas, three-legged coffee tables, stools, and wood wrapped low-slung beds are all moving extremely well across virtually every age group and demographic. “It’s hard to believe,” says Rogers, “but some of our best selling items of the past year have been vintage Ikea pieces.”
When we last spoke to Tom Wheeler, who specializes in outdoor wrought iron and vintage garden furniture from his shop on a coastal tourist route in Prince Edward County, Ontario, he'd noticed a small drop in interest related to modern-metal themed pieces, and an uptick in requests for rattan, wicker, and old wrought iron items. Eighteen months on, and Wheeler says that there's been a dramatic shift away from the vintage style metal chairs of the fifties and early sixties, to a more traditional look of the heavy wrought iron and wicker again. "People are still buying outside plastic rattan and wicker sofa sets from Home Depot and Lowes," he says, "but the shift away from the MCM feel has been even more palatable." Wheeler says that the faux wicker craze currently in vogue, has also fueled interest again in other retro wicker pieces from the 1970s and 80s. "Last year, I started to pull some of my old wicker out to get a feeling for how it might sell," he says, "and before the end of summer I was cleaned out." Wheeler thinks that it's likely the rage for fifties style metal tulip garden chairs has probably run it's course. "Two years ago I couldn't keep tulips in stock - now they're probably half the value of an authentic wicker example."
Janet Headley, who runs an antique and vintage jewelry store in Los Angeles, says that even she's begun to notice a strong shift away from the purely MCM aesthetic, which she feels has been so dominant over the last decade. "Five years ago, that's pretty much all I was hunting down at estate and garage sales," she notes, "but over the last little while, vintage-ey, and what my younger clients call the Y2K style, have popped." Headley says that late 90s, to the early ought's style of gold Omega and Herringbone chains are all the rage again, as are 80s and 90s Italian influenced Bulgari-like pieces that she simply can't get enough of... "I used to find box-lots of this stuff just a couple years ago, but today, it's being scooped up by kids thrifting garage and estate sales faster than I can attend them." Headley says that 'recent' vintage is definitely the craze right now.
Almost all of the dealers we spoke to agreed (to a greater or lesser extent), that the clock had probably turned for the modern motif. Not left the building, but merely dropped a position or two in the overall popularity contest for decorative arts supremacy. For many of the dealers, their assessments of how market winds were in the process of changing, also proved to be remarkably accurate. Of course, caressing the crystal ball always comes with risks, but if one were able to look down at some of today's top antique and vintage shows from on high, there's a good chance, at least according to some of these dealers, that you might just find a trending sea of brown begining to form below.
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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