New York - Trying to figure out how the year's most popular decorative arts buying trends will shake-out in January, is never a good idea. Styles and design cues can seemingly change on a whim these days, but especially so as you move from the colder winter months to the more seasonal antique fairs and vintage markets of spring and summer. By then, many have often left the vestiges of last year's previous "hot items" (along with their winter coats), to be stored in the darkest recesses of attics and closets. However, for most in the antique and vintage trade, the vernal equinox is when the year's true trends start to emerge.
To cut through the clutter of what appears to be popular, and what's actually trending, we decided to speak to a number of dealers and experts from varying disciplines within the decorative arts market to get their take on what's really shaking-out when it comes to this year's mid-season trends.
For Shelley Cates, a principal at a Connecticut interior design firm, it's all about the marble - not the round one's mind you - but the big thick white slabs that make up tables. "If we can find original Victorian washstands with the marble on top, it's usually gone before I can even text my clients a picture," says Cates. However, it's not only antique pieces that are in demand, according to Cates, but also seventies themed marble side and coffee tables. Also on the list are large travertine dining tables, which Cates says are extremely popular due to their high degree of resiliency against staining and general abuse. Lighter colors, such as white with black swirls, seem to be most popular with clients due to the overall neutrality of the stones appearance, as well as its ability to blend with both antique and contemporary furnishings.
When it comes to vintage items, there appears to be a number of contenders, at least according to Eirka Jackson, who operates an online auction site devoted to everything mid-century and kitschy. "I normally stick to the small stuff," says Erika, "but this spring and summer, I've been buying up room dividers as fast I can - especially those with mid-century themes." Jackson believes the interest in room-dividers probably stemmed from people working at home during Covid who needed a way to break up the office space from that of the house. What Jackson finds interesting though, is how much the demand has continued - even after people have apparently returned to the office. "I think there's a lot of folks who are continuing to work from home, and will probably do so for some time, so it only make sense that demand for these items would remain strong."
On a smaller scale, Jackson says that bar and dinner glassware from mid-century on, remains her top seller. Although she laments that complete sets of multicolored cocktail glasses from this era are literally becoming impossible to find. "I haven't been able to source enough inventory this summer to keep pace with demand," she says, "and when I do manage to stock up, the prices being paid at auction are just plain nutty!" Jackson believes that kitschy and mid-century kitchenware will continue to dominate the marketplace for the foreseeable future, especially with the younger generation she says. "They're my entire online client base - they'll often PM me before I can even list an item for sale!"
For Michael Behrs, architectural antiques and vintage garden furniture have continued to dominate his sales throughout the spring and summer. Based in Toronto, Canada, Behrs says that while the decorative arts market has been strong across the board in virtually every category, he's noticed that it's been particularly heady in certain segments that are directly related to the massive increase in home sales and renovations that occurred during the early part of the pandemic. "People were just spending so much more time at home, redecorating, renovating or buying second properties as a Covid-getaway," says Behr. "By the time these deals were sealed, there was a huge need for practical decorative arts items like interior columns, fireplace mantles, archways, fancy gates, etc." Behr acknowledges that he's in a particularly good situation, since he has plenty of land to store the large pieces, but says that even smaller decorative items in the main shop have also been selling quickly. "It's been my best summer yet," he says, "whether that's just an after affect of Covid or not I can't tell, but for now I'm just shipping and delivering as fast as I can."
For a good number of dealers, it would seem that many of these trends that were originally prognosticated and brought to light in March, have continued to hold the line this summer despite some rather dramatic changes in the economy, Covid, and life in general over the last four months. Whether or not we'll see a surge of interest in something new, or a return to the quieting and settling down of longer lasting and more entrenched decorative arts themes remains to be seen. However, for many of the dealers and experts we spoke with, the old adage of, making hay while the sun shines, seems to be the mantra of the season.
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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