(Updated - July 13th, 2021)
New York - While 2020 was an unprecedented year on many levels (many of which I'm sure we'd rather forget), there were still some positive take-aways for dealers attempting to anticipate the "buy" direction of this years decorative arts market. As we've done in the past, school writers again reached out to a number of industry experts and dealers for their thoughts and predictions on where to find this year's hottest antique and vintage trends.
For many of the experts we contacted, there was a palpable level of agreement that Covid 19 had definitely had an effect on buyers choices over the last year when it came to the overall shopping experience. The most commonly held observation related to this experience usually came down to "purchases of size." Simply put, dealers across the board noted that large pieces requiring pick-up or delivery, and multiple levels of interaction with sales staff and in-person shopping, suffered last year due to the fear of Covid. While nobody would argue that the pandemic has left us completely, the recent mass vaccinations and full opening of the economy has shown some experts and dealers that this year's trends are turning out to be more about scale than style.
From Valerie Hopper's perspective, the craze over lamps during the pandemic, especially those in the Art Deco vein may still be popular this year, but notes that Deco furniture is currently stealing the show. "We had a number of customers putting down deposits on cabinets and chests last year, but waiting till this year for pick-up," says Hopper. "I was packaging and mailing lots of smalls in 2020, but to date, I'm already moving out big furniture pieces by a two-to-one margin compared to last year." While Hopper acknowledges that Art Deco seems to be all the rage at the moment, she also thinks that there's a pent-up demand for larger sized purchases in general. "Last year every nook of my floor space was crammed with case pieces, but thankfully, there are some noticeable gaps now."
- V. Hopper (Antique Dealer)
For those in the vintage environment, it may also be about scale as well, at least according Bridget Shaw, a veteran vintage dealer who retails from her barn just outside of New York. "We normally sell a lot of vintage garden furniture," says Shaw, "but last year it was pretty quiet, except for smaller decorative items and online sales." This year Shaw says requests for old marble and stone-topped tables has been through the roof. "In 2019 we began to notice an interest in older vintage wrought-iron and travertine style tables, but when Covid hit, it kind of dried up." Shaw thinks it wasn't so much an end to the trend, as much as a pandemic-pause. "Now that people are vaccinated, we're seeing a lot more in-store shopping for some of the bigger pieces that people were holding-off on." According to Shaw's log-book of requests from customers, there's definitely been a move towards the heavier look of wrought-iron pieces over the mid-century motif that she says dominated her inventory for years. "If I had to guess, I'd say the pendulum has finally begun shifting to shapes and forms that are more Victorian-esque than they are modern."
- B. Shaw (Vintage Dealer)
Other industry professionals also seem to have taken note of the change related to the scale of purchases. Chicago based Interior designer, Andrea Howard says many of her clients became reluctant to commit to a particular style last year, opting instead to wait until they could see where things were trending post-Covid before pledging themselves to a particular design motif. "We had a lot of requests for paintings, sculptures and objects d'art in 2020, but very little interest in full size makeovers that involved items like furniture." This year however, Howard says she's already seen a snapback to bigger decorative pieces and complete ensembles. Over the last few years heavily painted furniture had been popular with clients, according to Howard, but she feels the trend may have finally run out of steam. "People now seem to want more wood-toned pieces that perhaps reflect a stable and more traditional past." Howard says she isn't sure whether this nostalgia for a return to brown-wood is simply a reaction to people wanting to move past the pandemic, or a legitimate style shift, but notes that either way, the increase in customer demand for classically styled furniture has picked up substantially since the beginning of the year. "I'm not banking on a full return to the old days just yet," says Howard, "but I'm definitely going to be reaching out to my suppliers for an eyes-on approach, just in case it does return."
- A. Howard (Interior Designer)
Adding to the trend towards "big," Etsy recently released its own in-house survey of buying habits, noting that with so many people now working from home in open spaces, that a demand for partial-privacy has quietly arisen in the form of full-sized room dividers. Remembered primarily as the domain of well-heeled Victorian homes, many antique dealers have also recently reported a strong uptick in interest in these oft-forgotten folding-panel-walls that were once a staple of virtually every Victorian boudoir. Tom Preston, who picks for dealers across the country, says that many of his clients are now actively asking for something he would often simply leave behind when collecting his box-lot purchases. "No one wanted these dividers a year ago," says Preston. "Now it's like a bidding war at every auction I hit." Overall though, Preston says the demand for dealers wanting to restock their inventories with larger furniture items seems to be coming back. "Last year I didn't really need my trailer for buying trips - this year I'm probably going to need a bigger one."
- T. Preston (Picker)
While many dealers and industry pundits are seeing a return to full-size purchases this year, Joanna Burk, a "glass specialist," with sites on Etsy, eBay, and a host of other collectible platforms, says it's not all about the "big." Burk claims that her sales of mid-century barware and pretty much everything party-glass related up to the 1970's, has been on fire over the last twelve months. "Maybe it's just because everyone was hanging out at home and starting cocktail hour early," says Burk. "Or perhaps it's just a renewed interest in an old collectible, I can't really say for sure, but I do know that I'm spending most evenings packing orders." Items such as colored glass tumblers with mid-century motifs or design cues from the 1970's (think white plastic wine glasses), are hot sellers says Burk. "Two years ago I couldn't move crystal glass, now I have a waiting list for any Art Deco crystal that comes along."
- J. Burk (Online Dealer)
For most of the dealers and industry insiders, the prognostication of this year's decorative arts direction wasn't just about whether or not trends ended up being in the big or small vein, but whether or not they could sustain some consistency moving forward. "I reckon we've got Covid pretty much in the rearview-mirror now," said Tom Preston, while returning back from a pick in Tennessee, "and because of that, people are back out shopping again, which means there's a good chance you'll see some of these trends really take hold and settle in for a good long while."
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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