All photos taken by Simon Whitmore for FW Media for Kate’s book Style Your Modern Vintage Home

Mid-century furniture is mainly thought to cover three decades of the middle of the 20th century; from the fun yet sometimes kitsch 1950s, through to the space age 1960s, and into the dark teak, quite masculine look of the 1970s. These styles have grown in popularity over the last 10 years, resulting in prices rocketing and many high street stores designing their own modern versions. However, there are still bargains out there if you know what you are looking for and have the patience and tenacity to hold out for that perfect piece to come along.

Choose-Mid-century-furniture

Research

Some sellers think all Mid-century furniture is worth the same and bump up the price tag, so it is worth doing research on designers and brands and their retail value before you buy. I hear the phrase ‘that’s vintage, that is’ to justify high prices, often on brands that aren’t that desirable or on a piece that is in bad condition. However, if you do your research first by asking questions from sellers, watching how much items sell for on sites like Ebay, reading books and blogs on the subject, you should quite quickly get an idea of value for the more popular designs.

Budget

I would separate Mid-century into two categories: designer and brands. The key designers of the 20th century, such as Eames, Arne Jacobsen and George Nelson, will reach a high price and rightfully so, as they are much rarer. But be careful, as there are a lot of copies out there of these iconic pieces. Expect to pay about £4,000 for a genuine Eames lounge chair and ottoman.

More affordable ranges are out there though, which are the brands that families invested in at the time. G Plan, Ercol and Macintosh designed matching furniture sold through high street shops in the 1960s, which was bought by the masses. Therefore, there is more of it about today, resulting in better prices. Expect to pay £250 for a G Plan sideboard and £950 for an Ercol studio couch.

Ercol-studio-couch1

Where to buy

  • ANTIQUE & VINTAGE FAIRS

You’ll find great pieces at large antique fairs, such as Newark, Peterborough and Kempton Park, which tend to be sold from house clearance dealers, which means that they will be cheaper in price but often have not been restored. However, if you would prefer not to have to restore, then don’t forget the specialist events in our major cities. The Vintage Home Show, The Furniture Flea and Mid Century Modern all hold regular events in London, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol, with some of the best traders in the UK selling items suitable for all budgets, as well as co-ordinating homewares.

  • ONLINE

There are many businesses selling Mid-century furniture online, including auction sites such as Ebay and second hand sites such as Gumtree. But be careful as you cannot see and touch the furniture before you buy, so you are relying heavily on the photos and descriptions. Ask for more details and photographs, check out the seller’s refund policy and ask if you can see the item before committing to buy. Saying this, buying online is a great way to see a broad range of items and to compare and contrast before buying.

  • RETAIL SHOPS

There are some fabulous Mid-century shops across the UK but the prices will be higher for many reasons. The items have been sourced, collected and restored before you arrive, plus they will have needed to factor in the price of the rent, utility bills, staffing etc.

  • CAR BOOT SALES & CHARITY SHOPS

Once you’ve done your research, you can head to larger car boot sales with a clear idea of what it is you’re looking for and how much you want to pay. You’ll need to get there right at start – which could be as early as 6am – to get first pick of the best items. It’s always worth bartering for a bargain and taking a look in the van at furniture stalls as your dream item could be hiding away ready to be put on sale later.

  • AUCTIONS & HOUSE CLEARANCE SHOPS

These are a great way to bag a bargain, but you need to arrive before the sale to check the condition of the items you’re interested in and make sure they’re genuine. Keep your budget in mind so that you don’t get carried away when bidding. And always find out what the commission rate is, and this will need to be paid on top of the price you’ve bid.

Choose-Mid-century-furniture

Styling tip

Keep an open mind about how pieces can be used. The G Plan dressing table, for instance, makes a great desk once the mirror is removed. A freestanding sewing box can be the perfect side table with useful storage. And even a cocktail cabinet with a pull-down door can be used as a workstation/bureau.

Buying tips

  • Make sure you measure your room before you buy as many of the pieces, such as day beds and sideboards, are large.
  • Thoroughly check the condition before you buy, unless you are prepared to restore. Check for woodworm, loose handles, water damage and badly glued repairs in particular.
  • Look for features that show the craftsmanship of the piece, meaning the item is of better quality. Real wood is worth more than veneer (and is easier to restore), look for dove-tailed joints on drawers, piano hinges and Scandinavian designs.

Restoration tip

Hide scratches on teak by using a gentle dab of scratch cover applied with a soft duster. Medium wood finish is best for classic teak but test a patch underneath before you start. For stubborn marks, gently sand the teak then apply teak oil sparingly. Be careful, though, as this won’t work on teak veneer.

Kate’s book Style Your Modern Vintage Home is available online and in bookshops now.

Choose-Mid-century-furniture

Kate’s book Style Your Modern Vintage Home is available online and in bookshops now.

Join Kate on her blog www.katebeavis.com

Twitter: @yourvintagelife

Facebook: www.facebook.com/katebeavisvintage

Instagram: @ihavethisthingwithvintage

Pinterest: uk.pinterest.com/yourvintagelife/

Comments
  • […] For a vintage desk your best option is to use a dressing table and remove the mirrors. G Plan’s Fresco range in a medium glossy teak comes with two sets of side drawers and a pull out slim line drawer for stationary. The mirror can then be hung in your bedroom or hallway.  Alternatively use a bureau with a pull down door to position your laptop on. A more easily found solution is a 1960s cocktail cabinet as this also has a pull down door front and an inner light. They come with a lock and key for added security as well as a lower cupboard or drawers. For advice on where to find these key pieces, read my article for Real Homes How To Source Mid Century Furniture. […]

  • […] is my article for Real Homes magazine. All images by Simon Whitmore for my book Style Your Modern Vintage […]

  • Post a comment
    You must be logged in to comment. Log in