Joel Poole has written a series of articles on Mid Century Modern furniture. First, he told us why we should buy into this style. Today, he gives us hints and tips on how to find our own unique pieces and what to look out for.
Where can you find all this wonderful furniture?
There’s a multitude of places you can go to source Mid Century/Scandi style furniture, here are a few:
Websites such as Preloved and other resale sites, plus auction sites are often a good place to start. Just make sure you study the photos and read the description carefully. Also check the location of the item and take into consideration whether it will fit in the car or not, as if you need to hire a van this will obviously increase the cost of the item overall.
They can often be a good place to find hidden gems, just make sure you go with plenty of cash and a big car/van. Car boot sellers don’t often deliver!
There’s numerous vintage/antique fairs up and down the country, from small fairs with a handful of sellers to the very largest with 1000’s. Remember, the traders that attend can only take so much, so always ask if they have anything else that they haven’t brought along.
Most large towns/cities will have a regular household auction. These can be hit and miss and are often held on weekdays so be prepared to take a day off work if need be. Alternatively, many will let you leave commission bids so you don’t have to attend.
More and more sellers are using social media these days. Again, study any photos and details before committing to buy.
The old favourite! You can still pick up a bargain sometimes but you have to put the effort in and visit regularly. Also, many charity shops these days employ people to value the items before putting them on sale, so the prices can be a lot higher than they once were.
There is a wealth of dealers out there, many of whom stand at the vintage fairs. You will need to be prepared to pay a higher price from a dealer though, this is their living after all! But take into account that the item will have been cleaned at the very least, and likely will have had some restoration work carried out so they can sell it to you in the best condition possible, and many will deliver too.
What To Look For
So now you know where to go, what should you be looking for? Mid Century Modern has only in the last decade or so become recognised as being “collectible”, so there isn’t exactly a huge amount of reading material out there as you would find with antiques, for example.
There are a few books that lean more towards the high end, but other than that it’s research, research, research. As with anything, Google is a good place to start, and there a few groups on Facebook with some very helpful people who can point you in the right direction if need be. Trying to find an ID for a piece of furniture will not only give you a better idea of what it’s worth, but also some background on who made it and what it’s made of, which helps with repairs/maintenance in the long run. Here’s what you should be looking for:
A maker’s mark or stamp/badge
If you find this then it’s easy to find out more online. These will usually be found somewhere on the piece but it depends on the manufacturer exactly where. Just have a good look!
If there isn’t a maker’s mark, look at the handles or the legs
These are often a signature mark of the manufacturer and would have been used on various pieces of the same range.
Look for damage
Most of the furniture is veneer, so if this is badly damaged it can be expensive to fix. You could of course paint the piece – just don’t tell the purists.
The last thing you want to do is bring a piece of furniture that has woodworm into your home. If need be, treat it outside or in the garage/shed before bringing it inside.
If there’s a piece missing, don’t kid yourself into thinking you can just wander into a DIY store and buy a replacement. You may eventually find a spare part for a piece but this could take months and months of trawling fairs, online, etc. If you want it in your home straight away, make sure it’s complete!
So that’s it, a beginner’s guide to buying Mid Century Modern/Scandi! This is by no means exhaustive and if anything is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to know more, then I would strongly advise just get out there and find it. Find the furniture, trawl the internet, the fairs, read books, whatever, it’s the only way you’ll ever really learn! But I’ll warn you now, it can get addictive…
Joel has written a further piece on buying vintage furniture; his final article will be on the difference between Scandi style and Mid Century Modern design. You can also follow him on Instagram, Facebook and check out his website.