I want to buy my daughter an antique or vintage item for her wedding present. My budget is lavish, but I don’t know where to start. Can you help? She hankers after mid-century interiors.
A brilliant and generous idea. The trend for mid-century modern furniture and interiors has been around for a while, but I wager the fashion is here to stay. I am not so keen on the full Mad Men look, but the odd sensational and authentic piece adds glittering magic.
You will have noticed mid-century style knock-offs in almost every interior design store for a decade or so. Why is this furniture so enduringly appealing? For one, its pared-back simplicity works well in a variety of interiors. Stick a sideboard with the faintest trace of mid-century styling in a modern apartment or a Victorian house and it will go with whatever else is going on, because the aesthetic is casual and relaxed. After all, the originals were designed to be easy to live with.
But the mid-century look can feel stale. To avoid this, I mix mid-century designs with those from other decades: a modernist rosewood desk with a painted Regency chair beneath an ornate gilt mirror, say. As ever, it really is all about the mix.
So where to shop for your sensational present? And what kind of item to go for? London’s largest showroom dedicated to fine Scandinavian design, The Modern Warehouse, is in Hackney Wick. Its showroom displays a large and constantly changing collection of modernist vintage furniture, lighting and accessories produced by the best architects and designers from the golden age of design in Scandinavia.
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Your present should feel substantial and solid, so I like the idea of a desk. I am eyeing up an elegant rosewood desk designed by Kurt Ostervig for Jason, Denmark — yours for £7,250. According to the retailer, it is one of the most sought-after Scandinavian desks of the period and with those legs I quite understand why.
A sideboard or cabinet is another idea. I am a regular customer at Mark Punton’s Battersea-based Ebury Trading. In his warehouse and on his website antique lighting can be found next to furniture and decorative pieces from the 18th century through to mid-century design. Proving that mid-century does not always mean sensible wood and sober shapes, the last time I visited I fell in love with an outrageous 1950s Italian bar cabinet in pink lacquer with faux malachite panels (pictured above). I am generally more Italian mid-century than Scandinavian. All those straight lines and sterile silhouettes often leave me cold. I crave curves, wiggles and frills.
Mark is also selling an architectural bar cabinet in the most gorgeous shade of lipsticky-scarlet lacquer (honestly, you could lacquer a wooden spoon and I would love it) by the Italian designer Paolo Buffa. Buffa, along with French designer Jean Royère, is known for playful details.
It could be worth investing in a piece by a celebrated designer. US site 1stdibs, which sells from shops internationally, is another great place to search for presents. A seller in New York has a lovely cherrywood console table with scalloped detailing, designed in the early 1940s by Gio Ponti, one of the most influential figures in 20th-century Italian modernism. Another good site is Pamono.co.uk. Look out for validation — the 1stdibs console, for example, has been authenticated by the Gio Ponti Archives.
My dream piece of mid-century furniture? Something grand by Piero Fornasetti. Macclesfield-based Holly Johnson Antiques specialises in pieces by the famed Milanese designer; it currently has a lithographically printed Architettura cabinet with brass stand, made circa 1960 that, quite frankly, I would trade a kidney for.
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