20th century design appraisal

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Mearto Specialist:


Delia has nearly 30 years of experience at regional and international auction houses in the United States, and is also currently the editor of an art and antiques trade publication that tracks market trends, auctions and antiques shows. Delia is a generalist in glass, ceramics, silver and other metals, fine art, textiles, antiquities, wines and spirits, stamps and currency, collectibles and dolls and toys. Additionally, she is a specialist in 15th to 21st Century furniture from around the world. Her extensive professional network of appraisers, curators, dealers and collectors has proven to be an invaluable resource in her work for Mearto.

20th century modern and contemporary design is increasingly in demand by collectors worldwide. The prices have increased consistently and some unique pieces fetched astronomical prices at auctions, which begs the question: How are design objects valued?

The timeless design and impeccable craftsmanship in modern armchairs, sofas, and tables make them highly sought after both by traditional collectors and the younger generation. Materials such as warm wood, rattan, and luscious leather bring life into the early modern and mid-century furniture.

Where as contemporary design furniture is popular due to its fine art-like sculptural form. Finding a 20th-century design appraiser can be tricky. If you have a design object and are curious about the market value, Mearto puts you in contact with appraisal specialists who make an assessment and determine the price of your 20th-century Design objects.

Design is without a doubt one of the rising categories in collecting and also selling in auctions. Especially the younger generation begins to collect design because it is also a useful object like a shelf or chair.

Mid-century modern design, which flourished roughly from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, has left an enduring legacy in the world of furniture design. Here are some of the most influential mid-century furniture designers:

1. Charles and Ray Eames

  • Key Works: Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, Eames Molded Plastic Chairs, Eames Molded Plywood Chairs.
  • Contribution: Known for their innovative use of materials like molded plywood and fiberglass, the Eames duo revolutionized furniture design with their ergonomic, functional, and aesthetically pleasing pieces.

2. George Nelson

  • Key Works: Nelson Marshmallow Sofa, Nelson Platform Bench, Bubble Lamp.
  • Contribution: As the director of design for Herman Miller, Nelson introduced a range of iconic designs that emphasized functionality, simplicity, and comfort.

3. Eero Saarinen

  • Key Works: Tulip Chair, Womb Chair, Saarinen Dining Table.
  • Contribution: Saarinen’s designs are characterized by their organic shapes and innovative use of materials, particularly fiberglass and aluminum.

4. Florence Knoll

  • Key Works: Knoll Sofa, Florence Knoll Dining Table, Knoll Bench.
  • Contribution: As a pioneering designer and architect, Florence Knoll introduced a minimalist, functional approach to furniture design and played a crucial role in shaping modern office interiors.

5. Hans Wegner

  • Key Works: Wishbone Chair, Round Chair (also known as the "The Chair"), Shell Chair.
  • Contribution: Wegner, a Danish designer, is renowned for his craftsmanship and the organic functionality of his wood furniture, which combines comfort with a refined aesthetic.

6. Arne Jacobsen

  • Key Works: Egg Chair, Swan Chair, Series 7 Chair.
  • Contribution: Jacobsen's designs are celebrated for their sculptural quality and blend of form and function, often using innovative techniques and materials.

7. Isamu Noguchi

  • Key Works: Noguchi Coffee Table, Akari Light Sculptures.
  • Contribution: Noguchi’s work transcends conventional furniture design, integrating art and functionality in pieces that often feature organic shapes and innovative materials.

8. Harry Bertoia

  • Key Works: Bertoia Diamond Chair, Bertoia Side Chair.
  • Contribution: Bertoia’s wire mesh chairs are both sculptural and functional, showcasing his expertise in both art and industrial design.

9. Finn Juhl

  • Key Works: Chieftain Chair, Pelican Chair, Poet Sofa.
  • Contribution: Juhl is noted for his organic, expressive forms and his emphasis on craftsmanship and the human touch in furniture design.

10. Verner Panton

  • Key Works: Panton Chair, Panthella Lamp.
  • Contribution: Panton was a visionary designer known for his bold, futuristic designs and innovative use of plastic and other synthetic materials.

These designers not only created some of the most iconic furniture pieces of the 20th century but also set the stage for contemporary design with their emphasis on functionality, simplicity, and innovative use of materials. Their work remains highly influential and continues to inspire designers and enthusiasts around the world.

How to determine the value of design

Design pieces especially furniture are mostly industrial design and so often pieces which are produced in higher numbers. We have to difference early pieces from later piecer or copies of an successful design. Other pieces like glass or objects in a lower number are signed or stamped.

What to look for when appraising design

Producer marks, stamps and the right material and little differences in the technical construction. Often the later pieces or remakes have little differences to simplify the production.

Is it a replica or an original

Look for papers or documents. When was is bought and is there a guarantee or some papers. Images of the technical details especially with design furniture could clarify if it is a later remake.

What our customers say:

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I received a response and information regarding my items in less than 48 hours, which I appreciated. The appraiser was very knowledgable.

Kristal Hicks Torpey

I highly recommend Mearto if you're curious of the value or background of any item in your home.
The appraisal I received from Mearto was detailed and thorough.

Austin Phillips

I received a quality appraisal in less than 48 hours. I also acquired a second opinion of an industry expert who concurred with Mearto's appraised value.  

Todd Roper

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