I was recently asked whether or not I could help to determine if a reader’s vintage sofa was valuable. I’m not an appraiser, but I do have opinions. So, I guess now’s a good time to remind you that this blog contains
highly edited versions of my own opinions only, and that there are a whole bunch of other opinions out there. If you’re even the least bit interested in my opinion on the value of vintage furniture, here goes…
First, we must consider that value can mean different things to different people. These are the main values that I believe furniture can possess:
– monetary value
– unique value
– quality value
– sentimental value
– comfort value
Monetary Value is likely what most would think of when assessing a piece’s value. Consider this. If you have a vintage sofa, how much do you think you could sell it for? Believe me, you’re not likely to get much. Want proof? Take a gander through the scores of Kijiji listings. Used upholstered furniture, no matter what the style, is just used furniture. If it’s upholstered in its original fabric, is it worth more? Who really wants to have 50 years of someone else’s sweat, crumbs and popcorn kernels in their home? What if it’s a designer piece? Well, if it is a true vintage designer piece of furniture, then it may very well be valuable. An original Hans Wegner piece such as the AP-27 chair pictured above may go for as much as $13 000. However, many designer pieces are still manufactured today. Your Eames lounge chair and ottoman or Florence Knoll sofa may be worth a lot of money, but it can also be purchased brand new.
Unique Value. If unique style is important to you, then vintage items will hold much value. A vintage piece of furniture, re-upholstered in your own choice of fabric, can not be purchased by anyone else. There are many cheap knock-offs on the market today, so if you desire that Mad Men look, it’s not too hard, nor expensive, to achieve. But true, authentic vintage furniture is limited in supply. I find that the happiest of my clients are not those who have spent a fortune on a highly coveted designer vintage sofa (or those who want me to repair a cheap, broken knock-off), but those who have saved a very stylish sofa from the landfill. Truly, it’s the sweetest thing when a vintage seeker is united with a worthy trophy…a diamond in the rough.
Quality Value. Okay. I admit. I’m not a style snob, nor a vintage snob. I’m not particular about acquiring specific designer pieces, nor do I really care if a famous designer created a piece I’m working on. What I do care about is quality. Hardwood frames, properly placed spring systems and good quality padding are what I look for in a piece of furniture. Style is a distant second, because I know that style can be changed to suit the current trends.
Older furniture has a high quality value. Furniture that has lasted 40+ years has more value than even an “expensive” piece purchased today. Many people believe that if they spend a couple thousand dollars on a sofa, they are getting the best quality. Not necessarily true. You may have purchased a trendy piece, from a trendy store, but do not mistake this with quality. A well-made, high quality sofa will have a solid, kiln-dried, hardwood frame. It will have an adequate number of 8-way, hand-tied coil springs. It will have metal supports or jute webbing. It will be padded on the outside arms and outside back. The frame will not twist when an arm is picked up. It will be extremely heavy.
Sentimental Value is the value attached to an object through experiences with it. This value is non-transferable, but should not be discounted as a real value. Our lives are lived amongst the furniture in our homes. It stands to reason that we are reluctant to give up a piece of furniture that holds so many memories.
Comfort Value is what I think of when a client brings me an over-stuffed, out-of-date, well-worn sofa for re-upholstery. This person is not interested in the latest styles, only in maintaining their comfortable living space. Is there anything wrong with keeping an outdated piece? I’ve already explained, I’m not a style snob. If it’s comfortable, and well loved, I believe it has value.