How Shipping Delays Turned Used Furniture Into A Hot Commodity
Kanebridge News
Share Button

How Shipping Delays Turned Used Furniture Into A Hot Commodity

Those fed up with endless waits for new purchases, are turning to antique, vintage and even contemporary resale furnishings.

By MICHELLE SLATALLA
Tue, Feb 8, 2022 11:21amGrey Clock 6 min

THE PARENTS of the bride were thrilled to announce that after many Covid-related false starts, their daughter was at long last ready to tie the knot. They had a date, an intimate guest list and a wedding dress. There was just one problem—the chairs.

Sasha Adler, the interior designer decorating the Los Angeles home in anticipation of the November 2021 party, had ordered 14 custom scallop-backed dining chairs a year ago. The vendor said they’d be delivered in about four months, by May. Which changed to June. Then July rolled around and still no chairs. Shipping delays, logistics, Covid, Covid, blah blah, the vendor said.

In late August, Ms. Adler came up with a bold Plan B: Buy a set of exquisite, antique Louis XVI chairs from online vintage marketplace Chairish. They weren’t perfect—the chair seats needed new upholstery. But in today’s chaotic, supply-chain-challenged world, buying vintage and tweaking it is as close as we’re going to get to near-instant gratification.

“Really, what other choice is there these days?” asked Ms. Adler, who got the chairs shipped to an upholsterer, re-covered in miraculously in-stock leather and delivered to the clients a few weeks ahead of the celebration.

In short, old stuff is the newest trend in interior design. After a year of record-breaking, months-long waits for new furniture, homeowners and pros are turning to preowned and vintage furnishings.

Once an afterthought for buyers, “secondhand furniture is becoming mainstream,” said furniture-industry investment banker Timothy Stump, noting that the U.S. market for used home goods and furniture is projected to grow by 38% by 2025, from $17.05 billion last year to $23.56 billion, according to consumer-data provider Statista. “If people are told they have to wait 30 weeks for a new sofa, they search for available options.”

And then there’s always your own attic.

“Looking around for a little cabinet to go in my hallway and seeing the shipping delays, I remembered I had an old dry sink that had been in my childhood home,” said homeowner Sierra Hartley, who lives in Medfield, Mass. “I painted it exactly the colour I wanted—it took about four hours—and now I have this piece in my home that has a story to it.”

Fueling the popularity of preowned purchases is an awareness of how much furniture is thrown out every year—12 million tons in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “People are bringing me things that in years past would have gone to the landfill,” said furniture restorer Paul Casaccio of Paint and Rehab Designs in Nutley, N.J. He recently refinished a beat-up dining room table for neighbours. “It’s solid wood, and after I stripped it down, it had a beautiful grain.”

The surge in secondhand chic, coinciding with the ascendancy of the so-called grandmillenial style that is fast turning “frumpy” into a synonym for “fashionable,’’ has also created a new, relaxed approach to decorating.

“It’s almost bizarre the way people are breaking all the rules we used to have, mixing antiques with modern things, putting things from the 18th century in the same room with things from 1950,” said Al Ruschmeyer, an interior designer in San Francisco. “For a friend who was an art dealer, I combined her modern art with a Victorian chair and a teddy bear.”

Vintage furniture site Chairish, which posted 54% year-over-year revenue growth in 2021, has seen a surge in sales of jewel-toned Chinese Art Deco rugs, armchairs upholstered in nostalgic florals and roll-top desks. “People are interested in the warmth those pieces bring,” said co-founder Anna Brockway.

Also sought by shoppers trying to circumvent shipping delays are nearly new contemporary pieces, often still in production, found on resale sites such as AptDeco, Kaiyo and even Facebook Marketplace. For instance, Kaiyo, in New York City, promises to deliver a “gently used” RH Maxwell sofa ($2,100) in as quickly as two days to the lower Northeastern states. Expected delivery of a new version (from $3,695) is between June 23 and July 22, according to the RH site. RH said a company spokesman was unavailable to comment.

Although used furniture can be a quick solution—even with truck-driver shortages, most pieces can be delivered domestically in weeks—designers, upholsterers and restorers caution that it’s not always less expensive.

“It’s a piece-by-piece situation. I have one client who needs a bigger dining table and who wants to re-use ornate table legs and get a new custom table top, which will cost more than buying a new table,” said Tina Ramchandani, an interior designer in New York City. “But for a different client, we are reupholstering her headboard and side rails, and the cost turned out to be cheaper than a new bed.”

Thanks to designers and homeowners who are buying vintage sofas, armchairs and chaises, business is booming for the nation’s upholsterers. “I have a six-months waiting list,” said Rachel Fletcher of Knox Upholstery in Knoxville, Tenn., and president of the National Upholstery Association. “When Covid hit, we all thought we’d go out of business. Instead, I’m expanding out of my house into a commercial space. My dogs will miss me.”

Reupholstering costs vary widely. Extras like nailheads, welting, buttons, fringe and multiple cushions add up. “If you buy a vintage or antique sofa, new upholstery will probably cost half the purchase price,” said Lauren McGrath, a Greenwich, Conn., interior designer. “The rule holds true for a fully upholstered chair, like a wingback.”

Don’t expect perfection when buying secondhand furniture, said Chloe Kalk, an interior designer in Los Angeles: “It’s a little riskier because it might need a screw or a sealant or even help from a handyman, but in the end you can say, ‘I’m the only one in the world who has this 1930s coffee table from France.’”

Buyers also should check delivery costs before clicking to buy. Shipping internationally is much more of a challenge than a year ago, both because of delays and the increased expense, said Ray Allegrezza, executive director of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association in High Point, N.C. “There are a record number of ships waiting for berths in the harbours and the cost of a shipping container that used to be $2,000 a year ago now is over $20,000.”

Most in demand? Furnishings you can refashion for a new purpose: demilunes as desks, vanities dragooned into duty as console tables. “These things may have lasted for a century or more already, [and are] suddenly getting another life,” said Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director at online antiques seller 1stDibs, where sales of dressing tables rose more than 35% last year.

Also enjoying a renaissance are 20th-century, solid-wood “brown furniture” brands manufactured in the U.S. and known for silhouettes in traditional styles like Regency, Georgian and early American. At Kaiyo, prices of Drexel Heritage and Ethan Allen increased by 13.8% and 9.9% respectively last year, said founder Alpay Koralturk. “It makes sense. They are old brands, with a lot of high-quality product out there, and people now are willing to mix and match anything.”

Buyers are also snapping up vintage free-standing cupboards and small dressers to use in lieu of custom kitchen cabinetry they can’t get built because contractors are backed up. “I have a kitchen project where a client has a pie safe her grandfather built. Her initial reaction was ‘It doesn’t fit with what we’re doing and I’m going to get rid of it,’” said Tabitha Mahaffey, a designer in Fort Worth, Texas. “But we had a discussion: ‘It’s right here right now, so what if we paint it and put new hardware on it?’ And now it works in the space.”

The year has given many shoppers an appreciation for the human stories behind their new, old furniture. Consider the experience of Shannon Eddings, an interior designer in Austin, Texas, who wanted an inexpensive swivel chair for her sitting room.

“I found the perfect 1980s chair on Craigslist, and I wanted to re-cover it in a checkerboard fabric I loved,” Ms. Eddings said. When she went to seal the deal, she found “the chair belonged to my neighbour two doors down.”

No Pro Necessary

Six quick ways to perform a facelift on flawed used furniture, if it isn’t worth the time or money to pay someone else to do it.

1. Magic Marker

“For case goods, touch up or minor repair is generally easily resolved with furniture pens,” said Highlands, N.C., interior designer Jamie Elliott McPherson.

2. Strip Show

“Use Easy-Off Oven Cleaner to strip furniture if you love the look and feel of raw, unfinished wood,” said Hillary Kaplan, an interior designer in Westfield, N.J. Leave a coat of it on for an hour, then scrub it off with warm, soapy water.

3. Flute Music

Embellish a plain-Jane dresser or sideboard with detailing. “You can add fluting to a piece easily with Pole-Wrap, a trend I’m seeing on Instagram,” said Denver, furniture flipper Leslie Jarrett. The pliable sheets of decorative wood were originally designed to spruce up basement columns.

4. Cover Story

Throw a beautiful vintage rug over the back of an imperfect chair or sofa, said Ms. Kaplan. “It gives a lived-in-but-elegant look.”

5. Finishing Touch

Swap in sleek hardware to instantly give old furniture a new look, suggested designer Ashley DeLapp, of Charlotte, N.C. “The piece will look more cohesive in a modern room,” she said.

6. Shape Shift

Remove stylistic frills to declutter the lines of an old piece, said Paul Casaccio, of Paint and Rehab Designs. The Nutley, N.J., restorer recently removed a sea-themed medallion from a coffee table. “Without the shell motif, the table was a simple shape and an easy fit in any room,” he said.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: February 4, 2022.



MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

Related Stories
Lifestyle
The surprising passions paying off for investors
By Bronwyn Allen 09/04/2024
Lifestyle
Kanebridge News partners with Dubai Fintech Summit
By KANEBRIDGE NEWS 08/04/2024
elon musk
Lifestyle
The Inside Tale of Tesla’s Fall to Earth
By REBECCA ELLIOTT 08/04/2024
The surprising passions paying off for investors

The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

MOST POPULAR
35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Related Stories
Lifestyle
Cadillac’s Electric Push Includes the Opulent Velocity Concept
By Jim Motavalli 01/04/2024
Money
Returning From Parental Leave Can Be Stressful. How Some Employers Aim to Fix That.
By TARA WEISS 01/02/2024
Money
Covid Slashed Consumer Choices. This Is Why They Aren’t Coming Back.
By PAUL BERGER 02/01/2024
0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop