Mid-century modern comes of age

Starck, Foster, Gray – 20th-century design classics in Dublin auction tomorrow

As “brown furniture” continues to struggle in the auction rooms, there’s been a surge of interest in 20th-century furniture, some of which is on the way to becoming collectible and the antiques of the future. Already items made during the early years of the 20th century are officially classed as antiques.

De Veres is tapping into the growing market with its Design Auction of classic 20th-century furniture and lighting in Dublin this weekend. The auctioneers said bidders would find examples of "iconic 20th century design of really superb quality".

Modern design effectively began after the first World War with the Art Deco movement in Paris where designers and artists including the Co Wexford-born architect and furniture-maker Eileen Gray worked. In 1973, three years before her death, she signed a contract with Aram Designs in London to bring her designs into production and these are still made by ClassiCon, a German company.

De Veres is selling a lacquered wood four-fold screen, designed by Eileen Gray for ClassiCon with an estimate of €1,200-€1,600.

Original Art Deco
The sale features some original Art Deco items, dating from 1925, including a pair of mahogany and velvet fauteuils (armchairs) by Georges de Bardyere (€8,000-€12,000). A chrome, six-branch chandelier with glass shades by Hettier & Vincent has an estimate of €1,500-€2,500.


The auction catalogue charts the evolution of 20th-century design decade-by-decade. Among the highlights is a birch and ebonised cocktail cabinet designed, in the 1940s, by Paolo Buffa (€3,000-€5,000).

A Nomos table (1983), designed by architect Sir Norman Foster, and made by Tecno in Italy is estimated at €1,500-€2,000.

Also from the 1980s is a pair of Pratfall chairs by French designer Philippe Starck (€1,400-€1,800), with curved plywood backs, on tubular steel legs and with black leather seats. Starck designed these chairs for Café Costes in Paris with a tripod base "to ensure that waiters were less likely to trip over the legs".
De Veres auctioneer Rory Guthrie said the auction lots were "the antiques of the future" and cited furniture from 1960s Denmark as comparable to Georgian period furniture "in terms of quality and design". Among the Danish lots is a pair of Swan chairs by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen, estimated at €1,500-€2,500.

Viewing of the 350 lots in De Veres Design Auction, today and tomorrow, at The Pavilion, Leopardstown Racecourse, where the auction starts at 2pm tomorrow .