Danish designer Hans J Wegner (1914-2007), the master of Danish chair design, produced over 500 chairs in his lifetime, many of which have become classics. Among them was the CH27 Easy Chair, designed in 1951 and produced by the furniture company Carl Hansen & Son. Distinguished by its solid oak frame and cane weave on the back and seat, a piece recently went on sale at Noden in Singapore, where it sold out in no time.
In recent years, vintage furniture has seen a resurgence, and this sale is just the tip of the iceberg. In particular, there was a demand for 20th-century Scandinavian pieces from Wegner and his ilk, including Arne Jacobsen and Poul Henningsen.
(Related: Young wood artisans carry on the tradition of handmade furniture)
Noden’s owners, Marko Yeo and Tawan Conchonnet, can attest to that. According to them, it is the result of hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”), a Danish concept associated with conviviality and comfort. In a bid to recreate this, timeless Danish furniture designs that lasted from the 1940s to the 1960s took center stage.
Embrace the power of nostalgia
“Their stories and adventures are reason enough to fall in love with them,” says Yeo, whose shop specializes in vintage Scandinavian furniture from this period. “They still look perfect in today’s context and give a more authentic and warm feel.
“It’s a fascinating experience to buy something that was made in the golden age of Danish design, when designers and cabinet makers were still alive, and it’s still in excellent condition.”
“Each piece is unique and tells its own story,” says Dennis Cheok, creative director of interior design firm UPSTRS_ and fan. “Being able to bring something back to life that has survived the passage of time has a certain poetry to it.”
As Conchonnet points out, “Vintage furniture, especially vintage Danish design, has a moving and timeless appeal that new furniture can never replicate. It represents a time when craftsmanship was unmatched. The wood used at that time is also something you cannot find today.
Another reason for its appeal, according to Lynette Wong, is its surroundings. As the founder of retailer 1B2G, which sells furniture by 20th century Danish designers, explains: “There has been a move towards sustainability and that has extended to our homes as well. The ultimate in eco-responsibility is to buy vintage.
At Journey East, an industry mainstay since 1995, Founder and Managing Director Anita Sam agrees: “There’s a renewed appreciation for things that will stand the test of time as a nod to making responsible choices. in our way of life.
Plus, she says popular culture has something to do with it, too. “Shows like Mad Men and Queen’s Gambit helped popularize the Art Deco and retro periods. Nonetheless, I believe designs from this era are firmly independent and will always have a grateful following.
Journey East customer Shiv Nayar has furnished her home with many pieces from the store. “I probably hold the record,” she jokes, describing how her home is filled with everything from bookshelves to a sideboard, tables, chairs, mirrors and more.
“To me, vintage furniture represents an interesting and winning combination of fashion and function. As with wine, the older the better. There is no need to replace them,” adds Nayar.
(Related: Luxury rattan furniture to nail the natural decor look)
Buy what makes sense
While stores with well-curated collections aren’t hard to find, private collectors, dealers, and auctions are go-to sources for Wong, Yeo, and Conchonnet.
Finding vintage furniture is a lot of fun when you find the right piece. “There’s a certain thrill to browsing stores for hours and relishing the excitement and joy of finding a piece of furniture or an object that speaks to me,” Cheok says.
Those who prefer a structured approach should first search online for the most valuable and iconic pieces designed by the most renowned designers. “You will be able to see what makes these pieces special and why they are so valuable,” says Wong.
“This is usually due to the high level of craftsmanship and the type of wood used. For example, Brazilian rosewood will always cost more. As well as being an expensive material to begin with, its prestige has skyrocketed since it was added to the CITES endangered species list.
Wong suggests trusting your instincts to make your purchase, regardless of the price. Before analyzing the quality, the material, the rarity or the heritage, it is advisable to stir the emotions. “Buy a matching set whenever possible. These are harder to find, but will have the same patina and provenance, and are therefore more valuable and rare,” she suggests.
Vintage pieces (or collections) add uniqueness to a room. According to Nayar, their versatility allows them to blend in with any type of interior decor. His is a mix of Indian, Chinese, country and even steam punk styles.
“They seem to take in all the details around them and the character of their owners and become one with them,” she says. “They also reflect your personality. It is precisely this fact that attracts me at all times.”
Even as a retailer, Sam finds herself attached to the pieces she buys. One was an Art Deco bar that was the centerpiece of an event for Journey East. “Although we would have liked to keep it, it now sits proudly at the Lifestyle Monument in Tiong Bahru. Once in a while, I still go there to remember a cup of coffee, a bagel and therapy at the retail.
Cheok says: “There is a certain charm in nostalgia. It’s a powerful emotion, and it’s something that no shiny new thing can match.
(Related: Where to buy designer furniture in Singapore)
How to Incorporate Vintage Furniture into a Space
Dennis Cheok, creative director of interior design firm UPSTRS_, offers three ways to ensure the past fits comfortably into the present and the future.
Make it the centerpiece
Keep the area around it clear of clutter. Less is better. Combine it with pieces that complement each other in shape or color, but keep them to a minimum. In contrast, an organically shaped mirror can be placed above an angular vintage console table.
Keep it eclectic
Choose what tickles your fancy. Don’t be afraid to mix it with other pieces from different eras or cultures. This is especially useful if the collection is large and includes heirlooms. Consider whitewashing certain pieces, such as kopitiam chairs or a credenza, to modernize their appearance.
Don’t be minimalist
I saw many beautiful homes filled to the brim with all kinds of wonderful furniture, objects, art and paintings, each unique, each with so much history. However, this approach is not for everyone as it could lead to sensory overload. This is purely a process of trial and error with the ultimate goal of creating balance in space.