There has been a steady decline in the antique furniture market for a decade or more. Hopes that post-recession improvement in the overall economy would be reflected in the antiques & decorative arts market have gone unanswered. Through most of this downturn, the pieces at the top of the market had retained their value, but now even the "best of the best" are showing signs of decline.
Below is an excerpt from a recent article in the Financial Times entitled "The recline and fall of antique furniture" by Thomas Seal. To read the full article, visit http://on.ft.com/21lRzvS
The art market is awash with auction records. Classic cars are changing hands for millions of dollars. But the market for antique furniture, another popular alternative asset for the super-rich, has proved a terrible financial investment in recent years.
Figures from Art Market Research Developments reveal that the value of high-end antique furniture dropped by 9 per cent in the year to the end of 2014 and plummeted 28 per cent over the past decade. By comparison, no other asset on the index has depreciated: art was up by 10 per cent over the same year and classic cars by 16 per cent.
Yet collectors need to look more closely, as the drop is far from uniform. The figures reveal a change in tastes — and the old world has fallen decidedly out of fashion.
English pieces from the Regency period and the 18th century are worth 30 per cent less than 10 years ago and French 18th-century furniture has halved in value over the same period. Worst of all, the most recent figures from the Antique Collectors’ Club reveal Victorian and Edwardian furniture have lost more than two-thirds of their value since 2003.
Why? New tastes are emerging. In the past year, there has been a rise of 2 per cent in the value of early and mid-20th-century furniture.
“Individual designers still perform very strongly,” says Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Wealth Report. “But what some people call the ‘brown furniture’ . . . doesn’t really fit into the design aesthetic of the current times.
“People want the ‘Scandi’ style, a cleaner style. A lot of very wealthy people want lateral, apartment- type living. And a lot of old furniture is very big [and] you might not get those Regency pieces up the stairs in Mayfair.”
Size matters. London’s prime real estate is now worth more than £3,800 per square foot. At that price, every bit of space counts (£26 per square inch, to be precise) and it becomes less and less feasible to waste it on a mahogany monster — whatever its provenance.
“There are demands on floor space today,” says Natalia Miyar, design director of Helen Green Design, an interior decorating business. “Often, spaces have to be multi-functional, meaning the demand for traditional, single-use pieces has decreased.”