Investment: These limited items have what it takes to become a collector’s item

EA hand-knotted carpet in the look of a surreal sea painting by Krjst Studio – almost too precious for the living room floor. Chairs and vases made of concrete – made with a 3D printer and colored – by Austrian Philipp Aduatz. From the Brazilian designer Humberto da Mata, who learned from the famous Campana brothers, a sunny yellow floor lamp that looks like it was made of plasticine. Such unusual objects could be seen at the Brussels fair “Collectible”, which focuses exclusively on modern design, produced only in small editions.

Interior architects, furniture collectors and other design connoisseurs come along Young collectible design Variation in living spaces. In other words: with furniture, lamps, carpets and other furnishings by young designers, which are either unique or produced in small editions of around twelve pieces. Such items are sold through galleries, through online retailers such as The Invisible Collection – or you can buy them directly from the designer.

Concrete armchair from the 3D printer by Philipp Anduatz (edition of eight, about 16,000 euros)

Source: © PARIS TSITSOS

Modern collectible designthat is, modern design to collect, covers roughly the years from 2000, Young collectible design those from around 2010. The border to art is fluid. Many a carefully crafted marble armchair may not be very comfortable, but it looks artistic in the living room like a sculptor – and complements it conversation piece the comfortable sofa.

New York interior designer Yaiza Armbruster, whose famous clientele also includes renowned fashion journalist Derek Blasberg, likes to work with limited editions by younger designers. She recommends viewing these items as part of a private collection that will last a lifetime.

She has just recommended to clients a 2016 colored resin console by Korean artist Wonmin Park. Armbruster asked Parisian designer Francesco Balzano if he would also make his “Dolce” table in light green marble. He liked the idea, Armbruster is now looking for suitable blocks of marble, so there will be a limited edition of eight pieces.

Colored Resin Console by Wonmin Park (Carpenters Workshop Gallery)

Colored Resin Console by Wonmin Park (Carpenters Workshop Gallery)

Source: © Adrien Millot

“The market for modern collectibles has been booming since Covid,” says design consultant Liv Vaisberg in Rotterdam. Together with Clélie Debehault, she founded the Collectible fair in 2018. “Today’s great young designers are tomorrow’s vintage,” says Clélie Debehault.

Designers (many of them graduates of the influential Design Academy in Eindhoven), galleries, museums and manufacturers exhibited their work on six floors of the fair in Brussels’ “Espace Vanderborght”, a former furniture store from the 1930s. There was fine craftsmanship and modern technology to see, as well as a lot of extravagance, such as the brightly colored papier-mâché furniture from the “Orgus” series by Brazilian designer Humberto da Mata.

“Orgus” furniture made of papier-mâché by Humberto da Mata, floor lamp about 5000 euros (Revel Gallery)

Source: © Photo Giuliana Ramaglia, Courtesy Humberto da Mata & Gallery REVEL

More and more galleries are also specializing in young collectible design. The well-known Charles Burnand gallery has just opened a new location in London’s Fitznovia area, representing up-and-coming designers and artists and offering bespoke work. And the New York Carpenters Workshop Gallery, one of the most important design galleries, recently dedicated an entire exhibition to seven up-and-coming furniture makers from America under the title “New Guard”.

But the trend also has its pitfalls: Interior designer Yaiza Armbruster sees the danger that the collector’s brand is primarily used to justify high prices. She advises to pay attention to where the designers studied, how long they have been working and who represents them. “There are pieces that are a little quirky and crazy that won’t stand the test of time.”

Unlike in art, manufacturing costs and craftsmanship are also crucial. Armbruster’s watchlist includes names like New York-based Russian designer Harry Nuriev of Crosby Studios and talent from Mexico, including London College of Art graduate Fabian Cappello.

Wall lamp #5 from Muller Van Severen.  Around 4500 euros

Wall lamp #5 from Muller Van Severen. Around 4500 euros

Source: © Fien Muller

Among the young furniture makers whose work could one day be traded as design icons, the Collectible Fair duo counts the Dutch Sabine Marcelis, born in 1985. The studied industrial designer and educated Eindhoven is known for colorful designs made of glass and synthetic resin and has already designed the stores of luxury brands such as Celine, Burberry or Isabel Marant.

Her “Coloured Candy Cube”, a cube she originally designed for the Celine stores, was recently added to the collection at the Vitra Design Museum – an accolade. At the furniture fair in Milan in June, she presented a new lamp collection for Ikea – it is not impossible for designers to produce small editions, but also to produce with large furniture manufacturers for the masses.

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The Belgian studio Muller Van Severen, backed by married couple Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen, both in their 40s and originally artists, also names the trade fair duo as possible icons of tomorrow. At the Collectible fair, the studio presented the new series “Frames”, strictly geometric sculptural wall lamps and mirrors.

Anyone considering 21st century design as an investment should look up a floor at the more established contemporary designers. Experts agree that it is difficult to predict price increases for the work of young talent. According to a market analysis by the online magazine The Design Edit, modern objects are becoming increasingly popular at auction.

When part of the estate of fashion designer and collector Karl Lagerfeld was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Paris at the end of 2021, his furniture, all objects created after 2000, achieved prices well above the estimated value. The mirror “Soleil noir mirror” (2007) by the French design star Martin Szekely, born in 1956, went under the hammer for a record price of 375,500 euros.

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