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Why your parents' retro objects are the new must-have collectables

Posted on 28/08/2019 in Press Coverage

We need a new word for antiques because the objects it tends to conjure up fail to capture the colour, diversity and exuberance of up and coming collectables.

The new kids on the block making waves in the saleroom often appear in our Mid-Century Interior Design Auctions. It’s one of our all-time favourite sales because it brims with a modern edge and colourful, sometimes quirky collectables.

The sales feature more contemporary items that speak of their period. At a glance you can usually tell what decade they are from – the post-war era in the 1950s, the swinging 60s or the retro 70s, perhaps.

Contemporary looks are cool

Sought after objects include studio pottery with a modern twist, Whitefriars glassware in a myriad of colours, quirky ceramics, modern art and much more.

Some objects look contemporary but were in fact made 100 or more years ago in workshops filled with ground-breaking designers, craftspeople and artists who were making bold new strides.

For example, phone, internet and room bidders battled to buy a Christopher Dresser toast rack for £2,000 at Hansons. Though modernist in appearance, it was designed in 1878.


Celebrated designers of the late 19th and 20th centuries include Rene Lalique, Daum and Gallé for art glass; silver and metalwork by Archibald Knox, Liberty & Co, and Georg Jensen; Moorcroft and Lenci pottery; bronze figures by Dimitri Chiparus, Ferdinand Preiss and Max Le Verrier and furniture by Marcel Breuer and Charles Eames.

However, this genre is expanding, growing and changing as new generations come along with a fresh eye and eclectic tastes. It’s not just about a Lalique bowl or Clarice Cliff jug. That 1970s teak coffee table in your mum’s lounge may be bang on trend, or that colourful piece of German studio pottery sitting on the sideboard.

It's all about kitsch and retro

Tastes have moved with the times. Think kitsch and retro and never dismiss an item you think looks dated because it doesn’t look old enough to be of value.

The general rule has always been that an antique has to be at least 100 years old but this definition sparks heated debate. In my opinion, a collectable object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its age and quality, cannot be dismissed.

To give you an idea of contemporary items that sell well, in our summer Mid-Century Interior Design sale modern art excelled.


For example, Lot 56, a framed 2009 oil painting by British artist Sherree Valentine Daines titled ‘Cafe D'Elegance’ sold for £3,200. Sherree has been described as ‘the face of modern British impressionism’.

Other top art lots included Lot 2, a Picasso Limited edition signed etching, which reached £1,800 and Lot 35, an oil painting by John Brian Vallely (Irish, 1941), entitled 'Sean Kelly Sprinting for the Line', which sold for £1,150.

More objects to catch bidders’ attention included Lot 330, an Art Deco Fairyland lustre pedestal bowl by Daisy Makeig-Jones for Wedgwood which was contested to £1,500.

Then there was Lot 245, a signed Gallé glass vase with peacock feather design, which reached £1,150 and Lot 195, a French art deco lamp with reclining bronze nude female, which sold for £700.

Stylish glassware in vogue

Colourful, summery glassware is something I am particularly fond of. Popular right now is Whitefriars glass by Geoffrey Baxter, a renowned designer who died in 1995.

The shapes, colours and textures used to create striking Whitefriars wares can sell for hundreds of pounds. In a recent sale, Lot 53, a Whitefriars Nuts and Bolts Meadow Green vase sold for £660 and lot 152, a Whitefriars Tangerine Banjo vase, made £630.

Our next Mid-Century Interior Design Auction is on November 5. The sales are led by James Harris who would be glad to assess any objects you have. Email [email protected] or call 01283 733988. Alternatively, drop into Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, DE65 6LS, for a free valuation on Wednesdays, 5-7pm, Fridays, 10am-4pm, or Saturdays, 9am-noon.