Quarantine Series: Changing Styles

As a follow up to last week’s article about antique prices we thought we would write a little about changing styles. What follows is a generalization of what was the most common style at the time. There are always exceptions.

At least once a month someone comes in the Barn and says something like: “I haven’t been in here in twenty years, this place looks exactly the same”. While the place has always been packed with lots of cool stuff. The stuff we carry is very different from twenty years ago. For example 20 years ago furniture accounted for well over 80% of our sales, today it’s closer to 60%. Accessories have replaced items like formal dinning sets. So the contents of the Barn are actually very different from twenty years ago.

Let’s begin in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Back then many kids grew up with what is now called midcentury modern furniture in their homes. By the 1980’s those kids had grown up and were buying their own furniture. And the vast majority of them hated midcentury modern. Or as it was inaccurately called at the time “Danish modern furniture” or the “horrible crap my parents had”. I know this is hard to believe now that midcentury modern is so popular. But in the 1980’s we really couldn’t give it away. Fun fact the term mid century modern wasn’t coined until 1984, by Cara Greenburg.

The vast majority of our customers were in one of two camps in 80’s and through the 90’s. You were either formal or country. If you were country you bought Canadianna or primitives. And you cared about things like original milk paint and how many boards were on the top of your table. If you were formal, Victorian, Duncan Fyfe, and French styles were what you were looking for. And if you were lucky enough to find an original Georgian piece you nearly lost your mind. Seriously, this stuff was in such high demand that occasionally our customers would fight over a piece, literally. That is why to this day when a customer tells us they want a piece we take the tag off of it. That way it’s clear who it belongs to, and no one gets in a fight. Getting beat up while antiquing does not make for a good story.

Today another generation has grown up and is rebelling against their parents formal furniture. By buying what they think is more modern furniture. But what is really their grandparents furniture. The furniture their parents hated.

Today we sell lots of reclaimed wood furniture. But that is nothing new. We’ve been selling reclaimed wood furniture for over 40 years. It’s just that back then we called it furniture made from barn board. Or we just said it was made from old wood. Obviously we weren’t as good at branding as today’s generation. Reclaimed wood is much catchier.

These days greys are very popular. There are lots of “sundried” products on the market. Industrial collections are popular, lines with names like-stark, concrete, ironsides, and industrial[ that one is a little on the nose]. But it’s still generational. We carry the entire line of Irish coast reclaimed wood furniture in a more traditional colour called African dusk. The line is also available in sundried. There are photos of examples of the two colours at the bottom of this article . More than 90% of the African dusk colour pieces we sell are bought by customers over the age of 40. Conversely about 90% of the sundried pieces we sell are bought by customers under the age of 40.

There has also been a move toward more natural forms lately. Live edge tables are the most obvious example. I am particularly found of the root coffee tables we carry. And what we call stump vases. Where everyone is unique. If you’re not sure what I’m taking about there is a photo at he bottom of this article. Or you can check out the “Nature Form” section on our “Reproductions” page.

So if you are trying to figure out what style is coming next just look to the past. Or maybe technology and modern forms will push out warmer classic style for good. But that would be something new.