SUSTAINABILITY IS ON everyone’s minds at the moment, with consumers realising they need to be more forward-thinking when making purchases for their homes.
A potential solution? Investment buys. Lean away from trend-led pieces that you’ll undoubtedly grow tired of, and opt for timeless, high-quality furniture that you’ll adore forever.
One option is to choose handmade and designer pieces, where you’re guaranteed flawless construction and quality materials.
Another, more cost-effective option, is to rummage around vintage and antique furniture, where fantastic design and craftsmanship can be found at a more accessible price point. Seek out flea markets, online consumer-to-consumer websites and estate auctions for the best bargains. And remember, if a 30-year-old piece still looks beautiful now, it will most likely look just as good in another 30.
To give you a dose of investment inspiration, I spoke with some of Ireland’s top interior designers to discover the forever buys they treasure – and the purchases they regret but that ultimately taught them a lesson or two.
1. Amanda Sawyer of Irish Girl in Brooklyn
My most loved investment piece: A very expensive French sofa
“Fifteen years ago, I bought a very expensive French sofa from Catherine Memmi in Paris. It was black leather with a Belgian linen seat and cushions. We even brought it from New York back to Ireland.
“I wanted a change, so I called them and they made slip covers for me in cream Belgian Linen. So now it has pride of place in our new house. It is simple, minimal and timeless in design. It works anywhere and has shown so little wear and tear. Quality always has value, though I do wish it was covered in Irish linen.”
And the piece I regret spending on: A €3,200 table from Crate & Barrell
“Many years ago, I bought a dining room set. It was a solid cherrywood table and chairs from Crate and Barrel in the US. It cost me $3,500 (€3,200) and as soon as it was delivered, I hated it. I had to live with it for a long time and it made me realize I only like handmade or old furniture. Never made that mistake again.”
2. Cathy O’Donoghue, Flamingo Interior Design
My most loved investment piece: A €140 bureau I found in a secondhand shop
“I love our mid-century bureau. I found it in a secondhand shop for €140 when we bought our house. I didn’t know where we’d put it but just knew I couldn’t leave it behind. We have it in our hallway and it’s used as a console table. It’s the first piece of furniture you see when you walk into the house and sets the tone for the heavily mid-century modern style throughout the house.”
And the purchase I regret spending on: A space-sucking divan bed
“In a bit of a panic, we bought a divan bed base when we moved into our home. Visually, it did nothing for the room and swallowed up so much space. Thankfully, we’ve changed to a cast iron bed since which makes the room seem a lot bigger.”
3. Denise O’Connor, Optimise Design
My most loved investment piece: Two Danish chairs from a London stall
“My favourite pieces are two beautiful mid-century Danish armchairs that my husband bought from a stall on the Portobello market 16 years ago when we were living in London. I think these are especially important to me because being in the industry I tend to make all of the furniture and accessory-buying decisions in our house, but these chairs were an unprompted purchase by my husband.
“I’ve had them reupholstered a couple of times and one of the arms broke when we were moving house, so I had it repaired and both chairs refurbished. Now they look good as new.”
And the purchase I regret spending on: A pricey duvet set that irritated my skin
“There was a beautiful duvet set that I spotted years ago in Living Etc. It was white with gorgeous ruffled details. This was before the days when pretty much everything was available online, and not everything in the UK magazines was available in Ireland. So when I spotted the set in Debenhams, I was delighted. I was so excited that I grabbed it without reading the label to find out what it was made of.
“I dressed the bed and it looked gorgeous, but that night I didn’t sleep a wink because both the duvet and pillows were 100% polyester. I’ve never made the same mistake since.”
4. Elaine Verdon, Leo + Cici
My most loved investment piece: My Duff Tisdall armchair
“In my sitting room, I have an armchair which I purchased when moving into my home 12 years ago. Designed by Arthur Duff and Greg Tisdall of Duff Tisdall, it was an investment piece which we bought along with a couch of theirs.
“I love that it has a modern design, yet surprises everyone who sits in it when it rocks. It’s covered in a damask electric blue fabric, and it’s still in perfect condition despite living with a large dog and unruly toddler!
And the purchase I regret spending on: Actually, I wish I had spent more
“I regret not buying the matching Duff Tisdall footstool with the rocking chair! It felt like an unnecessary and costly purchase at the time, but I still think about it!”
My most loved investment piece: An Apparatus Cloud pendant light (which I don’t yet own, sadly)
“My favourite investment piece at the moment is the Cloud pendant by New York-based company Apparatus. It has a whimsical and dreamlike quality to it, and it creates an immediate romantic atmosphere anywhere it sits. I had the pleasure of using it in a recent project and the quality and delicacy of it was even more beautiful in real life.”
And the purchase I regret spending on: The vintage armchair I bought online
“It was beautiful in the pictures but not so beautiful in real life! The lesson is to make sure to either see detailed photos of fabric or get sample swatches of fabric before you buy.”