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How to Buy Vintage, Antique and Contemporary Furniture

The founder of curated marketplace The Kairos Collective shares her top tips for beginning a collection of your own

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Photography by Andrew Farrar, Courtesy of The Kairos Collective

Arguably there is no greater catalyst for a love of objects than a childhood spent moving from place to place, never growing too attached to anything. At least, this was the case for Tanya Southworth, founder of The Kairos Collective. “I grew up around the world,” she explains, “in each place we went to, we lived in a new house.” Together with her mother, Southworth travelled from shop to bazaar, dealer to craftsperson, picking up pieces to fill each of these homes – and in the process fostered a passion for well-made objects. Fast forward several years through a degree in Human Biology and Neuroscience and a short career in hedge funds embarked upon in order to raise the necessary money, and Southworth launched The Kairos Collective, an online marketplace dedicated to rare, antique and designer furniture sourced by the world’s most prolific collectors. It is her childhood passion for design made concrete – and for a generation disillusioned by IKEA and yet clueless as to how to begin buying ‘proper’ furniture, it is an invaluable resource.

Kairos exists to “educate and empower people,” Southworth says, but also to help people to express themselves through their homes – she wants to bring soul back into domestic spaces. “A lot of the shops that I used to go into when I was trying to build up my catalogue of dealers made me nervous,” she says. “I didn’t feel like I would be welcomed; there weren’t price tags on the items, I wouldn’t dare ask how much things were.” By taking this process and moving it online, championing those established dealers in the process, she hopes to break down these walls. “I want a younger generation to feel that this is accessible.”

And it is, she insists: while some of the prices are high – “we deal in the best of the best, after all” – some are infinitely more affordable and in time, as well as serving as a channel through which to buy from established antiques and furniture dealers, The Kairos Collective will host collaborations with brilliant artisans and sell limited editions alongside its top-of-the-range works. “Furniture is becoming more serious again,” she says, “and people are looking for investments. A good piece of furniture is something that will be passed down from one generation to the next forever – it’s about leaving your mark, and having things that are left behind and speak for you. These are beautiful items that are so unique, and you just can’t beat the quality. They're made with such love, it’s almost palpable.” 

Here, Southworth shares five tips for beginning a collection of your own.

1. Do your research

“Read up on the key periods, designs, makers and get familiar with the language. There’s a big difference between an original and something ‘inspired by’, ‘after’ or ‘made in the style of’.”

2. Go to the market

“Whether you buy online from The Kairos Collective, or scour the flea markets in Paris, go somewhere that you can see hundreds of dealers in one place. You’ll get better value, more choice and more inspiration.”

3. Buy limited editions

“Small production runs, special editions and collaborations always come with a more interesting story. They’re much more likely to increase in value too.”

4. Shop 20th century

“My addiction is mid-century modern design – its sleek lines go with anything and it never seems to go out of fashion. I love that there are still so many underrated designers and makers to collect, alongside the greats, like Jean Prouvé or Charlotte Perriand.”

5. Collect what you love

“That’s the most important tip! Even if you’re buying as an investment, buy something that speaks to you and that you’ll enjoy living with.”

With thanks to The Kairos Collective.

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