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Why Are Designer Furniture Pieces Expensive?

Here are four reasons why some of these items cost more than a car

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Original Article: Mike Rivera Photography: Vincent Coscolluela (Main Photo)

Ever wondered why a simple designer table or chair could fetch six figures (or more), locally? There are a lot of factors behind the cost, more so internally beyond the piece’s visual appearance. These serious collectors and storeowners explain the reasons behind the steep price tags.


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Its groundbreaking design

Jun Villalon, owner of The Drawing Room applauds the effort put into these iconic pieces. "They really spent time studying the ergonomics, the way the person sits, the way the person puts the hand on the arm, the way their feet fall flat on the ground," he says. 

That these pieces continue to serve our most mundane needs and still fit into the context of today's home have made them classics, according to Marlene Ong of MOs Design, "The classic has gone through the merciless battle between the old and the new." On the other hand, contemporary designs, yet to be judged by time, carry on the tradition of recording the evolution of modern man.

The Panton Chair by Verner Panton, for example, is one of revolutionary furniture pieces of the 20th century, as it is made out of a single piece of plastic. A new version of the Panton Chair—a futuristic, luminous variant called Panton Glow—will be released in June 2018.

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It’s a bit of design history right there

Then there are the design aficionados who want to own a piece of design history.  Ong shares, "We have a lot of the aspirational market. People who come here to aspire and wish that they would one day...buy some of the pieces." 

She admits though that some pieces may not fit into most homes, like Frank Gehry's corrugated board Wiggle Chair or the Eames' La Chaise. "These are pieces that are found in the context of museums nowadays...the production cost, the history, the name behind it has made it not as accessible as some designer pieces would be."


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The quality of the pieces is incomparable

You can see the attention to detail in creating a genuine Eames Lounge and Ottoman in this video, where the leather is hand-cut, hand-tufted, and the wood hand-polished to perfection. Herman Miller, the company that produces it, says that the chair is made with zero carbon footprint.

The pieces are very limited

With six-figure price tags, these chairs are definitely not for everyone. Steltz Lighting, the distributor of Italian lighting manufacturer Flos, carries pieces that cost more than half a million pesos, like the special edition black Arco Lamp by Achille Castiglioni. Of the 3,000 pieces made before the designer died in 2002, the three units that were shipped to the Philippines immediately sold out.

Most of these pieces have become collectibles

Some homeowners and serious furniture collectors have made it a mission to buy and collect pieces from specific designers, not necessarily to furnish their home, but just to own a piece of design history.

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For Ong and Villalon, however, it is important to make these iconic pieces accessible in order to be appreciated. Villalon emphasizes, "Even though they were designed by very, very popular or famous designers they're still really meant to be sat on." Meanwhile, Go looks forward to the day when designer furniture would be used in local public spaces like restaurants, airports and shopping malls.

This story originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Real Living magazine and has been updated by Realliving.com.ph editors

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