Menushopping cart
Tools for Working Wood
Invest in your craft. Invest in yourself.

JOEL Joel's Blog

A Visit To Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers


Set of Four Roberto Lazzeroni for Ceccotti Collezioni Fruitwood Dining Armchairs
Set of Four Roberto Lazzeroni for Ceccotti Collezioni Fruitwood Dining Armchairs, Estimate: $700 - $1,000, along with two Jean Prouve for Vitra Metal and Plywood "Standard" Chairs, estimate: $700 - $1,000

This past weekend Sally and I visited Doyle Auction Houses to see their "Doyle and Design" show. Doyle, whose main branch is on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, specializes in furniture, jewelry, decorative art and artwork. A lot of their customers are dealers, and a lot of the furniture they sell on a fairly regular basis is made by famous makers, but not in pristine condition. While I love going to fancy auction houses like Christie's and seeing a $50,000 chair, it's also fun and instructive to go to Doyle and see iconic, semi-iconic and interesting workday furniture that you can actually envisioning using in a home. This sort of stuff is found at Doyle on a regular basis. Prices usually range from what I will term "a lot more expensive than IKEA" to the far less expensive than what solid, well-made furniture costs new.

There are auction houses like this all over the country that sell normal, working stuff that is designed for use, not collections. And maybe that's really the executive summary here. Doyle specializes in usable items rather than collectibles. (Although to be fair some of the stuff is collectible, and especially if it had a little TLC it would be even more collectible). This is why prices at Doyle's are lower than you'd find at Christie's or Sotheby's. Dealers routinely shop here for stuff that they are going to resell at great markup, possibly after some restoration. For example, the set of four Roberto Lazzeroni chairs with arms have an estimate of $700 to $1,000 for the set. A set of table and eight chairs sold on 1stdibs for $11,000. Now eight of anything gets a premium. But if you're looking for modern furniture this could be a pretty good deal. The Jean Prouve chairs, with the estimate of $700 - $1,000 for the pair, cost over $1000 each new on Design Within Reach and other sites. I asked one of the Doyle reps about their pricing and he said if Doyle has previously sold similar items, the estimates take the history into account. But for everything else, they use an estimate of 10% to 15% of what a new copy would go for. Of course, as long as they have at least two bidders, the market will figure it out. My guess is that the set of Lazzeroni chairs will go for more than the estimate.

Pair of Mira Nakashima Walnut “Mira” Stools
Pair of Mira Nakashima Walnut “Mira” Stools, estimate: $2,000 - $4,000

This particular auction also had pieces by Nakashima, his daughter Mira, Wharton Esherick, Tiffany, Roycroft, and others.
We were here for the same reason we go to a lot of auctions - because here we can open the drawers, sit in the chairs, and learn about design. Whether or not you're planning to build furniture, these mid-priced auction houses are a really wonderful place to get quality stuff at an affordable price. Just a note: what is usually posted on an auctioneer's website after an auction is the hammer price - the price the auctioneer calls out at the auction and says "Sold!" Lots of auctions have buyer's premiums, sales tax, etc. And in the case of large pieces of furniture, there may be some hassle as you figure out how to get it home.

I think my favorite piece was the Quistgaard desk (below). I sat in the Mira Nakashima stools and thought them very comfortable - perfect for a home bar or kitchen island.

Silvio Cavatorta Chromed Metal and Walnut Sideboard 1950s. Estimate: $2
Silvio Cavatorta Chromed Metal and Walnut Sideboard 1950s. Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000. Eames Chairs, Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500

Jens Quistgaard for Peter Lovig Nielsen Rosewood Flip Top Partner's Desk. Estimate: $1
Jens Quistgaard for Peter Lovig Nielsen Rosewood Flip Top Partner's Desk. Estimate: $1,000 - $2,000

Join the conversation
03/12/2024 Deborah Matherne
Do you have any suggestions for using dye to help match a new cane chair seat with its aged back? I know the seat will eventually darken. I'd just like to give it a head start for my customer.
Email (will not be published):
Website (optional):
Please enter your comment (HTML is not allowed):
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.