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An Art Buyer’s Guide to Collecting Contemporary Design

ByThe Artling Team
An Art Buyer’s Guide to Collecting Contemporary Design

Console Table 02 by Saerom Yoon

In recent years, collecting design has transformed from being considered a purely functional purchase to becoming seen as a worthy journey for the most discerning collectors to embark on. For many, collectible design offers the opportunity to express one’s personality and interests through the display of physical objects within the home.

There are numerous factors to consider when purchasing contemporary design. In this article, discover more about how craftsmanship, materiality, and design concept all impact the way in which this burgeoning category is being collected today.

For those who are interested in learning how to start collecting contemporary design, or curious why it has become increasingly popular to collect, take a look at The Artling’s one-stop introductory guide to collectible design.

What makes design different from art?

The difference between design and art is not so clear-cut, and there is no straightforward answer, as there are various overlaps between the two. One could classify design items as any functional object, however, this is a very narrow view of design and its potential. Whilst art and design pieces intersect in various ways, art tends to focus on the emotive and subjective response experienced by the viewer, whereas design places emphasis on methodology and practicality.

Design objects are largely created with a specific and functional purpose in mind – such as the furniture we sit on, the lamp the lights up a room, or a vase that holds flowers. What makes collectible design different from normal objects is the artistic, aesthetic and conceptual considerations made by the designer during the process of creating the object. 



What is collectible design?

Collectible design pieces are usually limited edition or unique works, meaning that they are produced in a set quantity, and are not mass-produced. The value in the pieces is thus partially due to their scarcity. 

Collectible design is generally split into the era the design piece belongs to a vintage or modern piece from the twentieth-century (think works by Charles and Ray Eames or Charlotte Perriand) will hold a different value to a contemporary piece from a living designer. 

Often, collectible design pieces are entirely handmade or have a handmade element to them. This will also mean that each piece is unique in their own way, as no piece will be entirely identical to another.

How do I start collecting design?

The considerations that go into buying contemporary design link greatly with the reasons to start collecting art. You should make sure you want to live with it, as the piece will be best appreciated if used or viewed daily. Think about why you connect with the piece -- is it the design aesthetic, or the materials used? 

What kind of pieces are you looking to purchase? Collectible design can range in scale greatly, from design objects that can fit on your desk, to larger furniture pieces, to unique textile works, all of which require varying considerations before diving into a purchase.

Design objects encompass most items that can’t be categorized easily in terms of their functionality. Not all design objects need to be functional, and can in fact be purely decorative and appreciated for their aesthetic value. They can be a handmade ceramic vase, like Outside In No.3 by Singapore designer Hans Tan, or quirky objects like Beverly Morrison’s Large Vessel in Black. Design objects are great to start a collection with, as they can add an accent to your home without requiring too much space.

Outside In No.3 by Hans Tan

Outside In No.3 by Hans Tan 

Furniture includes functional items you’d generally find in a home (chairs, tables and more), but collectible design furniture differentiates itself from your typical IKEA purchase by prioritizing concept over functionality. For example, Japanese designer Kouichi Okamoto/Kyouei Design’s composition chair resembles the form of a chair but is not going to be the most comfortable to actually sit on. The piece is handmade and each piece takes over six months to produce, all done without the use of any bolts or welding. The value in the work is not in how it can be used, but in how the piece was created and it's aesthetic. On the other hand, there are also collectible furniture pieces that are able to combine form and functionality, such as Bokja Design’s Peacock White, where the design is a statement piece but can still be used in daily life. 

Composition Chair by Kouichi Okamoto/Kyouei Design

Composition Chair by Kouichi Okamoto/Kyouei Design

Lighting is inherently functional, and the collectible aspect of lighting designs lies in how the piece is made and the uniqueness of the design. The pieces should not be mass-produced, and offer far more than just casting light in a space. Filipino designer Gabriel Lichauco’s Bubble Bling functions as a table lamp but is also a sculptural work using handblown glass and a contemporary application of stained glass. Thai design duo PATAPiAN works with traditional Thai weavers to create their contemporary pieces, such as the Round Pendant Lighting Set. The handmade aspect of the work means that no piece is exactly the same. 

tartan by Fumiya Ino / fascickle

tartan by Fumiya Ino / fascickle

Always look at the type of design piece you are collecting and its material, which will affect the potential longevity of the item, particularly if the piece is used often. Consider where you’ll be placing the item, and ensure the material is suitable if you’re looking at placing a piece outdoors. Request for high-resolution images or inspect the piece in person to ensure the quality of the finishing and craftsmanship is as you would expect for a collectible design piece. 

Some collectors focus solely on design pieces, while others can have intersecting interests between collecting art along a certain theme, and design objects that follow the same thread in terms of concept. 

Kai Table by Naoki Hirakoso

Bubble Bling by Gabriel Lichauco

Where do I go to find collectible design?

There’s a variety of ways to go about learning about and starting to collect design pieces. You can attend design fairs if there are any in your vicinity (and even if not, you’re able to browse the exhibitors online), subscribe to newsletters by leading design publications, look at design awards, like FRANZ or A Design Awards.

Collectible design pieces can be found in contemporary design galleries across the world, many of whom can be credited with elevating collecting design to becoming seen as a worthy endeavor. The works presented by these design galleries will mostly be by more established designers, but there are plenty of accessible works from younger contemporary designers. Visit these design galleries in your city or when you travel, or shop from the comfort of your home by browsing our online gallery featuring contemporary art and design works of inspirational creatives from all over the world.

Living Room View Featuring Flint Vase by Joyce Wang Studio

Collectible Design for Home Décor

Your home décor should echo your personality, and be a space filled with objects that make it feel truly your own. A wonderful aspect about collectible design is that you can bring together objects of incredible quality, craft, and originality into your living space that feels meaningful to you.

Contemporary design objects can at once beautify and create a statement within your living space, take  Ana Volante’s ARC ROUND SIDE TABLE  for example– a sleek and modern piece made from wood and metallic inlays. In this beautifully crafted table, Volante melds together simple lines and geometric forms to evoke a sense of balance and unity throughout. 

You can also use collectible design to play with different textures and material elements within the room. Be it a chic MYDNA side table by Joel Escalona, or Fadi Sarieddine’s stylish Damascus Revisited / wax & fire candle holders, incorporating these unique pieces can breathe a fresh air into a space that sees a perfect marriage of form, artistry, taste, and function right in your own home.




Damascus Revisited / wax & fire by Fadi Sarieddine

Collectible Design for the Workplace

A workplace should be stimulating and provide an environment for employees to feel productive, yet stress-free. Hence, bringing collectible design into an office is a great way to liven and warm up a space. Creating a shelf filled with unique design objects, or even hanging an eye-catching light fixture, can remove the sterility that corporate spaces often attain. Claymen’s striking Circular Vessel and Noah & Grey’s brass Lily Lantern are perfect ways to decorate and add vibrancy to the workplace. Incorporating these objects can add more life and improve creativity within the office, whilst making it feel modern.


Circular Vessel by Claymen


Lily Lantern by Noah & Grey

Integrating collectible design is perfect especially for co-working spaces, where individuals tend to be stimulated and inspired by their surroundings. These unique pieces will certainly boost the atmosphere and create a cohesiveness within the office space that also expresses a sense of taste and style.

Straits Clan, Interior View of Lobby and Cafe

Image courtesy of Straits Clan


Rust Harvest Shelf - Yuma Kano (Available on The Artling)


Rust Harvest Chair - Yuma Kano (Available on The Artling)


The Golden Rock - Marble Coffee Table - GRZEGORZ MAJKA (Available on The Artling)


"The Epicure" Contemporary Center Table - GRZEGORZ MAJKA (Available on The Artling)


Crescent Wall- Foggy Black - Xcellent Design (Available on The Artling)


Leaf-16 - Xcellent Design (Available on The Artling)


Dual Bench - Serra Studio (Available on The Artling)


Quad Coffee Table - Serra Studio (Available on The Artling)

Take a look at our extensive selection of collectible design here

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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