Mid-Century Modern Live Q&A with Adrian Kinney

When anything mid-century modern pops up on EstateSales.NET, it quickly becomes the talk of the office. For this interview, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Adrian Kinney, a mid-century modern expert from Denver, Colorado. After buying his first Cliff May home, Adrian found his love for mid-century modern. He has spent the past decade immersing himself in everything MCM and gave us some great insight into what to look for, spotting fakes, and how he sees the MCM trend continuing.

What years are considered mid-century modern?

Even though it says it in the name, the years considered mid-century can be a little blurry. Although the Bauhaus Movement, which kicked off what we know as mid-century modern, started in the early 1900s, MCM, as we know it today, can be pinned down to between 1949-1979. However, the date ranges can be tighter than that, depending on your location.

Increasing Your Instagram Followers

One of the first ways to start gaining followers is to optimize your profile and make sure you're working through a business account. Be sure to include that you're an estate sale company in your bio, and have a handle (your username) that lets the reader know you're an estate sale company will lend a ton of legitimacy to your page. Think of it as an elevator pitch. You have a small window to let all visitors know who you are. Consistent posting, asking for followers on other platforms, and offering Instagram exclusive content are great ways to build a loyal following.

Which MCM manufacturers should you keep an eye out for?

When you think of MCM designers and manufacturers, a few might come to mind right away. Knoll and Herman Miller are some of the more recognizable names in the MCM world, but Adrian mentions a few others that we should be on the lookout for. Items from the Broyhill Brasilia and American Martinsville collection are currently fetching top dollar even though they were initially released as relatively inexpensive consumer pieces.

Authentic pieces vs. reproductions

If you’re looking to get top dollar for an MCM piece, you will first need to know whether or not it’s authentic. Adrian suggested a few ways to ensure you’re not selling a reproduction disguised as the real deal. Using an app like Google Lens can help you identify the authenticity of an item since it pulls images from the internet to help you compare the item in question. Most reputable MCM manufacturers will leave some etched markings or stamps on their pieces to denote authenticity. For instance, authentic Herman Miller furniture has distinct stickers on the bottom. Doing your research and knowing what to look for is paramount in determining the authenticity of an MCM piece. Another key indicator of authenticity is quality. We’ve heard the adage “they don’t make them like they used to,” which holds true to MCM. A genuine piece of mid-century modern will be heavy and made of solid wood and most likely won’t be covered in a cheap laminate.

Social Media Content: Quality Over Quantity

Just because you can post to Facebook or Instagram doesn't mean you always should. Ensuring that the content you're putting out there is the best it can be is paramount. Don't have anything good to post today? Instead of forcing content, you could use that time to respond to comments and messages and engage with your audience. If someone takes the time to reach out to you directly, you should consider dedicating some time to respond and let them know you're listening. The more comments a post has lets these platforms know that you're legit and that your content should be put in front of more people. Once your audience grows, it might become more challenging to keep up with everything, so having someone on your staff who can be your company's voice can help you a ton.

Does refinishing MCM pieces take away its value?

There’s a big difference between a piece that’s been refinished and one that’s been refinished professionally. If you’re looking to have a piece of MCM restored, make sure you find someone specializing in veneers and solid wood refinishing. Adrian mentions that if a piece is professionally restored, it will still bring top dollar. As far as marketing an MCM item, listing in your sale that you have a piece that’s “ready for refinishing” can get in buyers that would typically have overlooked your sale. You can move the piece and have them do the work on refinishing it.

Does wood color affect the value of MCM?

When it comes to the value of an MCM piece, wood color isn’t going to have a substantial impact, but there are a few things to look for. Adrian mentions that most MCM is going to fall into two categories. Light honey colored Teak and the standard darker woods grains like mahogany and walnut. Again, make sure the piece is authentic before you spend too much time worrying about the wood color.

What colors can indicate authentic pieces?

Since the painting of these items was a big no-no, if you were to see color on an item, it’s more than likely going to be a laminate. Formica tables and sideboards were often covered with laminates that came in various colors. Pinks, greens, and blues were among the more popular choices of living room furniture color, while white with gold or silver flecks were often used for high-traffic areas like kitchen tables and countertops.

Marketing MCM to the end-user

When trying to market a piece of MCM, using online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace can get your items in front of a broader audience and draw a lot of attention to the rest of your sale. For instance, highlighting the piece and other sub-photos can bring more traffic to your sale and potentially bring loyal shoppers to your next estate sale.

The MCM trend continues

While it’s evident that mid-century modern isn’t going anywhere and shouldn’t be categorized as a trend, Adrian mentions a few things that he sees trending in the MCM world. There are collectors out there that live in a fully decked-out MCM home with all of the furnishing, but one of the more popular trends out there right now is when designers are outfitting 1920s homes with MCM furniture. The juxtaposition of the two eras is popular right now. We’re also seeing a lot of 70s and 80s houses being furnished with MCM as well.

Eames Chair and Ottoman: The Holy Grail of MCM

When it comes to iconic pieces of MCM, the Eames chair and ottoman are a few of the most revered items out there. While getting your hands on these will be very rare, if you are lucky enough to come across a set, there are a few indicators you can use to verify its authenticity. Since the Eames chair and ottoman are some of the most widely reproduced items, a quick Google search will go a long way. Several articles out there can help when trying to identify authentic pieces. From the diameter of the screw holes to how the arms are welded on, several scientific tell-tale signs will tell you whether or not you’ve struck MCM gold.

Does geography have an effect on finding MCM?

Since the east coast was settled much earlier than the rest of the U.S., you’re likely to find a higher concentration of MCM items on the east coast, given that most of those homes are older builds. MCM is prevalent everywhere, but wherever you find mid-century homes, you’ll find mid-century items.

Marketing time capsule houses

A Unicorn, by definition, is “something highly desirable but difficult to find or obtain.” Finding a mid-century time capsule full of mid-century furniture is what we call a Unicorn. Marketing these sales should be handled with care to ensure that you get the most traffic possible.

Treating the sale as not only an estate sale but a museum house can draw people who are MCM shoppers and people who appreciate the movement and want to see the items. Coordinating with the homeowner or estate representative and suggesting that they bring someone in who has experience in time capsule homes could move the items and the house as well.