I f one-of-a-kind antique and vintage décor, furniture and lighting make you weak in the knees, grab a chair – or perhaps a Biedermeier settee. Because Sotheby’s Home has an exclusive collection of consigned JF Chen-curated treasures just waiting to be scooped up.
Master curator and design icon Joel Chen, celebrated industry-wide for his masterful eye and appreciation of exceptional furniture and decorative arts design, opened his first JF Chen gallery 40 years ago. Featuring period and mid-century finds, the Los Angeles-based showroom remains a testament to Chen’s trendsetting aesthetic. Here, a treasure hunt might yield rare Asian artefacts, Georgian works, early modern design and emerging contemporary talent, as well as museum-quality art. Chen says,
“Furniture, besides being rare and beautiful to look at, should also be functional. In terms of materials and medium, I like bronzes and ceramics, which convey sturdiness and longevity.”
He also has a penchant for neoclassical antiques because they “tend to have a funkiness about them – fantastic designs that don’t fade away with age.”
Among Chen’s favorite tastemakers are giants of early modern design Poul Kjærholm and Jean Prouvé, as well as legendary and influential designers Charles and Ray Eames, Jacques Adnet, Donald Judd, Dan Johnson, Hans Wegner and Ettore Sottsass.
Today, daughter Bianca Chen lends her keen perspective to the Los Angeles emporium that has become a shopping paradise for collectors and interior designers.
Describing her personal aesthetic, the general manager of JF Chen says, “My style went from disliking traditional antiques to now loving it. My father used to sell traditional and Asian furniture and accessories, and that is what I grew up seeing, going to the showroom after school every day. I always thought the business was boring then, so traditional was considered boring to me as well. Now, being surrounded by the vast amount of pieces from every single time period, and seeing the mix of everything together, I just love it all. Now, I have much more appreciation for traditional works and the history and craftsmanship that come with them.”
What makes an exceptional piece of furniture? Joel Chen sums up his personal taste succinctly: “For me, it’s history, simplicity, precious materials, attention to details, comfort, and sustainability.”
Keeping those qualities in mind, we’ve selected five pieces from the Sotheby’s Home JF Chen collection that might find a happy home under your roof.
“If I see a piece that I know is rare, I need to buy it – it could be decades before I find it again.”
Biedermeier Three-Seat Settee (Mid-19th Century)
The important and intriguing Biedermeier period between 1815 and 1848 celebrates simplicity of design and reflects the first modern European decorative style free of aristocratic influence.
A happy marriage of classical lines and fine mahogany wood infuses this Biedermeier armless settee with uncomplicated panache. A welcome addition to any living space, iconic Biedermeier furniture has been coveted by celebrities such as musician-collectors Elton John and Freddie Mercury because a settee, chair or table can easily be mixed with Art Deco and funky, more informal contemporary pieces. Some of Joel Chen’s personal celebrity clients include Jennifer Aniston and the Olsen Twins.
Chinese Temple Jar (19th Century)
Traditional Chinese ceramics, one of the globe’s oldest art-making traditions, is characterized by a decorative but understated style that optimizes always-relevant earth tones. Fine Chinese pottery and porcelain are cherished for their rich variety, technical mastery, and cultural achievement throughout China’s long history. These antique vessels, a pair of famille verte temple jars with green Chinoiserie scenes, offer a contemporary aesthetic when mixed with traditional, modern, and transitional décor. Ceramic ginger jars with a Greek key pattern are especially at home in eclectic spaces, ready to adorn a fireplace mantel, dining room table, or foyer console.
Georgian Upholstered Armchair (19th Century)
Influenced by classic Italian art and defined by traditional, elegant details, Georgian antique furniture style is the namesake of Britain’s King George I, George II and George III.
The regal walnut wood carvings of this Gainsborough library chair lend a masculine vibe, while jaunty ikat upholstery infuses personality – perfect to decorate a den, study or home office. The enduring style of Georgian furniture, along with its harmonious curves and exceptional beauty, stands ready to complement the living room of a castle or condominium. (Fun fact: Hollywood’s top directors and set designers scour JF Chen for authentic period furniture like this.)
Regency Style Double Pedestal Partners Desk (Early 20th Century)
Reminiscent of the classical architecture of the UK during the early 19th century, classic Regency-style furniture offers a chic counterpoint to contemporary decorating. The Regency period is noteworthy because, as military expansion opened new frontiers, English people were introduced to the art and decorating styles of other cultures. Perfect for a den, library, living room or master bedroom, this Regency-style Chinoiserie partners desk is decorated with always-stylish bamboo detailing, green lacquered landscape scenes and an embossed leather writing surface.
African Yoruba Oba Beaded Crown (Crica 1900)
This indigenous African crown caught the eye of our editors because it acknowledges boundary-crossing artists’ remarkable contributions to the history of African art. The circa-1900 Yoruba Oba beaded ceremonial hat celebrates the richness of styles and the genius of African artisans. The colorful fabric and organic beading of this traditional tribal crown elevate it to a piece of fine art – a soft sculpture worthy of a spot atop a pedestal or under glass. This one-of-a-kind decorative textile would be a fetching addition to an eclectic residential, business, or museum environment.
Shop the full JF Chen collection on Sotheby’s Home.
Sotheby’s Home provides an easy, seamless way for design aficionados to buy and sell pre-owned luxury furniture, antiques, vintage accessories, art, lighting, collections and everything else found in stylish homes. This full-service consignment solution is made possible by a network of 30-plus curators across the country, who travel on-site to photograph, measure and collect all details for a listing before recommending pricing and organizing all pickup and delivery details. These unique products are presented to buyers in a highly curated way and offered for sale online in real time.