The Daily Heller: Have No Space and Even Less Money for Modern Furniture? Try Miniatures!

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With rising inflation, good design is not always within reach. If you have a passion for modern furniture yet neither the money nor space for it, do what I’ve done: Collect scale model miniatures. They are affordable, displayable and enjoyable to accumulate. If you’re compulsive, the number of chairs adds up quickly.

The most cherished of the miniatures are also the most expensive: the Vitra Miniature Collection, representing such classic modern designers as Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton, and Alexander Girard. At 1/6 the size of the historic originals, the chairs “precisely recreate the smallest details of construction, material and color.” The high standard of authenticity even extends to the natural grain of the wood, the reproduction of screws and the elaborate handicraft techniques involved. It is a thrill to see them en masse—nonetheless, with prices ranging from $200 to $1,500, you might want to consider the lower-priced and much smaller plastic variety.

The chairs below are 1/12 scale from the Reina Design Interior Collection and fit nicely into dollhouses or on bookshelves. There are numerous collection series to choose from, each in distinctly designed boxes. The downside is the contents are a mystery. Like baseball cards, you never know what you are buying; you may end up with multiple Eames chairs because they are fairly common, but turning up a Reitveld is rare. I have, however, seen them on Etsy for under $100. They are well-made, detailing is accurate and they are fun to unpack for the surprise inside.

For an equally wide selection of classics, I recommend the 1/24 scale Designers Chair Collections. They also come in multiple series and when sold on eBay they are priced at around $50. Don’t let anyone accuse you of playing with doll furniture.

Recently, I was gifted a Design Furniture 1/12 scale model manufactured by the Japanese Yujin company. These are advertised as trading toys, and like the miniatures above, buyers are unaware of what they are getting. Unlike the others, they require minor assembly. As for price, they run around $60 per piece.

Although you won’t be able to use them as furniture, they are great conversation pieces, and just think how inexpensive your moving costs will be when you eventually have to give up your price-gouged rental in hipster Brooklyn for a reasonably priced apartment elsewhere near the end of the subway lines.