Modern masterpieces can be found with a little searching

In the home furnishing world, you pay dearly for a known designer's name, just like when you buy haute couture. Would you consider paying $7,000 for one dining chair?

Women pay thousands for one designer handbag, but you would need six chairs for the table, and the total would be a showstopper.

I have worked with people on modest budgets who admire classic modern design and are willing to splurge on one exotic piece. Those buyers who can afford the high-ticket furniture items still shy away from spending too much. It is because they don't want to commit.

A dual-career power couple may not be confident about how long they will live in any one place and fear becoming bored with specific pieces. In other instances, buyers have been there, done that; they find they have evolved by the time they're decorating their second or third home, and may not be swayed by labels.

It is noteworthy that there are ways to introduce and own one or two special items with a moderate budget. First, research Design Within Reach. This is a furniture vendor that features just fewer than 200 designers of worldwide fame and offers a wide range of price points.

For example, you can purchase an Eames Molded Wood Side Chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller for a range of $720 to $990 depending on the finish. The Min Bed designed by Luciano Bertoncini sells for between $695 and $1,200.

Where can prices go from there? Hold on to your wallet, because the Parallel Wide Bed designed by Jeffrey Bernett, Nicholas Dodziuk and Piotr Woronkowicz ranges in price from $5,200 to $9,000.

Next, visit the furniture section of the New York City Museum of Modern Art Design Store online. Don't be put off by the fear that everything will be too costly, and do a little snooping. You can find a Painted Oak Stool for $85, or the classic three-tier Componibili storage system for $190 in red, black or white. This was designed by Italian architect Anna Castelli Ferreri, and the piece celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017.

There are new designs that may become tomorrow's classics in every genre from outdoor furnishings, to lighting, to accessories.

The Roland Mid-Century-Styled Piano came to my attention recently, and it, too, is available at the online MoMA Design Store. This piano is elegant and petite at 55 inches wide, just a little over 13 inches deep and 31 inches tall. Handcrafted in Japan from all-natural wood, it is a collaboration between Roland Corp., a manufacturer and distributor of electronic musical instruments, and Japanese furniture designer Karimoku. This piano is slim and ergonomically contoured, and it can slip into a small, refined interior like a piece of classic furniture.

If you are on a very tight budget, do not forget to peruse any local consignment stores for excellent buys. Furnishings on the secondhand market are generally priced at half of retail cost. Then, they get marked down as time passes and they sit on the floor.

Each consignment vendor has its own discount schedule, but one I visit in my community only keeps something on the floor for three months. You can find classic name brands in this way, as well as artwork and accessory items. Do not be shocked at the prices for designer brands in the secondhand market because classic items retain value.

Do your homework so that you can recognize a name like Baker, McGuire or Knoll.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at

© 2018, Creators Syndicate

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