The Most Expensive Furniture Sold at Auction

The thrill of an auction has led more than one person to spend outrageous sums on rare items (although “outrageous” is a matter of degrees, depending on the buyer and the auction). But certain items tend to demand higher prices than others. Classic cars, giant gems, and artwork have brought some of the biggest price tags in the auction world, and sporting, music, and movie memorabilia also tend to command the interest of big spenders. But you might be surprised to learn that some furnishings can also draw large sums when they hit the auction block, particularly if they are fairly old and elaborately decorated. So here are just a few of the most expensive pieces of furniture sold at auction to date.

  1. Badminton Cabinet. This decorative cabinet, named for its long tenure in Badminton, England, actually set two auction records, the first time when it sold for $15.1 million in 1990, and the second when it was re-auctioned in 2004 for the astonishing sum of $36.7 million, more than doubling its value in less than 15 years. Even with its 18th century provenance, paired with truly spectacular and elaborate inlay that includes materials like agate, quartz, and lapis lazuli, it’s pretty incredible that this 12-foot-tall (and then some) Florentine cabinet commanded such an incredible sum. Sadly, it’s not likely to beat its own record again; the most recent buyer (Prince Hans Adam II) donated it to the Lichtenstein Museum in Austria, where it is likely to stay.
  2. Dragon armchair. This vintage lounge chair, designed by Eileen Gray for patron Suzanne Talbot, may be one of the most attractive pieces of furniture to ever grace the auction block, with its curling lines, plush, leather upholstery, and wooden base that swirls up and around the arms in a dragon motif that gives the chair its name and distinctive appearance. It is estimated that the piece was created around 1917-1919, which makes the price it fetched even more incredible; it sold in 2009 for over $28 million dollars.
  3. Harrington commode. How much would you spend on a toilet? What if it came in an ornate, wooden cabinet that you could place in any room in the house? Apparently, some people are willing to pay nearly $6 million for such a piece. Granted, this 18th century commode was crafted by Thomas Chippendale and it features intricately patterned inlay, but still, you can get a decent toilet for around a hundred bucks at Home Depot.
  4. George II Parcel-Gilt Padouk Cabinet-on-Stand. Also a Thomas Chippendale creation, this cabinet sold for more than $5 million in 2008, setting a record for English furniture sold at auction. Of course, it wouldn’t hold that title for long - two years later the Harrington commode surpassed that sum.
  5. Catherine Goddard Chippendale. Just like venetian blinds don’t necessarily come from Venice, not all chippendale-style cabinets were created by famed English craftsman Thomas Chippendale. This mahogany bureau was actually created by American cabinet maker John Goddard in 1765 for his daughter, Catherine, as a wedding present. Estimated at a value of less than $1 million, it nevertheless left the auction house in 2011 with a winning bid of more than five and a half million smackers, making it the most expensive piece of American furniture to grace the auction block.

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