As a “Milennial,” I am expected to be satiated by the endless online offerings of mass-produced home decor. I am supposed to like dark-as-night floors and all-white furniture, worship particleboard, and scoff at anything that cannot be found in the perfectly styled pages of a cataglogue. But alas, I love antiques. I love solid wood furniture and mirrors framed with an aging patina. I love musty collections of hardback books and old lamps that need rewiring and new shades.
Love them or hate them, antiques are an essential part of a finished room. They add depth, history, and in the best cases, a story. Antiques offer that added layer that cannot be accomplished shopping solely at one store. After all, it is the mix of the old with the new that attracts me to an interior. The edited style of blending both is what makes a room successful in my eyes.
While some people are lucky enough to inherit art, lamps, and furniture passed down through generations, others are living in the Land of the New. They are riddled with mass-produced furniture and accessories with little to no character. Enter: Antique Shopping 101. Below you will find the tips needed to shop smart for antiques that will add some personality and sophistication to your home.
- Make a Plan
- Decide where you want to go, whether 3-5 smaller stores or one large antique mall. Do not try to fit in any more than this in one day.
- The best antique stores tend to be in more historic rural settings. Hint: one of my favorite antiquing areas is Middleburg, VA. Often the best stores do not advertise, so save time for that special spot you might come upon unexpectedly.
- Determine what you are looking for. It could be as specific as a 48″ wide chest, or as vague as “accessories for bookshelves.” Whatever it is, keep your expecations to a reasonable goal- do not expect to furnish an entire room or home in one visit.
- Research & Compare
- Where does the store source their items? Do they sell things both new and old? Do they have a particular day of the week when they bring in new stock? What forms of payment do they take? Can you bring home items on approval?
- If you are after a 19th century Bergere, do some comparison shopping online (I love 1st Dibs) on a similar style or period. Get an idea of what price range you should expect to pay.
- Ask the antique dealers questions. You may discover a story about a piece that speaks to you. Or, you may be able to negotiate a discount on an item that has been on the shelves for a while.
- Before you go, write down all pertinent measurements. Know the width of the wall for that console, the depth of the mantel for those ginger pots, and the width and height over the sink for that perfect powder room mirror.
- Take note of your cargo space dimensions. Do not rely on the “cram and cross fingers” method.
- Bring Pertinent Supplies
- Tape measure. Do not assume they will have one for you.
- Floorplans. If you forgot to take a measurement, this may save the day.
- Photos of Rooms. These help jog your memory about colors and space.
- Charged Phone. You’ll need it to take new photos, or to help find your way down winding rural roads.
- Water. Convenience stations are usually at a minimum out on the open roads.
- Snacks. If you are anything like me you won’t stop for a sandwich when you are hot on the trail of a fun find.
- Breeze Through, Then Browse
- I like to “breeze through” the entire store or mall first, stopping only to take note of something that I could not live without. Chances are you will move fairly quickly, and get an idea of what stalls you’ll want to explore more the next pass through.
- Next round, bring your discerning eye. Stop to stare at a shelf for long enough to notice that perfect accessory that could complete a table vignette. There are millions of things to see and be distracted by, so this method will help you keep your eyes on the prize.
- Be Flexible
- And prepared to:
- paint it
- reupholster it
- fix it
- store it
- And prepared to:
- Just Buy It
- When in doubt, just buy it. Things can turn over quickly, so unless they can hold an item for you, do not expect it to be there when you return.
- If you love it in the store, you will love it even more when you bring it home. Everything always looks better out of the crowded setting of antique stores. Bring it home and make it your own.
I’ll leave you with some of my favorite finds while shopping at Black Dog Salvage today. If you have not had a chance to visit this incredible Roanoka, VA institution (they even have their own show) be sure to put it on your list!
What do you like/dislike about antiquing? I’d love to hear!