What’s Your Antique Archetype?
When it comes to antiques, there are a few kinds of people in this world…
TYPE A: Those who love antiques and always have a special place in their hearts, and in their homes for them. They have their own beautiful pieces that they have collected on their travels and/or treasured items that were inherited from a beloved family member. To them, each piece has a story.
TYPE B: Those who see the beauty and value in owning, displaying and using antiques but alas, have a home filled with boring, box store furniture and decor sets. They love the look of a space featuring antiques but they just don’t know where to start when it comes to finding, buying and arranging antiques in their homes.
TYPE C: Those who have a lot of second-hand furniture or have had the same furniture for 30 or 40 years. These people are over their tired pieces and crave something new and beautiful for their homes.
Which Type are you?
I am Type A and I am here to help all of you Type B and Type C’s out there.
Type B people need guidance on how to effectively shop for vintage and antique items for their home.
Type C people need help unloading their (now) vintage furniture so that they can get new, shiny, beautiful, luxury goods for their empty nest. You can have nice things.
First thing’s first…
Know your definition of vintage vs. antique. It’s simple. Vintage is any item older than 30 years. Antique is any item older than 100 years. The only exception to this rule, as far as I am aware, is for automobiles. A car is considered antique at 50 years — but I digress, we aren’t decorating with cars today.
Your Guide to Buying Antiques & Vintage Furniture and Decor:
I am looking at you, Type B. If you’re Type C then keep scrolling.
Why Buy — as if you need a reason…
- Green Living – buying antique and vintage furniture is an earth-friendly gesture. You are not consuming newly made pieces which when new very often off-gas carcinogens.
- Instant Character – Yes, some vintage and antique pieces were mass-produced at one point in time, but today these pieces add a bit of one-of-a-kind flair or nostalgia to your home. Extra points to that if the piece has been changed or upcycled somehow.
- Added Warmth – This is especially true if you’re buying richly colored wooden pieces.
- Quality Materiality – Old furniture, especially that made before 1960 are typically made of quality solid materials. Features like solid wood construction, sturdy backer board material — solid or plywood, Dovetail joinery on drawers, 8-way hand tying on upholstery.
- Investment Pieces – High-quality antiques and vintage items tend to retain their value. Sure, there are ebbs and flows in the market but if you can buy what you love while the market for your chosen aesthetic is in a lull, you could sell high whenever the market rebounds. Today’s high-quality furniture could be called Heirloom but those pieces will take longer than your lifetime to mature into a true investment piece. PLUS a high-quality antique is usually much more affordable than retail prices on equally high-quality new items.
- Conversation Starters – Well arranged, curated or unusual furniture and decor are excellent conversation starters. Trust your eye and your gut and just buy pieces that speak to you.
Where to buy — Once you open your eyes to antiques, you will see them everywhere.
- Multi-Dealer Shops – sometimes called Antique Malls are great places to dive deep into antique inspiration. In my travels, I find that places like this are best for antique and vintage decor rather than for furniture. Shops are usually set up in a booth format that is oftentimes too small for displaying much furniture. Negotiating on price in these places can be difficult becaue the person at the counter isn’t usually the person that owns the item you are interested in.
- Outdoor Fairs – Do you live in New England like I do? If so, I have one word for you: BRIMFIELD. The renowned Brimfield Antique Show is one of the largest antique markets in the country. Thousands of dealers from all over the US show at this fair. It requires at least a full day commitment to see it all (and quickly!). It is located on rt20 in Brimfield, Massachusetts and it runs three times a year; May, July, and September each for 6 days. Not able to make the trip? Simply google ‘Antique Fairs near [insert city near you]’ and you should find some local results.
- Auctions – You will find that auctions are mostly populated with antique dealers. Which makes this a great place to be for multiple reasons. 1)You get to meet dealers! Find someone who shares your aesthetic, strike up a conversation, get to know them and tell them what you are looking for. This makes you a piece of low-hanging fruit. They will keep their eyes peeled for items that will strike your fancy in hopes of making a quick profit on a newly acquired piece. 2) Sometimes you can find a great bargain for your home as you are essentially buying at wholesale. Fair warning: Have you ever seen the intro to American Pickers where Mike Wolf talks about the ‘breed’ of people he encounters on his travels. Many times that ‘breed’ is also at the antique auction and at the flea market…
- Flea Markets – Not to be confused with antique fairs, flea markets usually encompass all sorts of items regardless of age. These usually require a bit of digging and diving but prices are usually very negotiable. Tip: The best flea markets are those that require the vendors to pack up and vacate their booths week after week. This creates a refreshed inventory for patrons visit after visit. Flea markets (usually indoor ones) that have permanent booths can also have stagnant inventory.
- Estate Sales – These are not as easy to find as yard sales. Do a little Internet searching legwork on sources like estatesales.net. Listings on these sites usually have several preview photos of what to expect at the sale.
- Yard Sales – The estate sale’s less classy cousin, but can still a great source for vintage and antiques. Tip: If there are a lot of baby items out there, stopping probably will not be worth your time.
- Websites – Etsy, Chairish and 1stdibs, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay — the original gangster for buying and selling antiques online. These are great places to negotiate on price because you are dealing directly with the seller.
- Phone Apps – like LetGo and Close5 — These are easy to use. Just create an account, browse items and converse with sellers right over the app. Also a great place to negotiate on price.
- Hip Retail Furniture & Lifestyle Stores – like Arhaus and Anthropologie — sometimes places like these have real antiques. Be careful though, very often the items that look antique are new but styled from a great antique that one of their lucky buyers found in some bohemian marketplace overseas. Items from these stores are also quite overpriced.
What to look for when buying Vintage and antique furniture.
- Buy Local – When shopping online, shop your local area. Shipping costs for online furniture purchases can stack up quickly.
- Be Inquisitive – ask questions about the items. What is the return policy? Maybe you need more dimensional information or more photos of the item to help you decide. Don’t be afraid to reach out. What is the history or story behind the item? Are there any maker marks or serial numbers?
- Negotiate – Don’t be afraid to negotiate on price most sellers expect customers to haggle — especially experienced buyers. Use (fixable) defects as a bargaining tool.
- When to Buy a Fixer-Upper –
- Think outside the box when shopping. Upcycle! You’ve seen this done before, old steamer trunks for coffee tables, chairs made from open vintage suitcases etc.
- Not every stained piece of wood should be painted. If a finish is looking a little tired, usually a good cleaning will do wonders.
- If you buy it painted, keep it painted. Go ahead and change the color but don’t attempt to strip and stain as there is usually a reason that a decision was made to paint it in the first place.
- Be aware of what you are looking at. Think carefully about rehabbing pieces with the following characteristics:
- Particularly well-made pieces made before 1850.
- Do your homework when you find makers marks.
- Unique, stylistic, well-made items that subscribe to a particular aesthetic style such as art deco, art nouveau or arts and crafts.
- What does the back look like? Solid wood backer boards usually indicate a piece made before 1880. Plywood backs are usually from the early 1900s. Particleboard backs came into use by the 1960s.
- Upholstery can be tricky. Side chairs with a slip seats are easily unscrewed and recovered but larger upholstery projects can often cost a few hundred dollars. Think carefully about if the item is worth investing the money into before buying.
- Look for Good Construction
- Wooden Furniture: Dovetailed joint construction on drawers, drawers that glide easily, sturdy frames. Don’t let shallow scratches scare you — surface scratches can be fixed. deeper flaws can be professionally refinished.
- Upholstered Pieces: Look got 8-way hand tied springs and sturdy frames. You want these items to be gently used. upholstered furniture has a shorter lifespan than case goods. consignment shops are usually good places for finding gently used upholstered furniture because they usually curate and inspect all items that are accepted into the store.
- Shop With Your Measurements – Save yourself some headaches and be sure that the items you are buying will fit in the space that you intend to put them in.
What to Look for When Buying Vintage and Antique Decor
- Bottom line: You’re buying to create surroundings that make you happy so this one is pretty simple — BUY WHAT SPEAKS TO YOU. Buy those items that give you a positive emotion or perhaps remind you of your grandmother or a pleasant memory from childhood. When it comes to “smalls” as we say in the biz (it basically means anything that isn’t furniture), you don’t really need to know exactly where you’re going to put this thing but sometimes you have to strike while that iron is hot. Go with your gut.
Selling Your Unwanted Vintage & Antique Furniture and Decor
This is for you, Type C people!
Why Sell Your Unwanted Vintage and Antique Items:
- You want something new.
- Your family members don’t want it.
- You have items that are hot in the market that just don’t light your fire.
- TYPE A & B people!
- Young apartment dwellers.
- Families with young kids.
- People with an eye and desire for quality.
- People who are conscious about their eco-footprint.
- People who want a beautifully curated or historically accurate or an interior with a specific aesthetic.
How to Sell
- Private sale – Use eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and phone apps such as Close5 and LetGo to facilitate a sale between you and an interested party.
- Consignment – Consignment shops are also looking for quality home furnishings. They take your items for a predetermined amount of time and try to sell your items for you. Once sold, they split the profit with you.
- Yard sale – This takes a little more effort and coordination but it can be worth it if you price items right and take the time to advertise your upcoming sale — post about it on yard sale finder websites and go old school and nail that posterboard to a telephone pole.
Think you might have a gem?
- When to get an appraisal:
- Particularly well-made pieces made before 1850.
- Do your homework when you find makers marks.
- Unique, stylistic, well-made items that subscribe to a particular aesthetic style such as art deco, art nouveau or arts & crafts.
Overwhelmed? Want it all done for you? We, Type A people can buy or sell for you!
Buying for you:
- We can assemble curated customized living spaces for you through our decorative services.
Sell for you:
- Do you have an overwhelming amount of items to sell? Consider using our downsizing service. We will use our many avenues to find new homes for your unwanted items.