The Art of the Hunt: Expert Tips for Successful Antiquing Adventures

antique spittoon

February 28, 2024

For an interior designer, the thrill of discovering a unique antique piece adds layers of history and character to any space. But navigating the world of antiques can be overwhelming, especially for newcomers. I should know: I’ve had some fantastic wins (specifically with my dining chairs) and I’ve also walked out empty handed. Today, we’ll delve into my personal tips for successful antiquing adventures, ensuring you return home with treasures, not regrets.

1. Know Your Objective:

Before embarking on your quest, define your goals. Are you seeking a statement piece for your living room, or are you on the hunt for smaller accents? Having a clear vision will guide you towards the right shops and prevent impulse purchases.

2. Get Your Measurements Straight:

In the event you’re hunting for a specific piece, you may be confined to particular measurements. Keep a running list on the notes app in your phone for these items. For example, I was looking for chairs to match a newer table. I had the measurements saved and ready to go in my phone. When I found these chairs that caught my eye I was able to pull the trigger while traveling. I’m currently looking for an antique mirror for my dining room and I have the ideal height and length saved in my notes. Same for the vintage hallway runner I hope to score.


3. Educate Yourself:

Knowledge is power! Familiarize yourself with different periods, styles, and materials. Online resources like Kovels and auction house catalogs are valuable allies. Understanding the context of a piece not only enhances its value but also informs your restoration decisions. For example I knew my dining room antique bentwood chairs were worth far more than what they were listed for. Having this information on hand allowed me to cut to the chase with negotiating!

4. Inspect Like a Detective:

Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty! Inspect furniture for structural soundness, loose joints, and woodworm damage. Check for cracks in ceramics and tarnishing on metals. Be meticulous, as restoration costs can quickly outweigh the initial bargain.

5. Befriend the Dealer:

Vendors are a wealth of information. Engage them in conversation! Ask about the piece’s history, origin, and potential for restoration. Their insights can be invaluable, and a friendly rapport may even lead to a better deal.

A real life example of this was when I showed a local dealer a photo of the light I was searching for. She knew exactly what it was called and when it dated back to, which allowed me to zero in my online search more precisely. And now this beautiful skyscraper pendant is the star of the show in my kitchen!

6. Negotiate with Confidence:

Don’t be intimidated by haggling. Research fair market values beforehand and be prepared to negotiate. Remember, a polite and informed approach goes a long way. And in the end it’s okay to walk away if the item is overpriced.

7. Think Beyond the Obvious:

Embrace the potential for transformation! Look for pieces with good bones that can be repurposed. An old dresser can become a chic bathroom vanity, or vintage suitcases can be stacked to create a unique coffee table. Or another example below: repurposing a spittoon as a vase!

8. Embrace the Imperfections:

Don’t shy away from pieces with minor flaws or wear. These imperfections tell a story, adding character and warmth to your space. Remember, true beauty often lies in the subtle imperfections.

9. Document Your Journey:

Capture photos of pieces that catch your eye, even if you don’t purchase them immediately. Reflecting on your finds later can spark inspiration for hunting online on facebook marketplace, etsy or other trade sites. I found the below bronze horse statue on an antique trip and recently spotted it on eBay for more than half off!

Remember, antiquing is an adventure, not a sprint. Enjoy the process, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to experiment. With these tips and a little practice, you’ll be well on your way to unearthing unique treasures that will add character to your home and spark conversation.

Happy hunting!

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  1. Alisha Vidal says:

    Yessss it’s overwhelming at first but magic once you get the hang of it!

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