Buying Antique Furniture: A Guide For The Smart Homeowner
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Published by TOP4 Team
Vintage is enjoying a revival, from food to fashion to graphic design to home décor. For homeowners, this means opening your doors to lovely antique pieces, and the timeless beauty, elegance and history that come with them.
Using antique furniture is smart way to invest in historical pre-loved pieces that gain value with the passing of time. These items are not something you can find from any other store, and their unique value cannot be duplicated by even the most expensive furniture brand. Thus, if you really want to create a living space that stands out from the rest, you’ll never go wrong with a vintage piece or two.
Another reason why antique furniture is gaining more admirers is the renewed interest in making more sustainable, environment-friendly choices. Instead of buying brand-new, you get to reuse and re-appropriate existing material – a most stylish way to recycle.
For first-time buyers, antique hunting can be a little intimidating. But with some research and a bit of practice, you can buy the right piece – and even start a collection – that you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
Here are some tips to remember when buying antique furniture:
Pre-owned is different from antique. For a piece of furniture to be called antique, most experts say that it should be at the very least 100 years old. Anything “newer” than that can only be called pre-owned, old furniture. You are buying from a specific era and all the historical value it carries, that is why authentic antique is significantly priced higher than the usual stuff you see on ordinary thrift shops or garage sales.
If you think that you have spotted or already have something that may be of special value, consider the following methods of research that will give you a background and price range of the item:
- Ask the seller for details. The seller may be able to provide you documentation such as auction house certifications, receipts, appraisals and historic records that attest to its value.
- Look for added value. Was it owned by somebody famous or important? Is there a sentimental value or interesting story attached to it? Is it very rare and not mass produced?
- Seek printed and online resources. Established auction houses usually publish catalogues and guides available in print and online.
- Get help from experts. Ask for valuations from antique dealers and auction houses.
A good source is key to a rich collection. If you’re interested in growing your collection, invest in relationships with shopkeepers and owners of vintage furniture shops, flea market vendors, estate sales managers and other people who can lead you to good antique finds. A word of caution, however: there are many individuals or groups out there peddling fake antique wares. If you’re not yet confident with your antique shopping know-how, deal first with reputable sellers until you develop a good eye for detecting the real thing.
The best antiques for the home should withstand the ordinary and the everyday. Some antique furniture pieces are so valuable yet so delicate that they can only survive inside a museum. Remember, you’ll actually be using the item on a daily basis so look for pieces that are made of sturdy materials, meticulous construction and look gently used and well cared for. Minor scratches and some barely visible stains may be passable, but when you see wobbly legs and serious cracks, you need to decide if it’s best to let the item go or have it professionally restored.
Look with a critical eye. Every design lover will attest how easy it is to fall in love with a gorgeous piece of furniture. But it pays to look at each item objectively. Not just because it’s a certified antique does not mean it’s a sure good buy – even the most artistically superior era in history will have its fair share of not-so great items. Be honest to yourself about whether it’s really suitable for your home or the pieces that you already have. Finally, be realistic about the price if it’s really a good find or just an overpriced item, and never hesitate to ask for a discount.