My Top Ten Tips for Finding the Best Vintage Treasures
If you are dreaming of filling your house with one-of-a-kind vintage treasures, it can be hard to know where to begin. After all, finding unusual antiques and vintage things is not a one stop shop like IKEA - it requires lot of time and patience…and maybe a few other things too!
Read on for my comprehensive guide on how to source the best vintage treasures!
Know what you’re looking for
It can be overwhelming walking into a flea market or antique store - it’s usually a jumble of decades and styles, maybe not organised coherently, with each item catching your eye like a magpie spotting something sparkly! While it can be fun to just wander around and see what inspires you, you’re unlikely to come away with any meaningful purchases. So, shop with purpose. Know what you need in your home or what pieces your looking for. Get as specific as possible. What decade? What material or fabric is it made of? How much do you want to pay?
Save photos on to your phone or a Pinterest board for easy access and skim through before you go shopping. If you do this, you will alight on what you’re looking for with a laser focus. You’ll be primed and ready to haggle a good price rather than dallying over whether its what you’re looking for or not. You’ll also save money by not impulsively purchasing things you don’t need or that don’t really fit in with your decor at home. So shop with purpose!
2. Know your prices
As mentioned above, flea markets and antique stores will expect you to haggle. Therefore, you need to know how much you are willing to spend, as well as a rough idea of what something is actually worth - both the average market price as well as how much it is worth to you. For example, if it’s something you’ve been looking for a long time, this might elevate the price you’re willing to pay. Or maybe it’s something you know you can get elsewhere, so you want to offer them a lower price. You don’t need to be an antique expert to know roughly what you should be paying for something - a quick Google search or a look on 1stdibs.com will tell you the current prices online.
3. Search your local antique and vintage stores frequently
Searching for antiques can be hit or miss - so it requires patience and consistency! Don’t expect to fill a house full of treasures in just a few visits. So return to your favourite haunts again and again, and let the owners or staff know what you are looking for so they can keep an eye out for you. If you frequent flea markets, take down the details of vendors or sellers in case they come across something they think you might like.
Another great way to find vintage treasures is Estate Sales or auction houses. They are usually much cheaper than a store, and most people are selling a whole house worth’s of contents. Scour your local listings and arrive as early as possible on the day so that you get first dibs. For estate sales, do a little research on the neighbourhoods beforehand - it is a historical district, or a road of mid-century houses? It doesn’t always correlate, but it might give you a little idea of what you might find there.
You might think your local thrift stores are picked over, or even over priced. But remember, there are always potential bargains to be found. Not everyone may be looking for the same things as you, or value them the way you do. It is still worth looking.
4. Look on your local marketplaces
Some of the larger, professional sites like Ebay and 1stdibs may be picked over or have elevated prices. That is why it is worth regularly scanning sites where people are selling in your local area - announces for garage sales, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace…they are less likely to be professional sellers. They might need to off load things fairly quickly. Sticking to your local area means you are better in a position to pick things up quickly - many of these adverts will be first come, first served. But this a way to find some really affordable treasures without hefty shipping costs.
5. Restore rusty or wrecked pieces back to life
Due to poor maintenance or long-term storage, not all antique treasures stand the test of time. But having a few useful skills in your back pocket can help you find some really affordable pieces that just need a little more time spent on them! Have a look in your local area to see if there is any one offering upholstery or sewing classes. Or find tutorials you can follow online for how to treat woodworm or termites. Of course, some projects are best left to the professionals. If you really fall in love with a piece, it may be worth getting a few quotes from local furniture restorers. It may cost less than you think.
6. Mix and match
While you might have a vision of a perfect Victorian cottage or mid-century modern pad, sourcing an entire house of period-accurate furnishings can get expensive, as well as time-consuming! The good thing is, it’s possible to blend together eras and styles to good effect. This is going to be a more achievable look than trying to painstakingly recreate an aesthetic or era to perfection. Of course, if this is what you want, why not? But if you don’t have the time or the money, think more about special antique or vintage pieces can “enhance” what you already have.
7. Less is more
Vintage shopping can be addictive! There are so many great finds out there, it can be hard to know when to stop. How do you know when you have enough? It really comes down to personal taste. For example, some people love the look of a busy and eclectic gallery wall that continues to grow all the time! Others prefer to highlight just one or two beautiful artworks or photographs on each wall. This applies to all your decor. Some people think that vintage shopping is the opposite of minimalism, and more akin to someone who is a packrat, or loves clutter. Of course, this isn’t always the case. Beautiful antiques can look even more striking when “less is more”. This principle can also help if you are struggling to find all the things you want to complete your home. Why not try to just source a few very special pieces?
It may sound obvious, but it is so easy to get swept up with a piece that you don’t stop to consider if it will even fit where you want it to go! So measure carefully and keep your measurements somewhere easy to find, like your Notes app.
9. Check for unwanted visitors!
Vintage items can bring charm and warmth to a home…but they can also host termites, woodworm or bedbugs. Leave all your vintage finds outside for a few days before bringing them inside. This will save you so much hassle and heartache if a piece is indeed infested with bugs!
10. Neutrals are your friend
If you are maximalist who loves all things bright and patterned, you may wince at the idea of decorating with neutrals. But hear us out! One of the simplest and most elegant ways to let vintage pieces sing is to keep it simple. Think beautiful, luxurious craftsmanship and materials in classic, vintage shapes. This will prevent your decor from dating badly in a few years. And you can always change out artwork and soft furnishings like cushions and rugs to add more color to a room.