Blog by Dr. Lori

How to Shop for Vintage Furniture

by Dr. Lori Verderame
How to Shop for Vintage Furniture

When you are buying antique or vintage furniture, consider your bottom line when it comes to interior design. In many instances, you can get good quality pieces at good prices, but it is easy to fall into the trap of common pitfalls. Here are some tips for finding that old piece of furniture and making your room look new with old stuff.

1. Only Get What You Need

You can make a room look fabulous with vintage furniture and flea markets, yard sales, estate sales, and antique shops may be good sources. As I have noted in my blog posts, many of these outlets don’t know what they are selling, so you have a good chance of getting a good deal. Resellers might be tired of moving a big piece around so make them a low offer to take it off their hands, but be ready to move it yourself. Don’t worry about offending anyone. Read my tips about how to negotiate when antiques shopping. Also, know what you are after (the style, the size, the color, the texture, the overall form) as you are on your quest for vintage furniture. Don’t get swayed or distracted by other cool antiques or vintage objects. You will blow your budget, waste your precious weekend, and end up with clutter at home or all of it stashed in a storage locker. If you are looking for mid-century modern tables or sofa, don’t get pulled off track by that flashy retro kitchen table and chairs.

2. Condition is King

Eastlake top chest

Look for good condition whenever you buy used furniture. If you are a repurposer or DIYer, avoid those pieces that have irreparable damage (burn marks, water damage, woodworms, etc.) or unusual and strong odors. Again, as I have noted in my blog, many resellers don’t know what they are selling so take a close look at the piece for any damage. They may not know it is damaged. Always ask yourself, “Why is that piece so cheap?” It is cheap because it is something that everybody’s got, is it something that everybody wants to get rid of, or does the seller just have it priced too low and it is really a steal. Read my tips on how to avoid re-purposing pitfalls.

3. Measure Twice, Shop A Lot

Bring along a tape measure when you shop. Consider the invisible pathway or that area of a room that you need to move in order to access the room. Take a photo of the room that you are trying to furnish. You don’t want to buy a piece that you can’t fit into the room after you’ve spent all day getting it home. Information like where the windows are situated in relation to an electrical outlet or empty space will help you as you shop too. When you buy something second hand, don’t expect a liberal return policy especially on a large, hard to move piece of furniture. Make sure you really want that piece and that it will fit in your room. 99 times out of 100, once you hand over the cash, it’s yours no matter what.

After you purchase and before you consider a major rehab of the piece, think about making sure you know exactly what you bought. I have seen many valuable pieces ruined because DIYers were anxious to start stripping old paint or applying a new coat. You don’t want to ruin a valuable Windsor chair worth 1,000 dollars. Sometimes things are better left alone. Send me a photo of the piece before you start re-purposing, I’ll tell you what you have and what it is worth.

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