“The items people own reveal something about the owners. Every quaint item that a person selects to surround themselves with has a basic quiddity, the essence, or inherent nature of things. As a people, we assign a value meaning not only to the things that we presently possess, but also to the items destined for one generation to hand down to the next generation.”
~ Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
Story by Cheri Woodsmall | Room images courtesy of Woodson Antique & Interiors
It’s summer! Blue skies and warm temperatures beckon us to venture outside. And what better way to spend these beautiful summer days than to go antiquing or finding fabulous vintage pieces and taking a trip down memory lane! The long days of summer are a perfect opportunity to treasure hunt for a special new antique (or four!) for your home, a distinct reminder of the people and places that made your childhood so special. So grab a friend, pack a wonderful picnic lunch and fuel up the SUV – Let’s go antiquing!
Navigating the waters of the antique world, can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to the hobby and aren’t sure what to look for. We spoke to a few experts in the area to ask them their inside secrets and tips to antique buying and restoring old vintage pieces that are so popular now.
Bring the Old World Home
Perhaps it’s a most unusual Windsor chair made entirely of mahogany imported from Philadelphia in the late 18th century, or a Chinoiserie Clock Stand, Italian, c. 1750 that you’re looking for. Woodson Antique & Interiors most likely already has it, or can get it on their next trip to Europe (Owners Blake Craghead and Rick Ingenthon take 4 to 6 trips each year!) This lovely little hidden gem is housed in old farm house in Raymore Missouri. They are especially fond of French antique furniture styles, which often include elaborate designs, handcrafted carvings or highly ornate patterns. “It’s amazing to me how adding a few antique furnishings into a room can really jazz it up and create an eclectic, worldly vibe that is so unique and reflective of one’s personal style,” says Blake. “That’s what I love about working with antiques. Along with the strength and beauty of a quality piece. If a piece has made it 170 years, it’s going to make it that many more.”
The word “ormolu” is the ornate bronze mounts found on French furniture.
Mixing the Old with the New
Who would think of pulling over 100 vintage porch poles from an old farm house, cutting them in half and refinishing them into beautiful harvest table legs? Or dream of using old tin ceiling tiles from the 1800’s for a backsplash in a bar? The boys at ReDeux of course. Owners Dale Luetjen and Steven Pollard found that new isn’t always better. ReDeux carries an impressive selection of 17th to 20th century antiques, fine and decorative arts, period deco, vintage furnishings, and much more. Owner Dale Luetjen says “Almost anything can be spruced up with a fresh coat of paint or new glamorous upholstery. Be sure to keep an open mind, a creative vision, and embrace the endless possibilities that go along with styling and refurbishing vintage pieces and antiques.” He gives us great advice on creating an engaging, unexpected aesthetic by mixing the old with the new.
1. LISTEN TO WHAT SPEAKS TO YOU
There is a seemingly endless amount of antique décor that could potentially add life to your home design — but don’t pick just anything. Peruse antique shops and décor magazines to get a sense of styles and eras that speak to you. Perhaps you’re drawn to weathered wood, French provincial furniture, or antique glass décor pieces. Find what fits your personality, and then run with it!
2. GO BEYOND MIXING STYLES…
…to mixing textures, tones, and patterns. “We use Amy Howard at Home for all of our finishes, the line of chalk paints, milk paints, gilding supplies, spray lacquers, antique waxes and other finishing products are second to none,” boasts Dale. “One piece we are working on now is taking silver foil pieces and laying them on top of a table, covering them with a special lacquer and pitting them to make it look old world. It’s really quite amazing.”
3. MAKE A STATEMENT
Instead of trying to sort through a collection of possibilities, choose one statement piece and make it the focal point of the room. Position an antique buffet along the exposed brick in your dining room, or hang a vintage fireplace mantel — begging guests to inquire about its origin.
4. SPRINKLE IT IN
Don’t underestimate the power of small details! Sprinkling antiques and vintage pieces into your home design pulls everything together. For example, you could arrange antique bookends — crafted from aged wooden shoe molds — on a sleek, clean-lined bookshelf. Or you could display a bowl of mixed old skeleton keys on your living room coffee table, adding a touch of history to the mix.
Timeline of Antique Style Periods
QUEEN ANNE 1720 – 1760
CHIPPENDALE 1750 – 1780
HEPPLETON 1790 – 1820
EMPIRE 1800 – 1850
ROCOCO REVIVAL 1850 – 1870
EASTLAKE 1870 – 1890
RENAISSANCE REVIVAL 1880 – 1890
ART NOUVEAU I & II 1890 – 1915
ARTS & CRAFTS 1900 – 1920
ART DECO 1920 – 1950
MID CENTURY 1950 – 1970
RETRO 1970 – 1980
Timeframes are approximate
Sunlight, bright light, humidity or variable temperatures shouldn’t affect your antique glass or your antique ceramics but if they have any restored areas then bright light or water can weaken, discolor or stain the adhesives used.
Enjoying antiques is all about cultural history, family roots, a love for beautiful craftsmanship, and the art of filling space with objects of interest — things that really mean something!
If you aren’t looking to dive into the world of antique furniture quite yet, start with something to jazz up those hardwoods with a gorgeous antique rug! There are several price and design options available. From a vintage Moroccan to an Antique Persian Heriz Serapi, there are a plethora of ways you can bring timeless beauty into your home. “We are starting to see less and less carpet in homes now,” explains Darrel Wingo of Knotty Rug Co. “For those that love antiques, there are hundreds of choices that will meet your style and budget needs.”
Antique Buying Tips
Look for Wear – When shopping for antiques, seek pieces that show consistent wear over the entire object. If a table’s base is very worn while the edges of the tabletop are very crisp, it is probably a “married” piece, which means it consists of two parts with different histories that were eventually joined together.
Purchase Antiques That Reflect Your Personal Style – You will have a connection to them that goes beyond their monetary value. Even if you discover at a later date that the piece is not as old as the appraisal suggested, it will remain precious to you.
Don’t Be Afraid to “Abuse” Your Antique Furniture – These items have already survived through generations of use — and other people’s children, for that matter.
Celebrate Textile Designs You Love by Displaying Them as Works of Art – Costumes, scarves, quilts, hats and embroidered linens, for example, all make colorful and whimsical conversation pieces.
Salvage or Restore Vintage and Antique Wallpapers – They cost a fortune to replace, and most motifs seem to come back in fashion eventually anyway.
When Buying Antiques, Always Ask for Discounts – No matter where you buy from. Many professional dealers will have a code marked somewhere on the item that you’re interested in and this will tell them exactly how low they can go. Something like X10 or X50 could mean they will discount up to that figure or go as low as that figure. Use your own judgment and always ask.
Always Handle the Items – Get touchy feely… pick it up, put it down, pick it up again. Look at the bottom, the top, the sides. Look from odd angles and use a magnifier to look close.
Never Pose as a Trade Buyer – You may lose your consumer protection rights.
Look for the Odd One Out – The odd ones are usually the best bargains. Look for items that don’t belong, such as ceramics in a jewelers shop or stall; or bronze in a silver dealers display. More likely than not the antique dealer or seller will discount the unsuitable item to move it on.
Antiques have a story to tell, and they effortlessly and unassumingly add so much warmth and love to a home. Their one-of-a-kindness lends a sense of heritage, history, comfort, and well-worn authenticity to our daily lives.
Whether contemporary, modern, traditional, or rustic, sprinkling storied pieces into your home’s interiors can add a deeper layer of meaning and interest to an already beautiful style. They can bring to mind happy memories and imagined tales of past uses and owners, and they gladly welcome us to add our own stories and memories to the mix.