As a long time collector and an antiques dealer I am frequently asked "Where do you get all of your great stuff?" Of course, there is no single answer to that but I can share with you my 5 favorite places to find great furniture, home decor and collectors items.
1- Antique Stores
I grew up in Pennsylvania with parents who loved antiquing, so I learned at a very young age the thrill of poking around for treasures in out of the way country shops. I remember my folks had a favorite dealer named Joe who had more of a warehouse type shop and a great eye as well as great prices. They still have many fine things they got from Joe and while I'm sure he's long gone his influence remains in my parents home.
Every city in every state has antique stores! When I travel I check them out. If you are buying for yourself antique stores usually provide a very good value for your money. As a dealer I have learned it doesn't make much sense to buy from another dealer and try to resell an item - however, there are always exceptions 😉
2- Estate Sales
|Hepplewhite sideboard, mahogany, purchased for $100 at an estate sale.|
As a young wife and mother our little family moved to New Jersey. We quickly made friends with several other young couples who were also starting out in home ownership and furnishing a home. Our quaint little town of Maplewood was filled with colonial homes ripe for renovation. My friends and I made a habit of visiting the weekly estate sales in the area and snapped up classic pieces of furniture like Hepplewhite sideboards, Windsor chairs and Oriental rugs.
An estate sale is run by a company that will liquidate a home's contents on behalf of a family usually after someone has passed away, hence the term "estate". Typically all sales are as is, final and everything must go. This is a fabulous way to find everything from home furnishings, vintage clothing, tools, jewelry, collectibles - you name it! Be prepared to haul off whatever you purchase.
Estate sales are listed in your local paper, on craigslist and you can usually subscribe to an email list that will notify you of upcoming sales in your area.
|Chippendale dining table and 8 chairs, mahogany with satinwood inlay purchased at auction $1200|
Another favorite activity of mine was going to local auctions. My friends and I would take our toddlers in tow and bid on furniture, art and tabletop items. An auction house usually sets up a preview day where buyers can inspect the items that will be offered. On the day of the auction you must register and be given a number. You cannot just show up and start waving your hand! If you are buying for yourself remember that you may be bidding against antique dealers who will then have to double or triple the price in their shop.That can give you a big advantage!
I have purchased many fine things at auctions both for personal use as well as my store. It's a fun way to buy, but set your limits and stick to them! There is also a buyers premium that the auction house sets so don't forget to factor that in.
Of course, the internet has changed the auction landscape in the past couple of decades. I have also bought and sold many things on eBay. There are several reputable online auction houses. My most recent find is Invaluble.com
They run online auctions themselves of fine art, furniture and high end jewelry, collectibles and decor. Plus they have links to other auction houses around the country if you want to attend an auction in person. I've had great fun browsing their website!
4- Flea Markets
|Long Beach Flea Market|
Now we are getting to the real bargains. I love flea markets! I have been lucky enough to attend flea markets in Paris, Strasbourg, London, Pasadena, Long Beach, and the famous Brimfield's flea market in New England. Honestly, I can't think of anything more fun than browsing an outdoor flea market on a weekend.
I am usually shopping for my store and take home a trailer full(or container). Anything and everything is available at flea markets and don't be shy about bargaining! The vendors would much rather sell their wares than take it home. If I meet a stubborn vendor I usually move on, someone else will be willing to deal. I have my typical list of things that I am looking for - china and silver, rustic home decor, vintage linens and anything French!
5- Thrift Stores
|Ironstone creamers all found at thrift stores|
Thrift Stores are kind of the nuts and bolts of my inventory. Many people consider thrift stores to be nothing but junk, but you know the old saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure". I routinely find English ironstone, silver plate flatware and serving pieces, vintage linens, tole trays, pewter and ornate frames. Rarely do I find great furniture, however I did buy a Federal mahogany china cabinet once! (read HERE ) My favorites are Goodwill, Assistance League, and other church sponsored charity shops.
It's been so fun to turn my hobby into into my profession. I've learned a lot over the years!
I like to join these parties
I like to join these parties